Turgeon can't lie — Terps are an enigmatic bunch

January 29, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Mark Turgeon would make a lousy poker player.

Everything he's thinking is right there on his face. Or in his body language. And even when it's not, Maryland's coach is almost genetically incapable of holding anything back when it comes to discussing the Terps.

Earlier this season, he called redshirt freshman forward Ashton Pankey "brain-dead at times" before adding that "he's a very smart player."

After Maryland's 73-69 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday at Comcast Center, he said high-scoring sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin "was a little selfish" in the first half and was benched twice for poor shot selection.

And Turgeon revealed that the Terps were "laughing and joking" in the showers after getting waxed 84-70 by Florida State two weeks ago, a reaction that didn't sit well with their coach at all.

Think Gary Williams would have shared anything like that with the media?

Not a chance. It's like the old joke: Gary wouldn't give you any dirt on the Terps, because then he'd have to kill you.

But Turgeon's team is an open book. He tells you about the good stuff, the bad stuff and everything in between. Much of it is delivered with his usual hang-dog expression and this wry, Midwestern sense of humor.

After stick-thin, 6-foot-10 senior center Berend Weijs was put on a 5,000-calories-a-day diet this summer to bulk up, Turgeon was asked how the big guy was responding.

Turgeon shook his head mournfully.

"It's not working," he said. "He needs about 20,000, I think. Poor kid, he'll probably gain weight when he's 30."

But if you take all this to mean Turgeon's first season at College Park is wearing on him, or that he's discouraged dealing with a young, thin team expected to struggle, nothing could be further from the truth.

"I'm proud of our group," he said after the Terps knocked off the Hokies to run their record to 13-7. "It was a great win for us. We're 3-3 in the league and we're heading in the right direction, which I'm happy about. It shows in the way we play."

Still, there are times when Turgeon watches the Terps and it looks like his head is about to explode.

Stoglin, the team's leading scorer (21.3 points per game), can be brilliant one minute, exasperating the next. He scored only seven points in the first half against Va. Tech and seemed consumed with one thought: getting a shot off for one Terrell Stoglin.

But in the second half, he all but put the Terps on his back, scoring 21 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the second half just as the Hokies were making a run.

Turgeon has been on the talented Stoglin all season to pass more, take better shots and play defense. Sometimes the message sinks in, sometimes it doesn't. This is why coaches down Pepto-Bismol like it's Diet Coke.

The rest of the team has been equally enigmatic.

Pankey, the redshirt freshman forward, has led the team in rebounding in six games this season, but has a tendency to sulk when he's not scoring, which affects the rest of his game.

Senior guard Sean Mosley is shooting better this season (15 points against the Hokies) but disappears from the offense for long stretches at a time. Freshman guard Nick Faust (City) has struggled with his shot and lost confidence on occasion.

Then there's freshman 7-foot-1 center Alex Len, who got off to such a promising start (54 points and 35 rebounds in his first four games) and has been a total non-factor (nine points, 14 rebounds) the past five games.

When Turgeon was asked what could be done to get the big Ukrainian going, his face clouded over.

"I don't know," he said with typical honesty. "'Cause I just met Alex in August. They didn't let me coach him for a while. He had to sit out [10 games because of NCAA eligibility guidelines]. We're in the grind now. We can't let guys go out there and play through mistakes. ... unfortunately for him, every game is hard for us, so he doesn't get a chance to play through his mistakes.

"I don't know. I want it to happen for him 'cause he's such a good kid. I expect Alex to be great before the year's over."

In the meantime, Turgeon has seen plenty from the Terps of late to give him hope.

Practices are more intense, he says. The defense is coming around — it held the Hokies to 19 points in the first half. Pankey is playing better. And Stoglin seems to be buying into the notion that he needs to play an all-around game for the Terps to win.

The team, Turgeon says, is starting to come together.

"It's a lot more fun to be around," he said, "and a lot more fun to coach."

Next up for the Terps: an away game against a beatable Miami team Wednesday night, then North Carolina at Comcast Center on Saturday.

Turgeon says the Terps will be ready. Beyond that, no promises.

Not the way this team has played.


Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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