Evan Smotrycz knows what Terps are up against in trip to Ohio State

Heady Michigan transfer is playing well as Maryland heads into ACC-BigTen Challenge

  • Evan Smotrycz has been playing his best ball for Maryland of late as he heads back into Big Ten country to face Ohio State, his rival when he was at Michigan.
Evan Smotrycz has been playing his best ball for Maryland of… (Maddie Meyer, Getty Images )
December 03, 2013|By Don Markus | The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — As Evan Smotrycz and his parents were about to go their separate ways at Thurgood Marshall-BWI Airport after his recruiting visit to Maryland in the spring of 2012, the sophomore told his father that he was ready to be a Terp.

The first visit of a handful already planned for the Michigan transfer turned out to be his last.

"He had a number of trips that he wanted us to set up for him, and as it turned out, Maryland was the first one. We went down for the weekend and as we said goodbye at airport, he said to us, 'Cancel all my other visits. I'm going to be coming here,'" Zee Smotrycz recalled his son saying.

Some might call that the typical impulsivity of a 20-year-old college kid, but just as Smotrycz has demonstrated through his first seven games as a Terp, he usually thinks out his next move thoroughly before making it.

"Coach relies on me to be a cerebral player and be kind of a calming influence on the court," Smotrycz said after practice Tuesday. "I'm just trying to focus on doing my job and not worrying about what everybody else's doing. ... Guys see that and it rubs off and they're able to execute their assignments."

Smotrycz will return to Big Ten country Wednesday night when the Terps play his former heated rival, Ohio State, in Columbus as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Meanwhile, Maryland (5-2) will get a taste of what life will be like starting next year when it faces the unbeaten, No. 5-ranked Buckeyes (6-0) at Value City Arena.

"We just have to know the [scouting report] and do our jobs," Smotrycz said. "We went over personnel today, and they've definitely got some good pieces. If we can handle the pressure that their guards are going to put on our guards defensively, then I think we'll have a good chance."

Smotrycz's assessment carries weight when you consider the way coach Mark Turgeon views the 6-foot-9 forward.

"Evan's a smart player. He's starting to play from the neck up," Turgeon said. "Offensively he's playing a lot smarter, shooting the ball well. It helps Nick [Faust], it helps Dez [Wells], drive the ball. He's starting to play like the kid we thought we were getting when we recruited him. He helps in a lot of ways, whether it's stretching the defense or playing under control."

Smotrycz and the Terps will certainly have to play better than he and his former Michigan teammates did against the Buckeyes during the two seasons he spent at with the Wolverines. Michigan won its first meeting against Ohio State at home in Smotrycz's freshman year but lost the next five.

After playing decently in the win over Ohio State, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds as a starter, Smotrycz struggled coming off the bench against the Buckeyes as a sophomore. In three losses that season, Smotrycz shot a combined 2 of 13, including missing eight of nine 3-pointers.

"I've definitely had some bad games and had some good games. I know I've only beaten them once and that was at home," Smotrycz said. "It would be nice to get one on the road. ...

"It's definitely a place that I'm familiar with and hopefully these guys [on Maryland] who have been in college before played in enough big-time venues before this year and have played in tough road games, so it shouldn't be anything new."

Smotrycz is coming off his his best stretch this season, averaging 17.3 points and nearly 11 rebounds in his past three games. He scored a career-high 20 points against Northern Iowa on Nov. 24 and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds Friday against Morgan State.

Smotrycz — who sat out last year after transferring — said he chose Maryland quickly because of how comfortably he felt around Turgeon and the players.

"It was right for me," he said. "I felt like I could come in here and have an impact. I felt like they didn't have a piece like me."

The Buckeyes are certainly aware of Smotrycz. Though he didn't play all that well against Ohio State during his two years at Michigan, Buckeyes associate head coach Dave Dickerson said Monday, "We kind of know that what he does well, he does [it] as well as anyone in the country."

Dickerson is referring to Smotrycz's ability to shoot from long-range. A 44 percent 3-point shooter during his two years at Michigan, Smotrycz missed 15 of his first 20 3-pointers this season before going nine of his last 15 since the second half of Maryland's win over Northern Iowa in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam.

"I might have been pressing a little at the beginning," Smotrycz said Tuesday. "To be honest, I really haven't been shooting it that well. Just keep getting reps in the gym and hopefully the shots will fall."


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