Maryland freshman Dion Wiley uses European trip to improve hoop skills

September 05, 2014|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland freshman Dion Wiley's summer began the day he reported to school in early June for classes, official team workouts and pickup games. When his new Terps teammates went home for a couple of weeks in mid-August, Wiley's basketball education continued in Europe.

In what was the first trip out of the country for the 18-year-old from Prince George's County, Wiley was part of a regional all-star team of college players that spent more than a week in England, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.

"The experience was cool, the time difference was hard, my body had to get used to it when I first got there," Wiley said recently.

Though one of the youngest on the team made up mostly of players from mid to lower major programs, Wiley finished as the leading scorer with nearly 15 points a game during a 4-2 trip. He scored 18 points in a game twice and according to Siena assistant Greg Manning Jr., the team's coach, "shot it very well, around 35 to 40 percent from 3."

Manning, a former player and coach at Loyola and whose father Greg Sr. was an outstanding point guard at Maryland, said he was familiar with Wiley from his years recruiting the local AAU circuit for the Greyhounds when the now 6-4, 212-pound guard "blew up" and became a four-star prospect.

"For a kid who hasn't played and hasn't been coached much yet on the college level, he has a feel for the game," Manning said. "When our point guard would drive, he [Wiley] would move without the ball pretty well.

"He shot off the catch, off the dribble he struggled a little bit from 3 and he's not exactly ready to come off screens and catch and fire because of his footwork, but off the catch he was knocking them down."

It was believed that Wiley's long-range shooting could help him get on the floor this season at Maryland. After a summer workout in College Park, Wiley tweeted a picture of the tally on the machine that feeds balls to the shooters, showing that he had hit 38 of 51 3-point shots.

But on a team that suddenly has more than its share of above-average shooters at both forward (Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz and freshman Michal Cekovsky) and guard (Wiley, freshmen Melo Trimble and Jared Nickens as well a senior transfer Richaud Pack), Wiley will have also have to do other things than just take 3s.

"I've been working on my ballhandling, my defense and my footwork more, and trying to get my teammates involved," Wiley said. "I have to pick up my defense, I have to get to the rim quicker."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has been pleased with the progress he has seen Wiley make with other parts of his game.

"I do think he worked hard individually to improve his ballhandling, whether it's coming off ball screens or in traffic," Turgeon said recently. "I do think Dion is good enough to break guys down [off the dribble] and get shots, and get all the way to the rim."

Wiley said that he learned how difficult the adjustment can be watching close friend Roddy Peters struggle as a freshman. Despite an early-season injury to starting point guard Seth Allen, Peters played sparingly the first few games because he wasn't play hard enough on the defensive end. Peters transferred to South Florida after his freshman year.

"It really motivated me to play defense more and put more pride in my defense," Wiley said. "That's one of the main reasons he wasn't playing last year."

Where Wiley has worked the hardest since coming on campus in June has been in the weight room. Unlike many freshmen who have asked to put weight on, Wiley has been asked to shed quite a bit of weight that he put on during his senior year. He finished the year at 230 pounds, but now is down around 212.

"We started getting on him last March," Turgeon said. "He got pretty big toward the end of his high school season where [Maryland coaches told him] 'This is isn't going to work, some things you're going to change.' I think he got his mindset right coming in. He dropped six or seven pounds before he got here."

The transition to Maryland is Wiley is different than anything he has been through playing basketball. While he had to work his way into the rotation and eventually into a key role for his AAU team at Team Takeover, there is a lot more competition for minutes with the Terps going into their first season in the Big Ten.

"The game is faster and you've got to work on every possession," Wiley said. "In high school, you didn't have to work hard on every possession, you take breaks [on a play]. Here you can only take a break during a timeout."

That was about the only piece missing on his trip to Europe, according to Manning.

"The one thing he doesn't have is a great motor yet, he doesn't understand how hard you have to play," Manning said.

But Turgeon is seeing progress there, too, in part because he has come in with a group of freshmen who are among the team's hardest workers.

"I think Dion luckily in an early period of his career he realizes how hard he has to work to be successful," Turgeon said. Melo [Trimble] and Jared [Nickens] and even Checko [Michal Cekovsky], are guys that like to work, a lot of the upperclassmen too. It's been a good summer for him all the way around."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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