Returning Players - First Look At The Backcourt Bench

3/24/2011 11:03:19 AM Before I continue the discussion about next year; I want to make it clear that I don't plan on discussing the future of Jordan Williams.  Everything that has been said through blogs and twitter is hearsay at this point.  Jordan hasn't said anything publicly.  It is routine for rising sophomores and juniors to test the NBA waters in workouts and camps before the draft in June.  Williams can go through that process and return for his junior year (Greivis Vasquez did the same thing before his senior season).  Until, there is real information to dissect; I'm not going to address the situation any further.  Now, on to next year's returning reserve backcourt.

One of the myriad problems the Terps faced last year was a glut of players in the backcourt who played the same position.  At PG, you had Adrian Bowie, Terrell Stoglin, and Pe'shon Howard.  At SG, there was Cliff Tucker, Sean Mosley, Hawk Palsson and Mychal Parker vying for playing time.  Complicating matters, the underclassmen were generally better than the upperclassmen; but not so much better that they clearly earned more minutes. 

In retrospect, it would have served Gary well to have curtailed the seniors playing time and let guys like Mike Parker and Hawk Palsson gain more experience.  After all, if we knew we'd be sitting home in March; it would have been best to give the younger guys the chance to learn in some real games. Since Stogs and Mosley are returning starters, we'll address their off season "to do" list in a subsequent post.  For now, let's take a look at the guys looking to move up the depth chart.

Mychal Parker

Parker has the highest ceiling of anyone on the current squad (incoming freshman are not included).  Apparently, he also has the lowest floor.  That low floor explains his paltry playing time during the 2010-11 season.  Something must have been missing to his game when Parker got to campus in September.  My best guess as to his lack of playing time was due to a lack of defensive intensity and an overall confusion about the flex-offense and his role in it.

Whatever the case my be, Parker's freshman campaign was a total disappointment (adding to the frustration, Terrence Ross became a dominant player for Washington in the post-season.  Did anyone see what he did to Carolina last weekend?).  Gary played Parker a bit more towards the end of the regular season and Parker displayed flashes of ability.  In particular, I remember an in-air pirouette followed by a no-look pass that resulted in an easy lay-in during the UVA game (that's three hyphens in the same sentence right there!). 

My best hope for Parker is that he follows the trajectory of Landon Milbourne.  Milbourne barely played as a freshman and then became a starter and double-digit scorer as a sophomore.  If Parker can make similar strides this off-season, then the Terps may be able to finally match up athletically with the best teams in the ACC. 

In addition to working on the aforementioned "knowledge of the flex offense" and "defensive intensity"; I'd like to see Parker working on honing his 3PT shot.  Now, I've never seen the kid attempt a three, but the Terps need all the 3PT shooters they can get.  A sure way to earn more playing time would be for Parker to consistently knock down the long ball. What's more, if he can keep defenders honest by knocking down the three; it will open things up for him on the dribble-drive.  The bottom-line is that I have high hopes for Parker to improve this summer.  I'm not expecting him to reach the ceiling of his talent; but he needs to start displaying some of the skill that got him a scholarship.

Hawk Palsson

If Parker underachieved, then Hawk Palsson overachieved.  Palsson was an afterthought during recruiting given that he was the 4th option on his high school team (disclaimer: his Monteverde High School team was loaded).  Nevertheless, Palsson earned playing time with his hustle and his ability to play within the confines of the flex offense.

Despite his success, I think Palsson's upside is limited.  He can knock down the three; but it doesn't seem like he is able to create his own shot.  Defensively, he is too slow to guard the ACC's top swingmen.  Perhaps Hawk will see better matchups next year assuming his role is confined to the SG and SF slots.  During the off-season, Palsson needs to work on his strength and quickness.  Otherwise, look for Parker to pass Palsson on the depth chart.  Don't get me wrong, I really like the Hawk.  It's just that a Terp team where Mike Parker is not able to pass Hawk Palsson for playing time is a team that is going to struggle to win games consistently.

Pe'Shon Howard

To me, Pe'Shon Howard is the Terps most intriguing returning player.  He ended the year as the Terps best ball distributor.  He also had the best assist:turnover ratio on the team.  He shot 36% from three point range and averaged 5.3 ppg all while playing only 18 minutes per game.  Given the predicted leap we tend to see with point guards; I expect that Howard will improve in all categories. 

Despite what should be described as a successful freshman season; I can't help but wonder how he will mesh with the incoming backcourt players.  It seems that Terrell Stoglin is expected to start the year as the team's point guard even though he is a "shoot-first" guy.  Typically, that's not what Gary wants out of the PG, but it is impossible to keep Stogs off the court.  He was an All-ACC rookie and at points was the best player on the team.  Now, it's possible Gary moves him to the #2 and starts Howard at the point; but that poses a couple of problems.

1. A starting backcourt of Stogs and Howard would be the smallest in the ACC.  How will the Terps defend when they are on the court together?
2. Nick Faust is slotted to be the starting 2 guard.  He's the best recruit the Terps have had in years and he is a great shooter.  I don't know how Gary sits him.

So if we assume that Stogs is the starting at the point and Howard is the backup, where does that leave Sterling Gibbs? My head hurts.
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