The Maryland men’s basketball team is coming off its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2003. The Terps lost four starters from that squad, though, leaving time on the floor for newcomers who coach Mark Turgeon said will contribute right away. In the days leading up to Maryland’s season opener against American on Friday, The Diamondback sports desk will profile four new players capable of making an immediate impact.
L.G. Gill remembered eating at Carolina Kitchen with the Maryland men’s basketball players when he visited College Park. He remembered filling up on steak and pasta.
Other than what he ate — “it was a ridiculous amount of food,” he said — Gill remembered the players laughing and cracking jokes. Gill sensed a brotherhood with this team; a close-knit group of guys who got along outside of basketball.
Sitting at a table in Xfinity Center on Oct. 25 for Maryland’s media day, Gill recalled the memory when discussing why he chose to play his final year of college basketball with the Terps.
After spending the past three years at Duquesne, Gill joined coach Mark Turgeon’s bunch as a graduate transfer in May. The 6-foot-8 forward is eager to make an impact on a squad hoping to make its third straight NCAA tournament appearance despite losing four starters from a year ago.
“It wasn’t like they play basketball and then everyone goes and does whatever they want to do,” Gill said. “You can just tell that off that court, they really hang out with each other.
“And that’s something that I really noticed now that I’m here — that they’re really close off the court and on the court.”
While averaging 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a game as a junior last season, Gill, who was taking 18 credits in the fall, realized he needed nine more credits to graduate with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. That meant the chance to playing at a Power 5 school for his senior year.
After talking to his family, he decided to pursue that opportunity. Gill is currently enrolled in a two-year online program at the business school. He plans to receive his master’s degree in general business.
Reviewing his transfer options, Gill noticed the success Turgeon has had with veteran newcomers since joining the program in 2011. It started when guard Logan Aronhalt transferred to Maryland from Albany in 2012 and became one of the best three-point shooters in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Two years ago, guard Richaud Pack came from North Carolina A&T and started 27 games with a team that set a school record with 26 regular-season wins and made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
Turgeon snagged his most talented graduate transfer before last season in former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention, teaming with Melo Trimble in the backcourt to help the Terps reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Gill is the ninth transfer to join the Terps the past five years, joining players such as Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz and Robert Carter Jr.
“It’s college basketball today,” Turgeon said. “And if he have to go that route again later, we’ll go that direction.”
But after last season, Carter told Turgeon he was declaring for the NBA draft, a path former center Diamond Stone and Jake Layman also followed. At that point, Turgeon knew the importance of landing Gill to shore up the unit’s frontcourt.
“L.G. was a must get for us,” Turgeon said on Oct. 25. “I was recruiting him like he was Kevin Durant, and we had to have him. And he’s been terrific, so hopefully he’ll continue that and have a great year for us.”
Gill expects to be a threat from inside the paint and behind the arc. He led the Dukes in rebounds per game (6.5) last season while making 53 3-pointers, the third-highest mark on the team. He also said he’ll serve as a “high-energy” guy, something forward Ivan Bender echoed at media day.
“He’s really strong, high-motor energy guy,” said Bender, who is out indefinitely with a fractured left wrist. “He really likes to play defense.”
As one the Terps’ two seniors — forward Damonte Dodd in the other — Gill said Turgeon has encouraged him to take on a leadership role for a team with six freshmen, three of which (Anthony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson) Turgeon expects to make immediate contributions.
Bender said Gill has done a quality job pushing the younger players who have yet to play at the college level.
On a team that drew him in with its chemistry, it appears Gill has found ways to fit in.