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.
Maryland men’s basketball guard Anthony Cowan is fast. Like, really fast.
“Probably the fastest guy in the Big Ten,” coach Mark Turgeon said at Maryland media day in late October. “I can’t imagine someone being faster.”
Turgeon followed up with several attributes to describe the 6-foot freshman from Bowie. Cowan is a pass-first point guard who can find his teammates on the break. He can pressure the ball in the half court or pick up defenders 90 feet from the rim.
Cowan’s the type of player Turgeon said he “hasn’t really had” since becoming the coach in 2011, and he’ll make his college debut Friday night when the Terps host American in their season opener.
“He’s probably one of the best passers I’ve ever played with,” said forward L.G. Gill, a graduate transfer from Duquesne. “He’s probably one of the fastest people on our team, and just his IQ just impresses me at his young age.”
In the past, Turgeon’s point guards have had a scoring mentality. All-Big Ten performer Melo Trimble led the Terps in scoring from that spot the past two seasons. Before Trimble arrived, Virginia Tech guard Seth Allen hoisted shot after shot from the point.
Cowan differs from those players, and his pass-first nature has allowed Turgeon to experiment with having Cowan and Trimble on the floor at the same time, which was the case to start the Terps’ exhibition against Catawba on Saturday.
This lineup forces Trimble to play off the ball, something he said he hasn’t done since starring at Bishop O’Connell in Arlington, Virginia. He admits it’s been different but believes this team will have more offensive flow. It’ll be more spread out, Trimble added, leading to more layups, 3-pointers and points in transition.
“When they’re both on the court, it’s that double threat,” Gill said. “They’re going to be so focused on Melo off the ball or Anthony off the ball, so it’s just going to open up more for other players on the team.”
Cowan said working with Trimble has helped him acclimate to the tempo of the college game. While speed is one of his better attributes, Cowan said he’d go too quickly early on.
Watching Trimble come off ball screens has helped Cowan find a “good pace” offensively.
But since arriving in College Park, Cowan said he’s been using his quickness more on the other side of the floor.
“Coach Turgeon, when he recruited me, he told me he wanted me to be a hound on defense,” Cowan said. “That’s what I’ve been working on.”
Turgeon has frequently mentioned Cowan, guard Kevin Huerter and forward Justin Jackson as freshmen capable of making an immediate impact. The trio reminds him of what he had two years ago, when Trimble and fellow guards Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens joined the program, helping it make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010.
Trimble headlined the class that year, averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game, but Wiley and Nickens each played more than 13.5 minutes per game.
Cowan wasn’t as highly rated as Trimble out of high school, the former the nation’s 62nd-best player in his class, according to 247Sports, and the latter a McDonald’s All-American.
But with his unique skill set, Cowan appears ready to work with his veteran teammate and man the Terps backcourt.
“He’s a really good passer and can also shoot,” Trimble said. “But he’s more so a pass-first point guard, which is good for our offense.”