“Anthony’s seen everything”: Cowan’s experience pays dividends for Maryland basketball

Guard Anthony Cowan pumps up the crowd during Maryland men's basketball's 82-72 win over Iowa on Jan. 30, 2020 at Xfinity Center. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

Back when Anthony Cowan was a freshman or a sophomore, still a starter but looking up at leaders around him, he might not have spoken up when his team needed it.

But now he’s the senior, the only one who sees considerable playing time for Maryland men’s basketball. So as coach Mark Turgeon and his assistants huddled up during a halt in the second half against Iowa to formulate what they’d tell their players — who held a double-digit lead over the Hawkeyes — Cowan was already lecturing his teammates in a separate huddle just a few paces away.

It’s a side of Cowan that’s developed with age. And while the guard feels he’s had that leadership trait for quite some time, it’s becoming more pronounced to his coaches and his teammates, a cool composure that makes it seem as if there’s another coach in the room — only one that racks up points as well as he leads.

“I went into the huddle, and he was barking at the guys pretty good,” Turgeon said. “He was barking about the things I wanted him yelling about. He wouldn’t have done that [when he was younger], wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that, and wouldn’t have been sure he was saying the right things. Now, he’s confident.”

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And that confidence is evident in what he’s saying and how he’s playing. After posting 18 points against Indiana and a career-high 31 points against Iowa, he earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors Monday.

Still, he wouldn’t go so far as to say this is the best he’s ever played. Cowan feels he could shoot more consistently, even as he converts 38.8 percent of his shots while averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game. 

But beyond shooting percentage and being a large piece of the Terps’ improved ball movement in recent weeks, Cowan feels his voice is an important one for those around him to hear. It has helped guide his team out of grim situations — trailing Northwestern by 14 at the half on Jan. 21, or needing to score seven straight points in the last minute against Indiana five days later to squeak out Maryland’s second road victory this season.

“I think this is the voice that my teammates want to hear, especially when we have gone through a little adversity in a game,” Cowan said. “Just instill confidence. I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do most. … And I’m comfortable with it. So that’s the best part about it; it’s not like I’m forcing it.”

[Read more: Foul trouble — and Jalen Smith — kept Luka Garza from his best against Maryland basketball]

It’s a connection that has blossomed off the floor. Sophomore guard Eric Ayala said Cowan has taken strides to form individual relationships with his teammates away from basketball, especially the underclassmen. That helps Cowan rally the group during tight matchups.

“It’s helped us … be willing to follow his lead,” Ayala said. “He’s definitely bringing us together and rallying us together to try to do what we can do to help win a game.”

Turgeon has benefited from having other leaders before — he referenced former guard Dez Wells as one — and Cowan fits the bill for the kind he’d like to see. He’s had four years in College Park. He’s played in NCAA tournament games and has dealt with imposing road environments. He’s scored 1,716 points for the Terps and should add to that total once he takes the floor Tuesday against Rutgers.

It’s that breadth of experiences that factor into Cowan’s ability to steer his team. And as he doles out dimes — he leads his squad with 91 assists — and scores in bunches, he also adds a critical piece of maturity on a roster without many upperclassmen present.

“Anthony’s seen everything, done everything,” Turgeon said. “[He’s] been great. I don’t know what else he can do.”

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