Jahmir Young and Julian Reese were Maryland men’s basketball’s highest returning scorers from the 2022-23 season. They lead the Terps in points nine games into the 2023-24 campaign and while it was expected that the duo would lead the way for Kevin Willard’s squad, the extent they’re being relied on offensively is likely larger than anticipated.
Young and Reese scored 52 of Maryland’s 81 points in its overtime victory over Penn State Wednesday. They combine for 48 percent of Maryland’s scoring this year, making up 33.6 of the team’s 69.9 points per game, compared to 39 percent of the Terps’ scoring last year, making up 27.2 of the team’s 69.7 points per game.
There are few questions about what Young and Reese provide as fixtures of Maryland’s offense, but that can’t be said about any other Terp. While the duo have flourished, their supporting cast has been up-and-down at best.
Forwards Donta Scott and Jordan Geronimo each had successful three-game home stretches prior to Maryland’s two conference bouts. Against Indiana, a 65-53 loss, and Penn State, an 81-75 overtime win, Scott and Geronimo struggled.
Scott scored just six points on 3-for-19 shooting in the Terps’ last two contests while averaging 13 points on 50 percent shooting in wins over UMBC, South Alabama and Rider. Similarly, Geronimo has scored four points on 2-for-13 shooting in conference play after averaging 12.7 points and shooting a staggering 76.4 percent from the field in the trio of victories.
While the veteran forwards’ offensive woes have been plentiful as of late, Willard has voiced displeasure with the little things — or lack thereof — he’s seen from players with experience on his team. It was most glaring to him after watching Indiana’s Trey Galloway, whose hustle was the difference in the game, Willard said.
“We have guys that are just watching [Galloway] and looking around who are fourth, fifth year, seniors,” Willard said. “If that’s the way it’s going to be, well, then I’m going to make some major changes.”
While Willard expressed displeasure with his veterans, freshmen DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser Jr. have impressed the coach despite their early struggles. The coach said he’s more excited about his first-years now than when they first stepped on campus.
Harris-Smith and Kaiser have experienced the growing pains many freshmen face. While the four-star recruits’ inefficiencies on the offensive end have prevented them from becoming dependable options behind Reese and Young, Willard thinks they’re headed in the right direction.
Harris-Smith wasn’t known for his shooting when he entered College Park. He’s shot under 10 percent from beyond the arc and has made just half of his free throw attempts this season, but Willard said he’s started to see improvement with Harris-Smith’s jumper.
Kaiser, on the other hand, came to campus with the reputation as a shooter. He’s shooting just 20 percent from beyond the arc on the year but made two big threes in Maryland’s win over Penn State Wednesday. Kaiser recorded a career-high ten points, four steals and 28 minutes in the victory, and Willard described him as the team’s “energizer bunny.”
“When it comes to basketball, good things happen when you play hard,” Kaiser said. “I just tried to carry over my energy from the second half of the Indiana game and bring it into this game knowing that stuff was gonna go a little bit more our way because we were at home.”
The team’s veterans are in a slump and the freshmen’s offensive production isn’t quite there yet, with Harris-Smith and Kaiser averaging eight and four points per game, respectively.
As a result, Young and Reese have been forced to take on an even heavier load than last year. Both played more than 40 minutes in Wednesday’s win, though neither knew until seeing the box score. Young said he could’ve gone even longer thanks to the atmosphere at Xfinity Center.
Willard surely would prefer to give his go-to duo some more rest, but that’s a luxury he can’t currently afford due to the lack of stability behind Young and Reese on the offensive end. The Terps will hope to see improvements from their other veterans and the continued development of their freshmen to support the duo.