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How Will The Terps Replace Justin Jackson's Production?

December 29, 2017
Maryland men's basketball forward Justin Jackson will have season-ending surgery at a yet-to-be-determined date to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Here are three ways the Terps may try to replace the sophomore's production:

1. Play lineups with two big men.

What Jackson provided, particularly when he was healthy last year, was the best of both worlds. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Jackson could guard Big Ten power forwards thanks to his 7-foot-3 wingspan and stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting. Without a dynamic talent like Jackson in the fold, the Terps will have to play lineups with two true big men more than they have in the past.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon started junior Ivan Bender at power forward and freshman Bruno Fernando at center against Fairleigh Dickinson Dec. 21, which may be a preview of the kind of lineups Turgeon will lean on in the future. Turgeon also has senior centers Michal Cekovsky and Sean Obi and redshirt freshman forward Joshua Tomaic at his disposal.

The Terps would likely play through the post and create opportunities for big men to score around the hoop, or as a means to play inside-out, with big men finding guards for open jumpers. The best reason to play big, however, would be to try to recreate the rebounding Jackson provided. Jackson averaged 8.1 boards per game, and the Terps are second in rebounding margin in the Big Ten due in part to Jackson's efforts.

The most intriguing combination is Cekovsky and Fernando, Maryland's two most athletic and offensively gifted big men. Cekovsky would play center and Fernando, who played the wing at IMG Academy last year, would play power forward. But Fernando's been a center for Turgeon so far this year.

"Bruno and Ceko could be something that is used more I think down the line," sophomore Kevin Huerter said Dec. 28. "Bruno's still kind of working on knowing our plays, knowing our offense and so for him it's just easier for him to know the five. And with being able to rotate him and Ceko, we're so good defensively that sometimes when they go out, we just don't have the rim protecting players when they are in. So obviously with them in together, we would be really good defensively, but I don't know if we'll see that lineup sooner or later. It's kind of up to Coach Turgeon, obviously."

2. Play small in crunch time.

Most of the Terps' 16 remaining league games, starting with Penn State Jan. 2, figure to go down to the wire. Coaches tend to rely on their five best players, or the five players they trust the most, during crunch time. For Turgeon, that might be essentially a four-guard lineup.

Turgeon could play freshman Anthony Cowan Jr. at point guard, use Huerter, senior Jared Nickens and freshman Darryl Morsell on the wing, and rotate Fernando and Cekovsky at center. That would give Turgeon a floor general in Cowan; two 3-point marksmen in Huerter and Nickens; three versatile defenders in Huerter, Morsell and Nickens; and a skilled post player. Turgeon could also experiment with playing four shooters -- Cowan, Nickens, Huerter and redshirt junior Dion Wiley -- at the same time.

Both lineups would give Cowan the space necessary to make plays in the pick-and-roll game in crunch time and give the Terps multiple players who can knock down threes on the wing. The biggest issue, however, would be in figuring out who would guard the power forward position.

Nickens played a fair bit of power forward Dec. 21, and Turgeon mentioned Morsell and Huerter as possibilities in guarding that position. Even if Nickens, Morsell and Huerter could hold up defensively, the Terps would likely struggle on the boards without Jackson around.

"Justin definitely allowed us to play a lot of different ways," Huerter said. "Some of our best lineups were with him at the four where he could take advantage of mismatch problems. Then, obviously, we could put him at the three and play bigger. Just rebounding-wise, when he was in the game, he was such a good rebounder for us this year especially, both offensively and defensively. He definitely allowed us to do a lot of different things."

3. Hope that Fernando takes another step forward in his development.

Fernando has proven to be a much-needed addition to the Terps' frontcourt thanks to his unique combination of skill and athleticism. Fernando is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds every 40 minutes, and Maryland's been at its best defensively with him on the court, but he's averaged just 19.5 minutes per contest thus far. 

Fernando offers the best chance to replace Jackson's rebounding and defensive ability, particularly if he can stay on the court and out of foul trouble. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Fernando has gotten called for trying to gain position in the post on both ends of the floor.

Regardless of whether Fernando continues to develop rapidly, Jackson's loss will be difficult to overcome.

"Unfortunately, we've kind of gotten used to it here at Maryland," Turgeon said. "I feel like we've had a major injury every year since I've been here, guys having to sit out. They all come at different times. The timing makes it a little more difficult. But with that said, we have a lot of good players."

Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/PressBox