Depth gives Terps charge
Cekovsky and Wiley play important roles; Trimble scores 21
COLLEGE PARK — Michal Cekovsky was looking forward to the start of his junior season, a chance to finally get consistent minutes rather than play sporadically, as he did his first two years. Then came the injuries. They started at the end of August, when Cekovsky suffered a hamstring injury that lingered for more than two months. Finally recovered shortly before the season began, Cekovsky then sprained his foot.
With senior center Damonte Dodd sitting out Tuesday’s game against Stony Brook because of a concussion suffered in Sunday’s win over Towson, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon finally took the wraps off the 7-foot-1 Slovakian.
Getting his chance when redshirt sophomore Ivan Bender picked up two early fouls, Cekovsky started his season impressively, finishing with 11 points in 16 minutes as Maryland won, 77-63.
“He looked fresh,” Turgeon said after the Terps won their fifth straight game to start the season. “He looked fresh physically, he looked fresh mentally. That was [after] one day of practice after he sprained his foot. I was really encouraged.”
Said Cekovsky, who hit five of seven shots, including a pair of emphatic dunks in the second half: “I still have to find the rhythm, stay out of foul trouble. But it was nice to be back.”
Cekovsky wasn’t the only player who provided a spark off the bench.
Redshirt sophomore guard Dion Wiley, who missed all of last season with a torn meniscus and then missed Sunday’s game Barclays Classic Brooklyn, N.Y. Friday, 9:30 p.m. TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
with a stomach virus, made his first four 3-point shots Tuesday after missing his first five this season. Wiley finished with 13 points in 13 minutes.
“I think he played at a really good pace offensively tonight,” Turgeon said. “Dion’s a starter in my mind, who’s not starting. Doesn’t mean he won’t start as the year goes on. He’s that kind of player for us.”
Along with junior guard Jaylen Brantley, who had six points, three rebounds and an assist in 21 minutes, it was the biggest contribution in a game by Maryland’s reserves all season.
“That was the deepest we’ve been all year,” Turgeon said. “We’ve had so many guys not playing well. Tonight I was nervous.”
Cekovsky, who languished while playing behind Diamond Stone and Dodd last season, showed off some of his athleticism on the dunks. Cekovsky also showed some rare emotion, hanging on to the rim and earning a technical foul after the first dunk, and beating his chest as he ran downcourt after the second.
“That was my fault,” he said of the technical. “I probably got a little too excited. Sorry for that. I apologized to Coach and the team.”
Though there was still some obvious rust on Cekovsky’s game, as well as some remaining holes in it in terms of his playing with his back to the basket, he adds dimensions the other Terps’ big men lack, particularly his ability to score in the air and around the rim.
Junior guard Melo Trimble, who led the Terps with 21 points, knows what Cekovsky could mean to a team that lost all of its low-post scoring with the departures of Stone and forwards Robert Carter and Jake Layman.
“He gives us low-post presence, something that Coach Turgeon’s been trying to find with our bigs,” Trimble said. “We all know Ceko can score; he just had to come back healthy to prove it. He’s a work in progress and he’s going to continue to get better. This is not the first game that he’s going to surprise everyone.”
NOTES: Stony Brook, which lost four starters, and coach Steve Pikiell to Rutgers, from last year’s NCAA tournament team, is 0-3 under former Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals. ... Maryland has off until it plays Richmond in the first round of the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Friday night. Kansas State and Boston College are in the other game. The championship game will be played Saturday. Maryland forward L.G. Gill, center, shoots between Stony Brook guard Junior Saintel, left, and forward Jakub Petras in the first half.
Maryland forward Michal Cekovsky, right, reaches for a rebound over Stony Brook guard Akwasi Yeboah, left, and forward Tyrell Sturdivant in the first half of Tuesday night’s game. Cekovsky finished with 11 points, seven in the second half.