Mark Turgeon just announced that Maryland will be without sophomore forward Justin Jackson for the remainder of the season. Jackson suffered a torn labrum, which has kept him out of action for multiple weeks now.
Does this mean Maryland’s season is over? Without JJ, will the Terps fall flat on their face?
It’s a possibility, but Maryland controls their own fate.
Jackson was in a slump the entire season. His last game, the win against Ohio, he shot 3-11 from the field and it was considered one of his better games this year. Even with Jackson’s troubles, the Terps still sit at 11-3 and 1-1 in conference play. The loss of Jackson is terrible, but it doesn’t mean the season is over for the Terrapins.
Jackson has missed the last 3 games and Turgeon has looked to a variety of different players to fill in for the versatile forward. Junior Ivan Bender looked great against Fairleigh-Dickinson. Joshua Tomaic has seen his minutes improve heavily, along with Sean Obi. Maryland still has Bruno Fernando and Michal Cekovsky as well, and they have done great scoring down low. Maryland has many bigs that can step up for the loss of Jackson who runs the 4 for this team, not even including the wings that can do big things. Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, and Darryl Morsell all have received good minutes, Wiley the everyday shooting guard and Morsell inserted into the starting 5 with Jackson out. Nickens has been hot from deep all year and if he keeps it up, that could be a big help for Maryland in crunch time. Maryland has pieces.
With all that being said, the loss of the projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft should not be overlooked. Jackson improved his on-ball defense and ball handling in the off season at a high rate. Sure, he was struggling from the field, but his rebounding and decision making helped the Terps to get where they’re at. Jackson is more than just another ordinary player. He has the potential to play in the NBA in the near future, after a healthy return, and has the ability to dominate the college level.
It’s heartbreaking for Terp Nation, but no one should throw in the towel just yet. Maryland is not going to improve without Justin Jackson, but it doesn’t mean they have to be worse. With Anthony Cowan Jr. as the best point guard in the Big Ten this season, Kevin Huerter showing he can light it up from literally anywhere on the floor, and the deadly combination of Ceko and Bruno, the Terps still have the talent to shock the entire Big Ten.
The only way the Terrapins can do all that however, is if the turnover problems get fixed and everyone plays at their highest level. Role players need to step up more than they already have. Cowan Jr. and Huerter need to continue to lead this team. The bigs need to stay strong and make plays when their guards set them up. If the Terrapins can do all that, there is no reason as to why they should tuck their tails in between their legs and go home. The season is not over, that’s the beauty of college basketball.