Sometimes a player’s true worth isn’t revealed until he or she is absent.
That’s the case with unsung fullback Darrel Young, whose Redskins are 0-3 since he injured a hamstring. And it’s certainly the case with Maryland point guard Seth Allen, who broke his left foot in practice on Oct. 29 and figures to miss at least another month.
As a freshman last season, Allen was third on the Terps with 2.3 assists per game, fourth with 7.8 points per game and fifth with 793 minutes. Maryland finished 25-1, 15-2 in non-conference action (losing only to Kentucky) including a 3-1 record in the NIT.
“I feel like I have a really good basketball team with a lot of pieces that fit together,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said before Allen was injured. “I think what everybody’s worried about besides our post guys who aren’t proven is our point guard play. Seth’s such a dynamic scorer that he can get a shot whenever he wants. He’s doing a better job of getting us into our offense. Seth needs to score for us. He’s just gotta know when he’s guarded and when he’s not guarded. When Seth figures that out, he’s a basketball player, not necessarily a point guard. Making the right decisions is what the position is.”
Or as Allen said, “That’s all [Coach] talks about, decision-making and making the easy play.”
But in Allen’s absence, Turgeon didn’t do the easy thing by making freshman point guard Roddy Peters a starter or moving junior shooting guard Nick Faust over and putting Jake Layman in his spot. Instead, Turgeon switched Dez Wells, Maryland’s leading scorer last season and its leading returning rebounder and assist man, from small forward.
However, not only did Wells’ play suffer, the move threw the Terps out of sync. As they prepare for their final ACC opener on Thursday at Boston College, they’re just 5-4, having lost to No. 9 Connecticut in Brooklyn and at No. 3 Ohio State but also being stunned by Oregon State at home and surprised by George Washington at Verizon Center. Their only quality victories are over Northern Iowa and Providence.
Turgeon, a heady former Kansas point guard, finally resorted to playing 5-foot-9 Division III transfer Varun Ram in Allen’s place against GW while benching the struggling Faust.
“Some of the mistakes are just mind-boggling,” Turgeon said after Maryland committed 18 turnovers and dished out just seven assists against the Colonials, who led by 12 at halftime before prevailing on Maurice Creek’s last-second jumper.
Creek is a 23-year-old graduate student who began his college hoops career at Indiana back in 2009 before suffering three major leg injuries.
Maryland, whose only senior is walk-on John Auslander, doesn’t have anyone with Creek’s experience so a crafty point guard is even more critical to its postseason hopes.
Allen, who turned 19 just nine days before he was hurt, is sorely missed by Turgeon whose young team had more turnovers than assists last season and has 128 of the former to just 110 of the latter before facing the grinding, opportunistic defenses of its ACC rivals.
“The biggest worry for me is our decision-making: shot selection, turnovers, forcing passes and shots,” Turgeon said before the season began. “Nick can’t make the same turnovers he was making as a freshman if he wants to play in the big dance and advance and be remembered as one of the great players here. Dez can’t have  turnovers like he had last year if he’s supposed to be our best player. If we’re better decision makers, we have the talent and we have the sense of urgency.”
Turgeon certainly didn’t feel his Terps had that sense of urgency in getting crushed by the Buckeyes 76-60 last Wednesday. Maryland connected on just two of 18 shots from beyond the arc with top scorer Layman managing a lone basket.
“I just don’t think we competed the way we needed to compete,” Turgeon said.
After tomorrow’s game at BC, Maryland has Comcast Center tuneups against Florida Atlantic, Boston University, Tulsa and North Carolina Central before fully plunging into the ACC schedule that includes dates with No. 2 Syracuse, at No. 8 Duke and at No. 18 North Carolina, as well as two with Pitt which is just outside the Top 25.
“Arguably we’re gonna have the best league in the country,” said Turgeon, who expects Maryland to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time during his three seasons. “We haven’t been very good in the league the last two years. We have to play well in the league if we want to get to where we want to be.”
When Turgeon was asked in October about facing the ACC powerhouses, he smiled and said, “They gotta think about us, too.”
Today Turgeon has to be thinking that if Allen returns on schedule, the game at Pitt will be the only one he’ll miss against one of the conference’s elite.
Or to put it more succinctly: hurry back, Seth. Your team needs you.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.