Terps excited about Chol Marial's progress entering season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
One of the fan favorites on the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball roster only played a mere 65 minutes during his freshman season.
Chol Marial, a 7-foot-2 center, is an athletic marvel that has drawn wide attention from the Terps' fan base ever since his recruitment. Long, lanky and with a big smile, there’s so much to be excited about for the South Sudanese Terp. Everyone in College Park just wants to see him step on the court.
That time will come during Marial’s sophomore season this year. He’s one of the returning post players on the roster that will have a big changing of the guard after Jalen Smith decided to enter the NBA Draft.
Much like the fan base, head coach Mark Turgeon is even excited. He’s now starting to see flashes of the young Marial that they recruited years ago.
“He's starting to look like the Chol that I remember coming out of high school a few years ago, so it's exciting, and he's got a great attitude,” Turgeon said during Maryland’s media day. “There’s a lot of things that we didn't know he could do because he was just wasn't able to do it and I think he's been able to do a little bit more. He's moving better.”
The center’s first season was condensed due to surgery to fix stress fractures in both legs. It was an injury that had affected him since high school and wasn’t addressed until September of last year.
He didn’t even get cleared to join the team until Thanksgiving, three weeks after the start of the normal season. Marial was finally able to suit up for a contest in December. By then his development was way behind the eight-ball that could lead to meaningful contributions.
With Smith holding down most of the responsibility in the interior of the court, there wasn’t much room to give Marial playing time. Maryland was in the midst of a Big Ten title chase and there were few minutes to give him moments on the floor. By season’s end, he only played in 12 of the team’s 31 games.
A full season behind his belt, though, should afford him more chances this year, even with that year constrained by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously we lost the time where I felt like would have been really crucial for him. The spring and the summer with (Director of Basketball Performance Kyle) Tarp and my assistants and myself making him better,” Turgeon said. “But Chol's coming, he's getting better every day. He's got a great attitude. He's almost pain free.”
Health is important for Marial to get involved in the rotation. While the frontcourt positions are mostly open with Smith’s departure, there are experience transfers that can fill that role on the Terrapins.
Naturally, many can assume Marial is next in line to have success at that position as was seen with Bruno Fernando and Smith over the past four seasons. Eventually, the job will be handed off to Marial but it may take some time.
The question is whether can those reigns be handed to him this season or if Terps fans will have to wait another year.
“He's probably much further along than we thought he was going to be at this point. He still got a long ways to go,” Turgeon said.
“He has a bright future so we're excited about Chol.”