At this time last season, Maryland men's basketball forward Justin Jackson was still adjusting to college basketball as a bench option, not earning his first start until the Terps' third game. By the end of the campaign, Jackson showed an ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court, averaging the second-most points on the team.
Jackson's physical attributes generated NBA buzz as he participated in the NBA Draft combine during the offseason, but he returned to Maryland to lead coach Mark Turgeon's squad after guard Melo Trimble, the team's leading scorer the past three seasons, departed for the NBA.
Jackson flashed his revitalized skillset in Maryland's season-opening 76-61 win over Stony Brook on Friday night, scoring 11 points with a career-high 14 rebounds — the sophomore's third career double-double.
Maryland's offense ran through pick-and-rolls with Trimble for much of last season, and Turgeon said more players would receive those scoring opportunities after the former star's departure. In addition to Jackson, guards Anthony Cowan (15) and Kevin Huerter (13), forward Bruno Fernando (10) and center Michal Cekovsky (10) scored in double figures.
The most noteworthy contribution might have come from Fernando, who Turgeon said might have started Friday if he wasn't nursing a high ankle sprain the past three and a half weeks. The freshman flashed his athleticism with a flurry of slam dunks, and Turgeon said he's still a few weeks away from returning to full basketball shape.
Cowan said the Terps added plays for big men, and they made an effort to get the ball on the block Friday.
Maryland looked sharper in other areas, too. After shooting 69.9 percent from the free throw line last season, the Terps shot 77 percent from the charity stripe on Friday. Maryland averaged the fourth-fewest rebounds per game in the Big Ten last year, but it grabbed 16 more boards than the Seawolves.
Still, some of Maryland's struggles continued. Cekovsky, Fernando, center Sean Obi and forward Ivan Bender each picked up two fouls in the first half. The Seawolves cut Maryland's lead to 12 with under four minutes remaining before the Terps pulled away.
While Stony Brook is a middling American East team, the Terps play Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday before facing their first test of the year against Butler, which made the Sweet 16 last season, on Wednesday.