Maryland basketball’s top juniors carry high expectations for season ahead

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WDVM) – The Maryland basketball team’s junior class, will be led by Eric Ayala, and Aaron Wiggins; as the team gears up for their first game of the season on Wednesday against Old Dominion.

For both Ayala, and Wiggins; they’ll make up the backcourt alongside Darryl Morsell. All of them are expected to make a jump in their careers this season.

“The more consistency we get out of our top line guys, the better team we can be.” said Head Coach Mark Turgeon in a press conference on Tuesday.

Eric Ayala, who shared ball-handling duties with Anthony Cowan Jr., averaged 8.5 points per game, on 35 percent shooting from the field. He finished the season with 77 assists, second on the team.

“You know I think I improved a lot more defensively.” said Eric Ayala, “Wanting to guard more, just being more active on that end. Finding a consistent spot, or on the offensive end just getting to certain spots on the floor where I am comfortable at. Every aspect of my game I want to continue to get better, I think there is no set in stone ceiling, I can keep getting better everyday.”

Aaron Wiggins, who primarily played off the bench as the Terrapins’ sixth man, averaged 10.4 points per game, on 37 percent shooting from the field. He also stole the ball 26 times, the second most on the team.

“I’ve worked on a lot of different aspects of my game.” said Aaron Wiggins, “Coming off the ball screen, being able to handle the ball a little bit more, create shots for myself but then, also working on passing, being able to pass off ball screen, making the right reads and creating for my teammates – because at any given moment, if the ball is in my hands, then you have to be able to make a play, whether its for myself or my teammates.”

For Head Coach Mark Turgeon, he’s seen both Ayala and Wiggins grow into those roles, based on their performance against Michigan, for Maryland’s final game of the 2019-2020 season.

“I think they had the Michigan game, the reason we won, cause Michigan played really well, and we played great that day.” said Coach Turgeon, “Eric had 20, and Wigs (Wiggins) had 15, so the torch was kind of being passed even though it wasn’t at that point. They know they need to step up and do more.”

Despite the pressure of these new roles, Coach Turgeon emphasizes that the team has experience that can help them grow into said roles.

“Now they don’t have to do it every night, cause we have a lot of good players. But, just the mentality needs to be a little bit different when it comes to that. And I’ve seen it, but bottom line is that they want to win.” said Coach Turgeon, “Both those kids have gotten better in all phases; passing, dribbling, decision-making, defense, I guess you know, just being more consistent.”

Between each other, Eric and Aaron would agree that the other has improved ahead of this season start.

“Aaron is just – I think each year just watching his game unfold, you know he adds more and more each year.” said Eric Ayala.

“He reads defenses, better than I’ve ever seen some guards read them.” said Aaron Wiggins, “He’s a great player, very unselfish. Honestly has a great jumpshot, and I think our games compliment each other well, you know being able to drive and kick at any given moment, both of us.”

Their games will be put to the test when the Terps host Old Dominion for their season opener, on Wednesday for a 2:00 PM ET tipoff.

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