Much of my conversation this week with Paul Ricci, Maryland's strength coach for basketball, centered around the team's newcomers.
But it didn't hurt to sate another bit of curiosity --- which holdover made the most progress during the summer?
Ricci is a candid guy who won't sugarcoat things. But even by his standards, he offered a quick response.
"Cliff Tucker, by far --- 180," Ricci said. "I shouldn't say that. It's not that his attitude was bad, It's that it wasn't as good as I would have hoped. It's been so refreshing to see the change in him. When things get tough, it's like 'No, we're going to do it again.' He'll literally tell the team if somebody screwed up on technique, 'You need to do that again.' Or if a guy's struggling, he'll jump in and do it with him. It's been amazing to see."
Tucker, who is entering his senior season, has had an enigmatic career. He was arguably Maryland's best athlete the last two years and even started his first game as a freshman. But consistency was an issue with him, even last season when some tension about his work ethic seemed to subside.
Tucker did have a thrilling moment, beating the buzzer with an off-balance 3-pointer to down Georgia Tech at Comcast Center. Yet he's still a bit of a puzzle entering his final year.
Based on Ricci's observations, he could be in for a breakout season --- which the Terps would welcome after losing three 1,000-point scorers.
"If you want to go with a performance thing, he did the [NBA's] 185-[pound] bench test and got 18 reps. That's in the very top percent of anybody that will go to the combine. He's bought into the training aspect and he's obviously getting some sleep and eating better because you can't make those jumps in performance without doing that stuff. His attitude and effort is right on the money. He's early getting guys in here and calling [out] guys when he has to. It's interesting when the team dynamic changes when you have strong personalities [leave] like Greivis [Vasquez] and Landon [Milbourne] and see what grows."
When the Terps had a team meeting when the semester started, Ricci made certain to point out Tucker's maturation and progress to everyone. And it certainly seems as if he'll have a chance to join fellow seniors Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory in a potential starting lineup early in the season.
"You take for granted the work ethic of Dino or an Adrian or a Sean [Mosley]," Ricci said. "They're so consistent with their attitude. Now, Cliff's jumped right up there with them. I'm very, very encouraged."