COLLEGE PARK ——Mark Turgeon needs bodies — the new Maryland men's basketball coach has just eight scholarship players remaining — and he said Thursday that he isn't ruling out turning to the football team for frontcourt help.
One Terps football player he might eventually be interested in is 6-foot-7, 275-pound offensive lineman Jake Wheeler, who was recruited not only for football but for basketball.
Asked about Wheeler, Turgeon said in an e-mail: "I know nothing about it. But I might explore that with [football coach] Randy [Edsall] if they don't make a bowl game."
Wheeler, who attended high school in Florida and redshirted as a freshman, said in 2010 that he had offers to play basketball at Florida Atlantic, Charleston Southern and other programs, and that "I was trying to see if I had a better chance of going further in basketball or football." Wheeler was not available for comment Thursday.
Asked earlier this week if he had any future basketball players on his roster, Edsall — who was not specifically asked about Wheeler — replied: "I don't think we have anyone to help the cause. You have to be pretty good to play hoops at this level."
Turgeon, who signed an eight-year deal earlier this year to replace the retired Gary Williams, is worried about depth. He learned earlier this week that 6-foot-6 forward Haukur Palsson is leaving school to pursue a basketball career professionally in Europe.
Turgeon said Palsson, versatile enough to play inside or out, could have been an essential component in the brand of "small ball" the Terps could play. Maryland is expected to often play four guards.
"We could have played more small ball with Hawk," Turgeon said. Without Palsson, the Terps will probably have to play a less mobile forward or center.
The team had already lost Jordan Williams, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading rebounder, to the NBA draft and starting forward Dino Gregory to graduation.
Turgeon said he already has two walk-ons — forwards John Auslander and Spencer Barks — and plans to hold open tryouts in October.
"Now we've just got to stay healthy," the coach said.
Turgeon is accustomed to walk-ons. At Texas A&M, he coached Andrew Darko, a walk-on guard who earned a scholarship his senior season and became part of the playing rotation.
"He was a great story," Turgeon said.