COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For Eric Ayala, his toughest season as a Terp is coming to a close. But the way he sees it, the season is just beginning.
"I definitely think we’re a team made for March," he said. "The kind of things we’ve been able to do this year, the potential that we’ve got - coming into the year we were expected to do a lot of great things. I think we’re starting to scratch the surface a little bit with what we can do and just clicking at the right time."
The senior guard will take the floor inside Xfinity Center for the final time on Wednesday night when Maryland hosts Minnesota for the regular season home finale. It will be senior night in College Park. The longest-tenured Terrapin will say goodbye.
"It’s definitely special for me," said Ayala. "It’s kind of like one of the first ceremonial things I’ve ever had."
"Eric is an old soul," said Terps interim head coach Danny Manning. "I’m thankful that he’s on the team because I feel a connection to him because of his soul and how he carries himself and he wants to help this team be successful."
It may be Manning’s final time leading the Terps at home as the Maryland Athletic Department searches for Mark Turgeon's permanent replacement.
While Ayala and Manning ponder Maryland’s immediate on-court future, sophomore forward Pavlo Dziuba has something of far greater importance on his mind.
Dziuba is from Kyiv, Ukraine. He is the only player in all of the power five conferences from Ukraine. His parents are still in Kyiv. Dziuba respectively chose not to speak on Tuesday about the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. His teammates and Manning try to help him the best they can, but it’s difficult.
"You can’t say much," said Manning. "What do you say to somebody who when he is not on the basketball court with you is watching bombs and missiles every day?"
"We go and check up on him, all times of night and throughout the day," said Terps guard Fatts Russell. "Even when we are not in here we go to his room, just make sure he’s okay."
"We have no idea what it’s like to go through what he’s going through," said Terps forward Simon Wright. "But, the thing we can do for him is ask him how he is doing, laugh with him every day, just try to lighten the mood. He has been great. You can tell it’s obviously something that hits, I mean, it is his home. So, it hits hard for him. Just keeping his spirits light. He is always joking around and stuff. He always has a smile on his face. So, he kind of helps everybody out just in that regard. We are here to support him. Whatever he needs we’re here for him."