In this half of the Terps basketball preview, we are going to look at the Maryland big men. A year ago, that term was kind of a misnomer considering Dave Neal was the starting center, and he was about 6’5″ and Landon Milbourne moved from small forward to power forward. Though the Terps have added two freshman who will certainly see significant playing time, the story of the bigs could be more about who is missing. We already discussed under sized Dave Neal moving on after graduating. Sure he was playing out of position, but he certainly showed he was capable of competing in the ACC last year. After him there is one player who definately will be out, and possibly one more out for at least a few games, if not more.
The Terps have announced Jerome Burney will be out due to foot injuries, and has accepted the position of assistant strength and conditioning coach. Last year, in very limited playing time, Burney showed some athleticism around the rim and was able to provide rebounding and some shot blocking. Personally I was really thinking this was finally going to be the year where he was going to be healthy enough to contribute on a game in and game out basis. So much for that.
The next big man whose availability is up in the air is Dino Gregory. This is really concerning, because you could really see him improving all year last year. He was a solid defender and rebounder by the end of the season, and started to pick up the offense as time went on. Everything you read this off season regarding Dino was talking about how he was really developing an offensive game, and was expected to move into a starting role. Well that was all well and good until the exhibition game where he was persona non grata. There are rumors that there may be an academic honesty issue, but to this point that seems to be all they are. What concerns me is, no one in either the athletic department or on the team has stated any thing about a time frame for his return. So it is very possible he could be out for an extended period of time this season.
So lets look at some players who are going to likely play a big role in the front court.
As mentioned earlier Milbourne made the move to the 4 spot, and performed admirably. I think he may be just a bit to slow to guard the 3, and a hair small at the 4, but he really held his own last year down low. The second half of the ACC season he really seemed to put it all together. He has the speed to take advantage of slower PF’s, and with his leaping ability and wing span, can do a pretty decent job defending them. Consistency is the name of the game for Landon. The Terps need a go to guy down low to score inside and get to the line. Landon is an above average shooter from the line. The problem is he sometimes settles for his jump shot. I am fine with the foul line jumper if they bring him up in the flex, but Landon has to stay inside the arc to be most effective. My expectations on the year for Landon is to maybe increase his points by 2 or 3 per game, mostly because I expect him to be more consistent.
Padgett came into camp as the less heralded of the two freshman inside players, but through camp and the early exhibition season, Padgett has been a pleasant surprise. Coming into the season, I think everyone would have been fine with him coming in, rebounding and defending, but he has shown a much more polished offensive game inside, than anyone really expected. I hate to use this example, but maybe (to a much lesser extent) we can compare him to Joe Smith. Joe was not nearly as highly regarded as Keith Booth, but Smith flew under the radar, mostly because he played AAU ball with a diminutive little guard who controlled the ball, name Allen Iverson. Maryland starts Smith, and before you know it, two years later he is the national player of the year, and the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. Padgett played with another guard who controlled the ball quite a bit, and was on a guard dominated team. With Born Ready AKA Lance Stephenson taking more than his share of shots, Padgett may have just flown under the radar. Now let me clearly state this. He is not going to be Joe Smith, I was clearly stating we may be getting a more polished offensive player than we were expecting. If Gregory is going to be out any significant time, I would expect Padgett to start at the 5, and do what ever is needed of him.
WIlliams came in as the more heralded player. He dominated (likely lesser competition) Connecticut HS basketball the last couple of years. I think his legend grew even more with the youtube video of him shattering the backboard. Jordan is a wider body, and is going to be a very good player for the Terps. He is just going to need a little time to get used the level of play in the ACC. That being said, I still expect him to contribute this year. Just not quite as much as I would have said had you asked me in July. WIth the sudden issue of depth in the front court, he is at least going to to have rebound and play defense for 15 minutes or so a game.
Jin Soo Choi
Jin changed his last name from Kim to Choi. Gary has changed his likely position from SF to PF. His height is fine for the 4. His weight is not. Choi has shown he has the ability to light it up shooting, and is quick and explosive around the rim. The problem is he looks a little lost in the offense. If he gets the confidence that he really belongs out there, he could be a nice sub for Milbourne. WIth all the depth at the 2 and 3, and the lack of depth at the 4, his role is going to be a back up down low.
Post season rumors had Goins gone. In fact, I believe we even reported he was gone. The only thing he did was to have surgery on his knee. The problem for the Terps is, he is still having trouble with the knee. There is no denying, Maryland could use another big man to keep the bodies fresh and out of foul trouble. Goins is not going to light anyone on fire with his play, but he may very well see more time than anyone expected if he can get healthy, and the worst comes to fruition for Dino.
So there you have a look at the inside players for the Terps. When I get a little more time I will give you a run down on the walk-ons. They deserve some mention as well, I just have a lot to get done before I head down to Maryland for the VT game this weekend.
Overall, my excitement level for Maryland Basketball hasn’t been this high in quite a while. The Terps returned to the NCAA tournament, return almost all of the team from last year, have brought in a couple of quality big men, and have some highly regarded recruits lined up for next year. Maryland Basketball, may very well be in a good shape for the next few years, if Gary Williams can finish off the recruiting class with one of the big men he really wants.
So don’t forget Friday night at 8:00 on Comcast Sports net to tip off the season.