'The New Thing' Leads Terps to Commanding Victory
Jin Soo Kim's week began with what he thought was a joke and it ended with his right wrist extended in the air, watching another shot fall through the net as the Comcast Center crowd erupted once again. Kim turned to the student section and grinned as he ran back down the court. This, his body language said, was worth the wait.
Maryland easily defeated Northwood University, 104-60, on Saturday and for all the signs of progress the Terrapins displayed, simply having Kim, a 6-foot-7 freshman, out on the court might have been the most vivid revelation of all. Six days after discovering he would, in fact, be eligible to play this season, Kim scored 20 points, tying him for the game-high with teammate Landon Milbourne.
“You never know what a player is learning when he’s sitting out, you know, in the street clothes watching practice,” Coach Gary Williams said. “Jin Soo had some things down when he came on the court. He knew a couple of our basic plays, and I thought it showed today.”
At around 4:45 p.m. on Monday, a university compliance officer approached Williams during practice and informed him that the NCAA Clearinghouse had reneged on its original decision and cleared Kim to participate in all team activities for the upcoming season. To that point, Kim was forced to watch his teammates practice while the NCAA Clearinghouse reviewed online compliance courses he had taken during the fourth quarter of his final year of high school in South Kent, Conn.
Williams called the team together and gave them the news. Kim’s teammates began jumping up and down, hollering with delight. Kim was more subdued. He thought Williams was kidding.
But it was no joke. On Tuesday, Kim participated in the team’s scrimmage at Temple, and on Saturday, he entered an exhibition game against an NAIA school with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the first half. The crowd cheered wildly, as they would continue to do all afternoon whenever Kim did anything even remotely positive. “He’s the new thing,” Williams said afterward.
Without star guard Greivis Vasquez, who sat out the game for a violation of team policy, the Terrapins needed someone or something to spark the interest of their sparse audience. Kim filled that role, though not fully until the second half.
“I think he was very nervous out there, which is a good thing,” Williams said. “It’s nice to see players get nervous, especially in their first time on the court. Everything was real quick for him. I just think he settled down at halftime.”
Kim missed all five of his shots from the field in 10 minutes of action before the intermission. When he entered the game, he wore strips of beige wrap across his right shoulder, the one that had to be surgically repaired last spring. It was that injury that led Kim to take those online correspondence courses in the first place. He underwent the corrective surgery in his native South Korea for insurance purposes, which forced him to withdraw from classes at South Kent High School.
But inside an arena populated with supporters on a pleasant November afternoon, Kim’s shoulder injury and all the drama that followed it were far from the freshman’s mind. In the first half, he said he was worried about making three-pointers. That, after all, is what he is known for and why he was an attractive recruit for Williams’s squad.
At halftime, sophomore guard Cliff Tucker said he implored Kim to drive to the basket more if the outside shots weren’t falling. “He started going to the basket and getting a lot of offensive rebounds and put-backs,” Tucker said. “Once he started making all those, he got hot and making all his shots.”
Kim took the advice, effectively handling the ball with his left hand, even though he shoots with his right, as he made his way to the basket. He attacked aggressively, drawing fouls and often hitting the ensuing free throws. He showed more attentiveness on defense.
And then, the shots started falling. He sank a three-pointer from the corner after just more than five minutes had expired in the second half. The student section began chanting his name. He scored again three minutes later. Then again. And again.
“The first (half) I missed a lot of shots,” Kim said. “The second (half), I didn’t think about my shooting. I was just staying focused on the team, get loose ball and things like this, try to focus on other things and that made me more play hard.”
Kim finished the game shooting 6 for 13 from the field, though he shot just 1 for 6 from beyond the three-point line. He also went 7 for 8 from the free throw line.
“If I tell you guys that I’m not really focused on shooting on my play in the first (half), that’s a lie,” Kim said. “But my teammates told me just keep focused on your game, not shooting.”
Though it took Kim a while to allow his nerves to cool, the Terrapins jumped on Northwood from the very beginning. Maryland opened the contest with a 9-0 run and only appeared to let up during the final minutes of the first half.
Milbourne scored 20 points to tie Kim for the game-high and grabbed seven rebounds. Tucker, Eric Hayes, Dino Gregory and Braxton Dupree joined Milbourne in the starting lineup. Tucker scored 17 points on 6 for 11 shooting. Eric Hayes added 15 points and recorded five assists.
Adrian Bowie came off the bench to shoot 6 for 7 from the field and score 16 points. Dupree scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, but shot just 3 for 9 from the field.
Freshman guard Sean Mosley warmed up but did not play due to a low ankle sprain. Williams said if it had been a regular season game, Mosley likely would have played.
“I thought offensively we executed pretty well at times,” Williams said. “And we played pretty aggressive offense in addition to being intense on defense. But, you know, it’s November 8th so you don’t get too carried away with anything that happens today.”
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