Milbourne The X-Factor
Michigan junior forward DeShawn Sims understands, probably better than most people, what Landon Milbourne is experiencing this season, mainly because Sims is making a similar transition himself. Last year, Michigan Coach John Beilein had Sims (6-foot-8, 235 lbs.) playing out on the perimeter, but this year, Beilein said, he wanted to utilize Sims' athleticism and versatility in the post, as well.
As a result, Sims, a reserve who plays a starter's share of minutes, had to refamiliarize himself with a position (power forward) from which he had drifted away. This season, Sims is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The transition, Sims said, has gone fairly smoothly.
"We're a small team; everybody knows that," Sims said in October. "So when the duty calls, somebody going to have to man up to it, so I'm definitely going to be playing a bigger role as far as in the post this year. I prefer the post game. My skill set definitely suits it more. I was able to grow and strengthen my arsenal as far as working on some things on the perimeter, but I'm kind of getting my feel back in the post more and more every day."
For Milbourne, the progression from playing the small forward position (where he typically matches up against one of the opposing team's most athletic players) to playing the power forward position (where he typically matches up against one of the opposing team's most physical players) has proven more difficult.
Effort is rarely a question for Milbourne, but he seems at times during games to wear down, especially late, against bigger and stronger opponents. He is averaging 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game so far, while shooting 39.6 percent from the field. Milbourne's potential, observers note, is far greater than his stats reveal.
"Milbourne is probably the X-factor because he's capable of giving them 12 (points) and eight (rebounds) every night," ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said on Sunday. "The biggest thing he's got to overcome night in and night out is have the mental toughness to know he's 207 pounds going up against bigger and stronger guys. There are a lot of guys over the course of a college season that are what we call small four-men. Or small forwards playing power forward that actually create a mismatch for the defense on the other end of the court. And so the nights that he's overwhelmed physically on the defensive end, he's got to make up for it by being harder to guard on the offensive end by the way he moves within Gary's offense, being quick to the offensive boards, taking big guys away from the basket. So that can actually become, you know, a net positive because of the way they play, getting some full-court pressure and being a smaller team."
Gary Williams said yesterday he wasn't too concerned about Milbourne's play, offensively or defensively. The coach believes Milbourne will adapt eventually and develop into the player the Terps need him to be. Over the weekend, Williams carried a similar tune.
"Well, he plays the power forward by number, but on the court we do a lot of things where a guy like Landon's out on the perimeter, so it's not just a power forward position," Williams said. "You know, he plays hard and he's a good rebounder for us. You know, I think he's gonna make some shots as time goes by here, so he's doing fine. You work hard. That's all. And Landon works hard. You know, he'll be fine. He's not getting beat anymore than anyone else at that position, so, you know, he's fine."
That last line sounded more like an indictment of Milbourne's backups than anything else, but in any case, Williams's point on Saturday (when he spoke those words) and yesterday speaking to a group of reporters was that, especially when it comes to Milbourne, the rest of the Terps on the court need to provide him support until he can fully adjust to playing against more phyisical opponents.
"It's a team defense," Williams said, "and we're there to help each other out."
Posted by: deadskin | December 3, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse
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