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The Big Men (Part 2)

The other half of Maryland's starting frontcourt tandem is senior Dave Neal. Unlike Landon Milbourne, Neal was not expected to provide major minutes for the Terps at the outset of this season. He'd been plagued by injuries throughout his first three years at College Park, and with such a history, durability appeared to be an issue.

So far this season, however, Neal has been about as durable as they come. He has started the past four games and is averaging 19.1 minutes per game. Listed at 6-foot-7, 263 lbs., Neal mans the center position and has done so capably to this point. He typically doesn't pile up the rebounds, but he's big enough -- and has the necessary mentality -- to scrap around in the post and, if nothing else, create some commotion around the basket.

Perhaps most surprising -- at least to this observer -- has been Neal's deft shooting touch. Opposing teams routinely pay Neal little attention when he lingers out on the perimeter, and Neal responds by routinely knocking down long-range shots. He has converted 9 of 18 three-point attempts this season.

"I thought Dave Neal was really there for us at the start of the game showing leadership," Gary Williams said after Monday night's win over American. "Greivis (Vasquez) did a good job. When he drove a couple times they were really helping on him, and he kicked it out and Dave made some big shots for us and that got us off to a good start."

Even when Vasquez wasn't driving and dishing, the connection was effective. Just less than four minutes into the first half, Neal passed the ball to Vasuqez, who pump-faked and returned the ball to Neal. From the top of the key, Neal drained a three-pointer to put the Terps up, 7-0. Neal finished with 14 points and hit 2 of 4 three-point attempts on the night.

"He’s been a pretty consistent player in terms of being able to make shots," Williams said. "Dave is a lot like (American forward Brian) Gilmore and people like that. He knows where he has to be to get open. In other words, if his man helps on Vasquez, he gets far enough away from his man to where we can get him the ball and he’s open when he catches it. Dave is a very good shooter. He was a good shooter in high school, and he’s been a very good shooter. Dave’s biggest problems here has been his injuries. He was hurt all of his first three years here, so now, knock on wood, he’s been healthy and hopefully he can stay healthy all year for us."

Indeed, should Neal remain healthy, it would appear his lock on a starting position is fairly solid. Braxton Dupree has a long way to go before gaining back the trust necessary to re-enter the starting lineup, and Dino Gregory is not consistent enough yet to garner the honor.

Neal is not going to dominate games for the Terps, but he knows his role and he understands its importance in the overall scheme that Maryland attempts to execute each night. It would be beneficial for the Terps to have some big, imposing threat down low that they could feed the ball to at will. But the fact is they don't have that guy anywhere on their roster. As Neal is proving, he's not too bad of a second option.

By Steve Yanda  |  December 24, 2008; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: An Early Stocking Stuffer

Comments

Maryland will finish with a 15-16 record and 4-12 in the ACC

No NCAA

No NIT

Go Tar Heels !

Posted by: hclark1 | December 24, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Lonnie Baxter was height-challenged, too, and he did OK. Neal is nowhere near the low-post scorer that Baxter was, but he can drift outside and hit that jumper if the ball-handler finds him.

I'm guessing the team goes as far as the guards can carry them.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 24, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Just a note to hclark1 - MD CAN'T finish 15-16 w/o an NIT or NCAA game - they only play 30 games. Must be a UNC grad!

GO TERPS!!!

Posted by: TerpGrad | December 24, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

hclark tried to get into UNC but ended up in a community college. Let's give him a break on his math.

Posted by: Mariolucasforthree | December 24, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

@hclark1

ACC Basketball:
MARYLAND 82 - unc 80 (Saturday, 1/19/08)

ACC Lacrosse:
MARYLAND 13 - unc 8 (Saturday, 3/22/08)

ACC Soccer:
MARYLAND 2 - unc 1 (Friday, 11/7/08)

ACC Football:
MARYLAND 17 - unc 15 (Saturday, 11/15/08)

ACC Soccer Championship (1st round):
MARYLAND 1 - unc 0 (Wednesday, 11/12/08)

NCAA Men's Soccer Championship Game:
MARYLAND 1 - unc 0 (Sunday, 12/14/08)


Posted by: Terptwin | December 24, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

in regards to md.'s front court. i doubt that neal is 6-7 more like 6-5 and comparing him to lonnie baxter is a joke. baxter was more like 6-7 with very long arms and great back to basket skills. for college he was an outstanding center. neal has a decent outside shot has basketball savvy but lacks any real athelticism and not enough size to play inside effectively on a consistent basis particulary against top flight competition. dupree has been a total bust and gregory doesn't appear to be a top flight division one player. both would be better off transfering to place like loyola, towson or au where they might have a chance to play more. i say might because dupree doesn't look like he can play at all on the college level.

Posted by: fkterp | December 26, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I would agree so far about Dupree. i would disagree about Gregory in a big way. In very little action he has shown flashes of understanding the Div 1 college game. He has some size and athleticism as well. He will be a valualble asset in the future. Neal is exactly what we all know he is, and that isn't bad. It would be great if we could bring him off the bench for a little offense and to be scrappy and committ a few fouls, but we don't have that team. He will be in the 9 point, 7 rebound, 2 steal range and that is fine. If we are going to go 500 in the ACC Milbourne does have to step up in the 16, 8 range, and Shane Mosely has to grow up quick. Vasguez and Hayes will be fine. Our guards are our strength for the next two years so we better have a few in reserve, and hopefully Gregory and Dupree grow a few inches and a mean streak before next season.

Posted by: dbrine1261 | December 26, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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