Why Longwood game is important for Gregory, Padgett
Confidence is a big theme around College Park these days. Junior reserve guards Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie possess it after encouraging performances Saturday during Maryland's 16-point win at Boston College. Heck, the Terrapins (11-5, 2-1) as a group own plenty of it with the way they've played of late.
And still, there are a few players who could use a little extra boost, which leads to Tuesday night's game against Longwood at Comcast Center. The non-conference game was scheduled for Jan. 19 in order for Maryland to be able to avoid having essentially two bye weeks in a three-week period. The Terrapins played no games between their Jan. 3 win at UNC-Greensboro and their Jan. 10 win over Florida State in the ACC opener. Maryland's next conference game is Saturday against N.C. State.
Longwood stands 4-14, and not one player in their rotation stands taller than 6-foot-7. The Lancers don't shoot particularly well, and they don't rebound particularly well, either. And so it would seem this would be a grand opportunity for Maryland players like junior Dino Gregory and freshman James Padgett to log some extended playing time and imbue themselves with some of the confidence that's been flowing around Comcast Center in recent weeks.
Since returning from suspension eight games ago, Gregory has been lauded by Coach Gary Williams for the defensive support he has provided the Terrapins. Gregory's energetic style of play, however, has not translated onto the stat sheet. He is averaging 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He has recorded 10 blocks, which ranks third on the team.
On Saturday at Boston College, Gregory tallied one point and one rebound in 27 minutes of play. The Terrapins will take all the interior defensive reinforcement they can get, but at some point they'd like to see Gregory's production on the other end of the court rise, as well.
"Dino’s got to get more stats," Williams said. "He was good defensively. He really worked hard. But we need rebounds and points from the inside positions, so hopefully that will happen."
Padgett, Maryland's other frontcourt reserve, also stands to see more playing time against Longwood. Mostly roaming in the considerable shadow of his classmate, freshman forward Jordan Williams, Padgett has not had much opportunity to demonstrate some of the skills he displayed during preseason workouts. He is averaging 12.3 minutes per game and has played 10 or fewer minutes in eight of Maryland's last nine games.
Jordan Williams, on the other hand, has rooted himself in the starting lineup. He is averaging 7.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game. Jordan Williams has performed well enough -- and of late, stayed out of foul trouble enough -- that a fourth frontcourt player has not been needed to stabilize Maryland's post presence.
"You look at the B.C. game and we played well or whatever, but the rotation of Jordan, Landon and Dino, we weren’t in foul trouble in those positions," Gary Williams said. "Everything was fine, and we were able to play those three guys. Well, James has got to get in there. We need a fourth guy in there because there’s going to be games where there’s foul trouble because we’ll play the big teams again and things like that where they have that kind of size. You have to have four guys ready to go, and James has got to be ready to go.
"He has to earn it, though. You can’t wish that to happen. He’s got to show it, obviously, and he’ll get a chance (Tuesday) night to show what he can do."
Senior forward Landon Milbourne, Maryland's resident frontcourt elder statesman, knows what it's like to be in Padgett's shoes. As a freshman in 2006-07, Milbourne played in only 16 games and averaged 4.8 minutes per contest. He has wondered why the minutes weren't coming like they did in high school. He has wondered what he was doing wrong. He has wondered whether his playing situation ever would improve.
And because of that experience, Milbourne knows what to tell Padgett as the freshman attempts to maneuver through similar mind games.
"I just tell him to keep playing hard," said Milbourne, who became a three-year starter. "You can’t really think too much out there, and you know, as a freshman it’s kind of hard to do that, especially when you really don’t know how many minutes you’re going to get. You don’t know as much as the upperclassmen do, so I just tell him to try not to think; just go out there and play basketball. You’ve been playing all your life; just go out there and play. Don’t think about what Coach is thinking, don’t think about getting yelled at or messing up because that’s just going to make it worse on you."
Gary Williams spoke Monday of the transitive effect of positive momentum. The Terrapins out-rebounded Florida State, despite facing a considerable size disadvantage. That, he said, fed into their game at Wake Forest, where again Maryland won the rebounding battle against a bigger team and took the game into overtime before falling. And that, he said, carried over into Saturday's beatdown of Boston College, where the intensity level did not drop off against a lackluster opponent.
All the while, confidence -- on a group and individual level -- surged, and Tuesday night's match-up affords Maryland another opportunity to further that development.
Said sophomore guard Sean Mosley of the message sent to reserves such as Bowie and Tucker, not to mention Gregory and Padgett: "I think confidence-wise, and us as the starters and as a team period, I think we drilled in their head that no matter what we’re going to still need them to play as if they were starting or coming off the bench."
Posted by: HughGRection | January 18, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse
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