Posts Tagged ‘Basketball

11
Nov
09

Know Your Starters: James Padgett

(Aw, stuff. Now it’s getting serious. To delve into the rotation players and the benchwarmers, begin here.)

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So, here we are. By process of elimination, the starting center for your Maryland Terrapins is James Padgett! Dude, did you know he’s from Brooklyn OMG he’s from Brooklyn that’s in New York City dude!

I always love it when I can figure something out by process of elimination. Nine out of 10 baby mamas agree: it’s just a solid way of handling your business.

But in any case, that’s where we find ourselves. Jordan Williams is too green, Steve Goins is too injured, Dino Gregory is too suspended. But you know? I don’t mind. I’ll go to war with James Padgett. At 6’7″ and 210, he’s not the biggest dude in the world, and he could stand to get stronger, but he’s still tough in there. He played nervous in the preseason, although I think he got that out of his system. We’ll see on Friday, of course.

The pleasant surprise with Padgett is that he has moves. Imagine that — a big guy who has hands! Footwork! An offensive game! The biggest part of his game, though, is dirty work. He’s Windex on the glass, and you know what? I heard we have some other shooters on the team who are not shy with the chucking. Padgett could fit perfectly in that regard. At Lincoln High School (did you know that’s in Brooklyn?!?!?!) he played Robin to Lance Stephenson’s Batman, so he’s fine with that unsung role. And hey, he got enough singing even in the unsung role to get to Maryland, so he’s gotta be good at it. He’s also very beardy, so he has that going for him.

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What? There can't be TWO James Padgetts.

I think he’s eventually gonna take a more complementary role to Gregory, maybe Goins, and, eventually, Williams, but for now he seems to be the man. I’m thinking at least 20 a game at the outset, probably average a 5 and 7 or something like that. Nice.

11
Nov
09

Know Your Rotation Guys: Jordan Williams

(Oh, crap. Only three days til basketball season. An out-of-town conference put me behind the 8 ball, so I gotta step this up. Read the previous Rotation Guys post here.)

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I’m going to do something crazy and put the “bottom line” summary at the top. I know it’s crazy someone bring me my meds omg.

Anyway, here goes: Jordan Williams could end up being the best out of Maryland’s four current big men, but as of now, he’s probably the worst. However, he is also their second-least injured and/or ineligible post man, so he’ll get plenty of run. That pretty much sums it up.

Assuming Dino Gregory does in fact get an extended suspension, Williams is probably gonna be one of the first, if not the first, guy off the bench. (Either him or Bowie is my guess.)

The 6’10”, 260 pound J-Will — can I call you J-Will? — is well-known to Terp fans. He’s a freshman from Torrington, Connecticut. Our first legit center prospect since, what, Mike Mardesich? Ryan Randle? He captured a lot of peoples’ attention — including mine — in a grainy YouTube video, in which the opposing crowd chanted “What’s a Terp?”, to which Williams responded by sprinkling their court with shards of backboard glass. Please allow me to post that video for the eleventy hundreth time. Nice.

So the guy is strong. The guy is tall. The guy is tough in the paint. He defends the rim. He can dunk, and, unlike some of our other recent big men, he seems to have no reservations about doing so. What’s the downside? As of now, the downside is that he’s mainly upside. He’s got a high ceiling, but he doesn’t seem especially close to it. There are concerns about a general lack of college-level athleticism, and the fact that he’s not shredded like Mr. Olympia.  I think, to some extent, that will resolve itself as he plays his way into top shape. His somewhat limited offensive arsenal is a larger question mark. (Padgett is probably ahead of him in both these areas, hence the reason why he’ll probably get the starting nod.) Here’s an interesting and promising nugget on his offense, though: he is silky smooth from the charity stripe. He went 5-6 against IUP, so that bodes well for his future development as well as this season, in which I’m guessing he’s gonna get hacked a lot.

Bottom line: probably 15-17 minutes a game for Williams out of the box. As previously mentioned, early part of the schedule, if Dino is suspended, could be good seasoning time for Jordan. I’m high on this guy. Once he gets into the swing of things, I think he’s gonna be a player for us, and I see that happening sooner rather than later.

(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

10
Nov
09

Know Your Rotation Guys: Dino Gregory

(The miniseries continues. Read the previous installment here.)

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I can’t wait for the Dino Gregory era down low.  Sure, he wasn’t a world beater last year, but he came on late and worked hard on his game over the summer.  What’s not to like? 

Suspen-what?  OHHHHHHHHHHH.  The sus-PENNNNN-sionnnnn.

Right, right, right, right, right.

Well, that puts a bit of a damper on the expectations now, doesn’t it?   So as we wait, and wait, on news (and the season starts Friday, so it can’t be THAT much longer), I am of two minds on this.

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate. Duh.  I wasn’t really buying all this talk that he had become some kind of offensive force in the offseason (although I’m sure he improved somewhat), but even so he was the consummate puzzle piece for the team.  He was all hustle, all heart, all dirty work.  No glory, no nothing.  When you’ve got the piercing electric guitar that is Greivis Vasquez, you need a bass player to round out the sound.  Dino has shown he can do that.  He could be the Bobby Dahl to Vasquez’s C.C. Deville.  So in that sense, his missing time (if, in fact, he does) is unfortunate.

But on the bright side, it’ll give the young bucks some seasoning time.   Worst case scenario on Gregory seems to be that he’ll miss the fall semester, returning in December.  So he’ll miss some big games (Cincinnati, Villanova, Indiana, etc.), but won’t miss a second of ACC action.  So hopefully, this gives Padgett a chance to hone his game, and Jordan Williams a chance to play his way into top shape, and suddenly we’re a frontcourt to be reckoned with when we open against Florida State.  I predict Mike Gminski repeatedly saying things like “these young guys aren’t freshmen anymore,” and so on.

So maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, especially if Dino really did work on his game that much over the offseason, and if he stays in shape during the extended suspension that I presume is forthcoming. In the meantime, I’ll slot him in as a rotation guy.

05
Nov
09

Know your rotation guys: Adrian Bowie

(For the previous installment of Know Your Rotation Guys, click here.)

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If Gary Williams wants to start a small lineup, Adrian Bowie could be a starter. However, just for fun let’s slot him to the rotation area for now.

When I think about Adrian Bowie, I think about X factor. When he’s on, the team seems to fire on all cylinders. He’s got charisma out there on the court — when he’s got the ball, people seem to sit up a little straighter. Eric Hayes is great, but his game isn’t to score…any substantial points from him are gravy and that’s just the way it is. So to prevent Vasquez from trying (and, sorry to say, often failing) to go 1 on 2 every possession, we need another scoring option. Sean Mosely is emerging in this area, but Gosh willing, Adrian Bowie will provide that option for us as well.

With Bowie’s great quickness and athleticism, it’s relatively easy for him to slash to the hoop and to defend other guards in the conference. I’d go so far as to say he’s the only pure slasher on the team (with Vasquez being more of a “pure scorer”). His weakness has always been the shooting. In the team’s exhibition victory over IUP early this week, he had an efficient and encouraging effort, getting 8 points on 3-6 shooting to go with 6 assists, 2 boards, 3 steals, and no turnovers. That’s called stuffing the stat sheet. He missed both of his three attempts, though.

After training hard over the summer with Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory, he feels his all-around game is more efficient and just better. To sweeten the deal even further, Bowie bleeds Maryland red, black, white, and gold. Seriously, it’s disgusting, I’ve seen it. Bowie literally grew up washing Walt Williams’ socks as a Terps ballboy.

Last season, he averaged 18 mpg and 6 points. I see those and all his other numbers going up. He came on late last year and showed some poise under pressure, scoring in double figures in each of their last three games, including a 12 and 7 in the tournament win over Cal. The season is ultimately going to come down to Vasquez and the bigs. Everyone knows that. But every good team needs an X factor, a do-it-all guy. That’s Adrian Bowie.

(Photo credit: Christopher Blunck/Inside Maryland Sports)

04
Nov
09

Unstoppable Starts Here! Dino Gregory Could Be Latest Ineligible Terp

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Listening to the Terps’ 75-54 exhibition win last night over the mighty Crimson Hawks of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, you never would have guessed that Maryland had, or ever had, anyone on their roster named Dino Gregory.  And that’s noteworthy why, you ask?  Quit bothering you with this stupid exhibition bullcrap, you say? Well, hold on to your hats; this is curious because the Terps do have someone who goes by that name. Look, here he is. And what’s more, he was supposedly the team’s fifth starter entering the season.

So why did Gregory not only not play, but have his very existence expunged from the broadcast as if he were a “Fire Snyder” sign at a Redskins tailgate? Well, now we have our answer. Actually, some people were informed minutes before the game. But I was not. For I have no access, you see.

But now that I’m informed and fully awake, I’m going to be serious for a second here.  Gregory was suspended and barred from Comcast Center last night because of some previous team violations (alleged to be academic misconduct) that have yet to be resolved. The school isn’t commenting, citing privacy rules. This is not boding well. This could mean significant lost time for Dino.

If Gregory does miss real games, it would not be the first time for a Maryland athlete. Maryland QB Josh Portis was caught cheating, had to sit out the 2007 season, and never recovered. He transferred. And of course, in January 2006, Maryland guard Chris McCray was deemed ineligible for the rest of his senior season. This wasn’t some reserve who dropped off the radar; this was a big gaffe. He was the team’s leading scorer and they ended up missing the tournament. Earlier this year, the artist formerly known as Jin Soo Kim was declared academically ineligible before being reinstated a few days later.

This is to say nothing of the Tyree Evans or Gus Gilchrist eligibility fiascoes.

McCray, Kim/Choi, Evans, Gilchrist, Portis, and maybe Gregory. That’s a decent team right there.

I never had the feeling Maryland players and programs weren’t taking school seriously. (Although graduation stats are pretty poor, they’re improving and potentially misleading. But that’s another post.) But it seems fair to ask whether there is a disconnect somewhere. Isn’t someone accountable for making sure players know the rules and get their butts to class? It seems like someone keeps dropping the ball when it comes to making sure players understand expectations (and consequences). And it seems like this stuff happens at Maryland more than other schools. Is that just me? Either way, how many more times do players need to lose eligibility because of some ultimately silly mistake before we stop shooting ourselves in the foot?

04
Nov
09

Without Bias: A Terp fan’s take

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As you know, the documentary Without Bias debuted on ESPN last night.

I’m going to resist the urge to write a bunch of flowery prose about “Everyone Knows Where They Were When They Heard Len Bias Was Dead,” “He Could Have Been Better Than Jordan,” etc. It feels a little superfluous at this point.  I’ll just say that it was sad, is sad, and will continue to be sad. I think what will always grab people is the timing, happening just two days after the draft.  It’s a little like if someone won the lottery, decided to celebrate by going skydiving, and died in the air before they could cash the ticket. It was a promising life snuffed out as it passed through the doorway to greatness. 

Okay, I said I would resist. I didn’t say I would be successful.

As for the movie, I thought it was pretty good, even if it generally lacked fresh insight. The reporting was comprehensive, and included a lot of familiar faces for D.C. dwellars — John Thompson, Michael Wilbon, Jim Vance, Steve Buckhantz and, of course, one Charles “Lefty” Driesell. After reading countless column inches on Bias over the years, it was interesting to see the story told in pictures. Here are some of the pictures that will stay with me for a while:

— The game footage. If he had played baseball, he would have been a “five tool” player. He was ferocious around the rim on both ends, his legs were industrial springs, he played tough defense, and he was a good teammate.  And finally, the jump shot, which I had forgotten about.  That thing was pure sugar.

— The stoicism of Bias’s mother

— The wrenching, almost convulsive weeping of Len’s brother Jay at Len’s funeral

— The reminder that Jay was murdered in a local mall parking lot just a couple years after Len’s passing

As for the film itself, there is some commentary about the harsh, knee-jerk drug sentencing policies that came into place after Bias’s death. Many of these policies, often referred to as Len Bias Laws, remain on the books. But other than that, the movie didn’t really offer any new perspectives. On the other hand, I’m not sure a new perspective is necessary. The story and its characters are all as compelling as ever, and that’s probably, and rightfully, the way it will always be.

03
Nov
09

Know your rotation guys: Jin Soo Choi

(The series continues. Read the previous installment here.)

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By now, many fans know the legend of Korean Jin Soon Choi.  Unless, of course, you live in North Korea. Or inside a burlap sack.  A  beautiful, glorious burlap sack.  Either way.

He is the artist formerly known as Jin Soo Kim.  He is the first Korean to play in Division I and in the NCAA tournament.  And he is probably the most celebrated and enigmatic non-Vasquez personality on the Maryland basketball team.

The 6’8″ Choi, who spent some of the offseason playing for Korea in the FIBA Asia championship (they finished seventh), committed to Maryland in 2007 after Gary Williams watched one workout and made him an offer on the spot. Choi once allegedly hit 17 of 20 threes in a workout, and has drawn comparisions to Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki (the latter from Williams himself).  He’s quick for his size and has good handle, but his big weapon is that long-distance stroke. The Terps haven’t had a money-in-the-bank perimeter shooter since Drew Nicholas (or maybe Mike Jones, if you’re feeling charitable), and this squad, so heavy on penetrators, could use a sniper to loosen up opposing defenses.

Jin Soo has basically been a folk hero at Maryland since he first set foot on the court. The big blue ox he rides around the campus also helps, as does his willingness to challenge any machine who would seek to supplant the works of man. Whenever Choi got into a game last season, the crowd went wild.  He blocked a shot once and I thought Comcast Center was going to shoot into orbit.  Unfortunately, though, his stats aren’t quite as eye-catching as his back story; in 6.5 mpg last year, Choi shot 24 percent from three and 29 percent overall.  This year, in the team’s second scrimmage, he netted two boards and zero points on 0-6 shooting in 32 minutes, prompting Gary Williams to opine thusly:

It’s got to be more than a jump shot…it’s got to be a complete game. You have to bust your butt on the defensive end of the court. You have to be a good passer at that three position that he’s playing right now.

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So basically, the guy camps out behind the three-point line and that’s about it.  With so many guys having a legit shot at PT this year, especially in the wing spots, that’s just not gonna get er done.  He did a little better in the first scrimmage — 3-10 for 10 points, five boards, two steals — but still not setting the world on fire.

Now, clearly, Choi’s case is more complicated than others.  He moved to the U.S. when he was 14, and has a lot to overcome. His English remains limited, and he calls academics his biggest challenge so far in the states.  He does have family nearby, including a brother who graduated from Maryland in 1999, but I can only imagine that this continues to be a huge transition, on and off the court. Off the court is self-explanatory. On the court, he simply seems uncomfortable against D-1’s stronger, tougher players, none of whom look like, act like, or, uh, share any discernible cultural attributes with him. 

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This adjustment could take years, if it ever happens. Fortunately, on the court, there may be a relatively easy solution. Choi needs to bulk up.  A lot.  He needs to be, like, frying Snicker’s bars in bacon grease.  Gary should hire a nagging Jewish mother to follow him around:  “Jin Soo, eat something!  Why don’t you take a little bread with that?  You’re skin and bones!”   A little more mass would give him confidence and reduce his getting-pushed-around quotient.  Choi apparently has added muscle and is up into the 200 lb. range, but he’s gotta keep it up.  No one expects Charles Barkley, but when you’re 6’8″ and you’re gonna play the three, you can’t be all reedy like that.

I think coaching also plays a large role for Choi.  Hopefully they’re helping him with more than just learning the offense or explaining the definition of “pick and roll.” There’s psychology at work here.  Hopefully they’re helping Choi feel more included and comfortable around his teammates, which ultimately translates into more confidence in the face of his opponents.  It’s not that Choi plays scared.  It’s just that when you grew up on the other side of the world, anything that can help you feel more at home is gonna be welcome.  I know I’m not saying anything the coaching staff doesn’t already know.

Bottom line:  if we can develop him in a meaningful way, we’ve got a player. Otherwise, he’s in danger of becoming a sideline novelty.

(Photo credit: UMTerps.com)




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