Monday, September 17, 2007

Roundball updates

According to the gurus on some of the young players for Maryland are looking for a breakout year this fall. With the departure of DJ Strawberry, Mike Jones, and Ekene Ibekwe there will plenty of playing time up for grabs this coming fall. The most obvious recipient of those extra minutes is sophomore SF Landon Milbourne. He has some tantalizing athletic ability with decent shooting range. He appears to run the break very well which will help ease the departure of Strawberry who feasted on such opportunities. His ball handling and passing seems improved which is necessary if he wants to take a starting spot.

Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes figure to be the starting guards with freshmen Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie competing for minutes off the bench. Tucker seems to be the more polished player of the two in terms of shooting and ball handling and did play PG for his high school team. Bowie has a reputation as a physical slasher who excels on defense and dribbles a tad too much. They offer very different skill sets so perhaps it will depend more on what the team is lacking to determine who will play more.

Boom Osby and freshman Braxton Dupree will battle it out for the "5" spot along side senior James Gist. Dupree has trimmed down to make him more active and has shown a nice low post game. His arrival seems to be pushing Osby to round out his offensive game. It will probably be the most competitive battle in the preseason practice.

Off the bench Jerome Burney seems to be recovered from his foot injury that forced him to sit out last year and red shirt. Burney and frosh Shane Walker will provide more defense and rebounding than scoring but that is precisely the kind of tough inside presence that the Terps didn't have last season off the bench. Their play could turn out to be a big upgrade even with Ekene Ibekwe's departure.

The last freshman, Dino Gregory, is a bit of a wild card. While not all that tall (probably 6'6") he has added some muscle and has a decent shooting touch inside the 3-point arch. He may be more of a defensive force than Milbourne and may earn some minutes that way.

The engine of this team will be James Gist. If he sputters on offense then the Terps will struggle to find interior scoring. Versatile, skilled and as athletic as any frontcourt player in the ACC he should be primed for a dominating season. He can play above the rim and still drain shots beyond 3-point range with regularity. Gist's only questions are in regards to his mental toughness and competitiveness. If he finds a little bit more of both then he will earn himself a boatload of cash in the NBA and lead Maryland back to the NCAA tournament again.

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