COLLEGE PARK - Growing up fast never has been a problem for former Broadneck basketball star Matt Campbell.
As a freshman at Franklin Central High in Oneonta, N.Y., Campbell immediately was put to the test of competing at the varsity level. After his sophomore season, the now 6-foot, 6-inch 190-pounder was named to the prestigious Tri-Valley League all-star team.
When his family moved to Annapolis before the start of his junior year, Campbell was faced with the challenge of not only adjusting to new surroundings, but contributing to the success of a prospering Bruin basketball program.
That year, Campbell helped the Bruins post a 22-2 record and a Region IV final berth, averaging 11.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
As a senior last year, Campbell averaged 26.1 points per game and 16.4 rebounds while leading his Bruins to a 20-4 record. For his contributions, he was named as a first-team All-County and All-Metro performer, as well as Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year.
Now, as a freshman on the Towson State University men's basketball team, Campbell once again finds himself in the position of having to learn the ropes in real game situations.
In the Tigers' debut last Saturday in Dayton, Ohio, Campbell tallied two points and clocked 13 minutes of playing time in a 99-79 loss to the University of Dayton. Playing in front of a crowd of 11,883, Campbell missed on three attempts from the field, picked up three fouls, and netted both ends of a one-and-one.
Monday night, the Tigers didn't have to leave the state to find themselves playing the role of the visiting underdog. Campbell and the Tigers took the floor at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House and were run off it during a first half that ended with Terps comfortably ahead, 44-15.
Campbell enjoyed 19 minutes of playing time in the contest, but failed to get on the scoreboard. The forward was 0-for-1 from the floor and 0-for-3 from the foul line. His final free-throw attempt found its way through the cylinder, but was negated as the result of a Tiger lane violation.
Despite Campbell's unmoving performances in his first two games, Towson State coach Terry Truax continued to shun allegations that Campbell is in over his head.
"We don't recruit substitutes," said Truax, after watching his Tigers bow to the Terps, 93-69. "We recruit guys that we expect to play right away, and Matt is doing that. I have great expectations for Matt, and I'm very pleased with his progress."
Campbell's evaluation of his own performance in the Tigers' first two games was not quite as flattering.
"I think I'm slowly improving, but it's taking a little longer than I hoped," he said. "Right now I'm trying to concentrate on my rebounding, because I'm not going to the boards very well. I'm not scoring either, but I know that will eventually come.
"At this point, I feel there are enough guys on the team that can score, so I think we need more rebounding support than we do scoring."
Although he only has two collegiate games under his belt, Campbell already has begun to realize that a little extra cargo on his frame couldn't hurt -- especially while battling in the paint. In an effort to reach his ideal weight, which he considers between 205 and 210 pounds, Campbell is lifting weights three days a week.
"As I get more and more used to the system, I'll eventually start scoring a little bit more, but at this point I just need to concentrate on my rebounding," said Campbell. "My main goal this season was to get some playing time and to help the team out, whether its being a practice player or on the court."
In Truax's eyes, Campbell is fulfilling all his expectations.
"Matt's making good progress, and I really think he needs to play in these kind of games," said Truax. "I think he played better at Dayton, and I think he was a little looser. Tonight, he just seemed to be trying a little too hard.
"He tried to changed his shot a little bit tonight, and it threw him off. He's not shooting the way we know he is capable, but we've only played two games against two strong opponents, and we've been on the road."
Sitting at courtside Monday night and beaming like a proud father was Campbell's former coach at Broadneck, Ken Kazmarek. After the game, Kazmarek had nothing but positive things to say about the freshman.
"Tonight was nothing but a wealthy experience for him," he said, while waiting for Campbell to emerge from the visitors' locker room. "He went out and played hard, and as a freshman that's all you can expect him to do."