No one really expected Maryland forward Garfield Smith to make Terps fans forget Tony Massenburg or Jerrod Mustaf, but after he went out and did his best impersonation of them early in the season, Smith got folks to wondering.
Smith, a 6-foot-6 junior forward from the Bronx, piqued the curiosity of Maryland observers in the season's second game when he scored 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 12 rebounds against Southern California.
Trouble is, Smith, a junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, didn't approach that kind of output for weeks, until Saturday night's 17-point, eight-rebound performance in Maryland's 87-81 upset win over South Florida.
Smith had only scored in double figures twice since the Southern California game before Saturday, and everybody, Smith included, wanted to know which Garfield was which.
"I enjoyed that game," Smith said of the USC contest. "I just thought I could do that every night. I have no idea why I haven't."
The probable suspects include Smith's inconsistency, the faster pace of the big-time college game and the fact he is matching up regularly at power forward against players who are often 3 or more inches taller and 15 or 20 pounds heavier than his 223-pound frame.
"The overall pace of the game is a lot quicker than what I was seeing in junior college," said Smith. "Everybody is an excellent player. Every team has three or four or five good players, that on any given night can bust you for 30 points.
"But I can't use that as an excuse. I can play better than this and I'm going to work to prove that."
Smith, who is shooting a team-leading 56 percent from the floor, has started all but two of Maryland's 16 games, and will likely get the nod tonight as the Terps host Boston University.
But he has almost evenly shared time at power forward with 6-8 sophomore Evers Burns, and while the competition has been good, Smith would like to claim the position as his own.
"Your slot isn't engraved in stone here and it makes me work harder," said Smith, who is fourth on the team in scoring at 9.3 points.
"I wish I could play 40 minutes. It's his [coach Gary Williams'] call. Hopefully, Evers won't be coming in as much. Evers and I are cool people. We get along real well. But I'd like to play more."
Smith stepped forward Saturday night in Tampa, as he helped lead the Terps from a 19-point halftime deficit to the win, snapping the Bulls' 15-game home winning streak.
"We came in [to the locker room] and everybody wanted to talk, but no one said anything at first," Smith said.
"Then Kevin [McLinton] said, 'What the hell are we doing?' Then I spoke and Walt [Williams] spoke and we just decided to go out and play. We figured that if we were going to lose, let's do it with dignity."