COLLEGE PARK -- Vince Broadnax still acts much the way he did as a walk-on, quietly slipping into practice without saying a word, accepting praise with a gracious nod.
It has been more than a year since University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams put Broadnax on scholarship, a reward for the hard work he showed and the increased role he played for the Terrapins.
"I've come a long way," Broadnax said earlier this week at practice. "But you never forget where you came from."
Where Broadnax began his college career, and the unexpected heights to which it has taken him, has played a large part in a surprising season for Maryland (14-11, 3-8) going into today's final Atlantic Coast Conference home game. The Terps play Wake Forest (15-8, 6-5) at 1 p.m.
In the course of the season, the 6-foot-3 junior forward has gone from being primarily a defensive stopper to an offensive threat. In the past eight games, he has scored in double figures five times, including a career-high 24 points in a 104-100 victory over North Carolina State.
"Since Walt [Williams] went down, everybody has picked it up a notch," said Broadnax, who is averaging nearly 12 points and four rebounds a game since the junior point guard fractured his left fibula Jan. 12. "That's another reason I've been scoring more."
Not that Broadnax still doesn't enjoy playing defense, getting his long arms on a loose ball, sneaking his spindly body in for a rebound, preventing a Rodney Monroe or a Kenny Anderson from getting off an easy shot.
Against N.C. State, Broadnax held Monroe, the ACC's leading scorer, to two field goals in the last 16 minutes. Against Georgia Tech, Broadnax made Anderson rush a three-point shot into an air ball that helped preserve a 96-93 upset.
"I'd rather stop someone like that than score points myself," said Broadnax, who also scored 21 against Clemson and 18 against Duke and has raised his season scoring average to 7.4 points.
On a team that has done more than anyone had reason to expect -- the Terps are 6-5 without Williams, who was leading them in scoring and assists when he got hurt -- Broadnax is at the top of the list of overachievers.
Consider that Broadnax didn't get a single Division I offer as a senior at Forestville High School. Consider that he played intramurals as a freshman and, the next season, was invited to walk-on by former coach Bob Wade because several players had transferred or were ineligible.
"He's kind of like this team, proving he can play on this level," said sophomore point guard Kevin McLinton, who is doing much the same for himself. "He's been an inspiration for a lot of guys on this team."
In Broadnax's case, it's inspiration with perspiration. It is the way Broadnax has played going back to high school, but it took a defensive-minded, work-ethic coach like Gary Williams for him to get some court time.
Not that Broadnax hasn't struggled in his new-found role. There was a time earlier this season when he hardly shot and that hesitancy was counterproductive. During one 10-game stretch, Broadnax took a total of 18 shots, making 12 of them.
"My father asked me why I didn't take some more shots," said Broadnax, who has made 66 of 120 from the field this season and leads Maryland in field goal percentage (.550). "Now I take the shots if I'm open."
Broadnax's favorite shot, usually taken off a little curl-in move inside the foul line, has become a mainstay of Maryland's offense. And he is working on improving his range, with the help of a left-handed jumper.
"I shoot around after practice with it," Broadnax said. "I'm going to work on it more over the summer. I seem to shoot better with my left hand from the perimeter. Don't ask me why, because I don't know."
Gary Williams has had players like Broadnax before, but none of them started as a walk-on. "I don't think of it as over-achieving, because that implies a player doesn't have talent," Williams said. "It means you go after it a little harder. He's proven he's a good ballplayer. Period."
Basketball is not the only area that Broadnax pursues with vigor. As a communications major with a minor in economics, Broadnax hopes to get degrees in both when he is ready to graduate next year.
But there is still some time left to improve his game, and leave his mark as one of the best former non-scholarship players in the history of the ACC. Does he still mind being referred to as a "former walk-on"?
"You can look at it two ways," he said. "You were a nothing and look how far you've come. Or just like this team, you had talent all along and proved a lot of people wrong."