COLLEGE PARK - His shots had not been falling. At times, he has looked confused and uncomfortable while finding his place in the Maryland offense.
But after Wednesday's intrasquad Red-White scrimmage, in which he puncutated his second half by sinking six of seven shots, including his only three-point attempt, the customary smile was back on Byron Mouton's face.
"I've been struggling for a couple of days. A lot of people tell me I'm thinking too much," said Mouton, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound transfer from Tulane who is backing up shooting guard Juan Dixon and getting time at small forward, where he will spell Danny Miller.
"I'm getting the plays down, learning the press. It's only a matter of time. I still feel like I can make any shot."
It's a much different year for Mouton, who sat out last season after joining the Terps, following two seasons in which he led Tulane in scoring.
His role has changed. A year ago, Mouton's main task was leading the second team in practice. As the Terps prepared for their next opponent, Mouton would function as the scout team's best player, be it Duke's Shane Battier, North Carolina's Joe Forte, Clemson's Will Solomon.
"It's hard when you sit out a year, and all you do is basically run the other team's offense," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Now he's got to learn everything we do. Byron is in with a lot of guys who've been here for a couple of years. It's hard anytime when you have to think instead of just react. The more we run the stuff, the better off he'll be."
Said Mouton: "I can't just get the ball and take it to the hoop like last year."
Reducing rough stuff
Collegiate players, especially those who toil in the paint, will have to deal with a significant rules adjustment during the coming season, specifically regarding contact.
The NCAA men's basketball rules committee has declared "the elimination of rough play" a point of emphasis this year. In other words, officials say they will be less generous in their allowance of off-the-ball contact in the post, where big men battle for position and cutters venture while running their respective teams' offenses. The NCAA also has said that hand-checking will be called more tightly than in years past.
NCAA officials have been visiting schools around the country, trying to clarify the changes while working intrasquad scrimmages. At Wednesday's Red-White scrimmage at Cole Field House, a flurry of hand-checks was called, eliciting groans from players and Williams alike.
But players and coaches, mindful of scrum-like contests such as last year's national semifinal between Michigan State and Wisconsin -won by Michigan State, 53-41 - see the changes as practical.
"If the game is going to be called like [the NCAA] wants it to be called, it will be a big change," Williams said. "They felt there was way too much contact in post play, screens and off the ball. You couldn't make a cut without somebody throwing a forearm or getting in your way or whatever."
"We're getting a lot of calls for physical play, and we'll get used to it," senior forward Terence Morris said. "It's not natural for us now. It's something a lot of people have to adjust to. We're trying to clean it up, and it's getting better."
The Terps would appear to be well-armed to combat the new rule, since they have a deep frontcourt-with backups such as Tahj Holden, Chris Wilcox, Mike Mardesich and LaRon Cephas -that will allow them to spread around more fouls.
The question is, will it cause more whistles and make games drag? And will the games be called the same way in March as in December?
Duke forward Battier said he loves the new rule.
"As a 220-pound, so-called power forward, I welcome it," Battier said. "The reason why college basketball has been so appealing for so long is that it relies more on skill and grace, as opposed to the NBA, which often is a bunch of 260-pound behemoths beating each other's brains out under the disguise of basketball."
Tickets are available for the Terps' final exhibition on Wednesday (8 p.m.) against the EA Sports California All-Stars, a collection of former stars from the West Coast. Tickets also remain for the BB&T Classic Dec. 2-3 at Washington's MCI Center, in which the Terps open against Michigan. The winner of that game will advance to the title game against the St. John's-George Washington winner on Dec. 3. Tickets can be purchased by calling 410-481-SEAT or online at www.umterps.com.