Grinnon just happy to make the most of limited chances

6-6, 195-pound freshman has mature perspective on developing his game

Terps notebook

November 23, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Mike Grinnon is smart enough to understand the obstacles facing him.

As a freshman forward at Maryland, Grinnon must battle inexperience, adjust to the rapid pace of the major Division I game and develop skills as he matures physically against the biggest and quickest players he has ever faced, whether it's the opponents or his own teammates in practice.

In the meantime, you won't find the upbeat kid from Long Island frowning over a lack of playing time.

"My time is going to be limited. This is my chance to prove that I belong, to prove that I'm good enough to play," said Grinnon, 6 feet 6, 195 pounds, who received his first two minutes of playing time late in Saturday's 83-53 victory over American. "I can't blame Coach [Gary Williams] for not putting me in during a close game. Hopefully, I'll give some performances that gives him some trust in me."

With the No. 6 Terps facing a series of lesser nonconference opponents over the next six weeks -- such as Monmouth (Dec. 11), William and Mary (Dec. 27), Norfolk State (Jan. 3) and tomorrow's visit by Delaware State -- Grinnon figures to get more chances soon. For now, he is trying to gain ground on teammates like Drew Nicholas and Calvin McCall, who have filled most of the minutes behind starting small forward Byron Mouton.

Had Danny Miller not transferred to Notre Dame after his junior year, Grinnon might have been redshirted this season. Instead, he is trying to catch up in the weight room and on the court.

"Mike is getting better in practice. His thing is [a lack of] strength. He gets pushed around a little bit," Williams said. "As he gets stronger, he'll play. He's learning the offense. He works. He's 6-6 and can shoot the ball over people. He just gets overmatched [physically] sometimes."

The intensity of the day-to-day grind also is a bit shocking to most freshmen, and Grinnon is no exception.

"In high school, you can take breaks sometimes on offense or defense. You can pick your spots when you play hardest," said Grinnon, whose shooting skill drew Maryland to him. He averaged 19 points while leading St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay (N.Y.) to a No. 14 final ranking in New York's Class A poll last year. "Here, it's about playing as tough as you can play the whole time."

Grinnon has made progress. He'll never forget the nervousness that gripped him when Williams inserted him during the team's exhibition opener on Nov. 2. The nerves have since passed.

"I couldn't believe that, after all of the conditioning we had in the preseason, after two plays I couldn't feel my legs," Grinnon said.

Terp of all trades

Should he concentrate on distributing the ball? Rebounding? Spotting up for three-point shots? For Nicholas, the job description changes at a moment's notice.

Nicholas, 6-3, who came to Maryland as a shooting guard, became the team's backup point guard behind Steve Blake last year. This season, with Williams opting early for occasional three-guard alignments, Nicholas also is spending time behind Mouton. He also fills in for senior Juan Dixon at off-guard.

"My roles change so quickly on the floor. It's a transition period, just like last year," said Nicholas, who has taken over sixth-man duties from Miller. "I can go from the 2 [shooting guard] to the 3 to the 1 [point guard] in a matter of minutes. It's a process, but I like the minutes [19.3 per game]. You can't be mad about that."

Through three games, Nicholas is averaging 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds, and with 12 assists and three turnovers, has shown impressive ability to penetrate zone defenses off the dribble. His shooting touch has yet to come around. Nicholas has missed six of seven three-point attempts and is shooting 30 percent overall.

Et cetera

Maryland has attempted 68 three-point shots through its first three games, with at least 19 attempts in all three outings. There was only one occasion last season in which the Terps shot 20 threes in three consecutive games. ... Besides Dixon, who is 14-for-30 from beyond the arc, Maryland has made 11 of 38 three-point shots (29 percent). ... Williams said he wants starting junior forward Tahj Holden to shoot and score more, although Holden is doing other things well. He is tied for the team lead with five blocked shots and has yet to commit a turnover while recording seven assists. He is averaging just 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 24.3 minutes. Said Williams: "When you have a big man who can pass, it really helps your team. It might not be an assist, but it keeps your offense moving. Tahj looks at the game. He knows how an offense works, spacing, all of those things." ... Maryland is the only school in the nation that has appeared in each of the past eight NCAA tournaments, advanced to the Sweet 16 at least five times during that stretch and won at least 25 games in each of the past three seasons.

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