Warming to the bench

Former starter Osby OK with taking reserve role sitting down

Maryland Men's Basketball

December 22, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

College Park -- On Nov. 23, Bambale Osby missed Maryland's victory over Lehigh with a stomach ailment.

Aided by antibiotics, Osby, who had been the starting center, was ready to play the next game. But he remained on the bench at the start as Braxton Dupree took his place in a win over Illinois.

And that's the way it's been since: Dupree, a freshman from Calvert Hall, starting and Osby, a senior, getting significant playing time as a reserve in name only.

If there are bruised feelings about the arrangement, no one is expressing them.

"It's no biggie," Osby says.

Maryland coach Gary Williams says Osby benefits from starting the game as an observer, and Osby agrees.

"It's just looking at the scene," Osby says. "The tempo of the game, the pace of the game, looking to see how the referees are calling the game, how aggressive you can play. Is it an inside game or a guard-oriented game?"

Williams might have other reasons for making the switch. Perhaps he wants to boost the confidence and experience of Dupree. He seems to like the idea of throwing opposing teams a changeup by starting Dupree in the first half and Osby in the second - a tactic he has employed a few times.

Williams had little to say yesterday about his plans for Osby, saying he didn't want to tip off American University (6-5), which the Terps (6-5) host this afternoon at Comcast Center.

Whatever his reasons, it seems to be working.

Osby averaged 12.2 points as a starter. As a reserve, he's averaging 12.3 points (not counting his first game back from the illness when he was still weakened and scored four points).

Osby is playing about 25 minutes a game off the bench, compared to 15 minutes for Dupree as a starter. Dupree is averaging 5.8 points in games he starts.

Osby says the key for any bench player is staying in the game.

"Once the game starts, you see guys out there making blocks and playing and it gets you mentally ready. Once your mind is ready, you get on the court and you're ready to go," he says.

There is precedent for a Maryland reserve getting starter's minutes and points.

Williams yesterday recalled Rodney Elliott, a forward from Dunbar who averaged 8.6 points coming off the bench in 1996-97, his junior year. He became a full-time starter as a senior.

Notes -- Maryland took time off for final exams and hasn't played since losing to Ohio on Dec. 12. ... Junior forward Dave Neal is practicing and nearing his return. He has been out since the second game of the season with a shoulder injury. ... American is a backcourt-oriented team led by junior guards Garrison Carr (15.9 points per game) and Derrick Mercer (15.2 points).

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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