Big men big concern for Williams

November 18, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - If Maryland coach Gary Williams sticks with his plan of using four perimeter players in most games, it means the team's lone big man will have the pressure of being productive on the interior.

The play of Maryland's big men in Friday's season-opening, 81-52 win over Bucknell gave more reason for pause than hope going into tonight's game against Youngstown State (0-1) at Comcast Center.

Sophomore center Braxton Dupree started the opener and struggled to the point where Williams pulled him for a stretch early in the second half.

"I think he shouldn't put emphasis on scoring," Williams said of the former Calvert Hall standout. "That's the least of my worries. He should be concerned about getting every rebound that comes off the rim and defending his position in there, making us tough inside."

Dupree, who scored six points and had six rebounds in 16 minutes, wasn't the only one of Maryland's big men to struggle against the Bison. Sophomore Jerome Burney, who seemed to make strides toward becoming a solid defensive player last season, had only two points and one blocked shot in 10 minutes.

Trying to make up for the graduation of James Gist and Bambale Osby, Dupree is aware of the criticism he and Maryland's other big men have already received this season.

"That's something I'm trying to change; I want to go out and prove anyone who doubts the team or doubts myself that I can play and our team is going to be a good team," Dupree said yesterday.

After getting into better shape by losing 25 pounds over the summer, Dupree said he needs to settle down.

"I think sometimes that's what it is: I'm thinking a little too much and not relaxing. That's what Coach has been telling me," Dupree said. "When I get the ball, I shouldn't feel under pressure to do something really quick."

Williams is not worrying about his interior players scoring, but he needs them to become more of a defensive force, blocking more shots and taking more charges. He knows that the big men, Dupree in particular, are feeling pressure to replace Gist and Osby.

"You can worry about it or you can do something about it," Williams said. "Gist was a very good shot-blocker. He had good timing; Bambale was good for a guy his size. If you play perimeter defense a little better, there's not as big a need to block shots. I still think we'll be big enough. It's not the size, it's the experience of playing that we have to get over."

NOTES: Williams said sophomore Cliff Tucker, who started the opener as one of the three guards and finished with a career-high 14 points, will remain in the starting lineup. Williams also announced that James Padgett, a 6-foot-8, 212-pound forward from Brooklyn, N.Y., officially signed his letter of intent. Padgett joins Jordan Williams, a 6-10, 245-pound forward from Torrington, Conn., in next year's class. "With our guards returning, that's basically what we need," Gary Williams said.

YOUNGSTOWN STATE (0-1) @MARYLAND (1-0 )

Tonight, 8

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 18

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