Maryland's preseason "22" drill, introduced… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
COLLEGE PARK — — Landon Milbourne and Sean Mosley responded without hesitating.
What, the two Maryland Terrapins starters were asked, is the most challenging workout drill you have been asked to perform at the school? "The hardest one we do is the '22,' " Milbourne said.
Mosley agreed. "The first couple of weeks there are a lot of guys just dreading it," he said.
The "22" is so named because players are asked to sprint the length of the court twice in 22 seconds or less. After a 40-second break, they perform the drill again - 21 more times. The daunting preseason endurance test is emblematic of Maryland's identity as a trapping, pressing team that relies on wearing down the opposition.
The Terrapins (11-5, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who host Longwood (4-14) tonight, are not a big team by ACC standards. Although it has out-rebounded two of its three conference opponents, Maryland ranks last in the conference in rebounding margin through 16 games overall. While coaches can hardly order the Terps to become taller, they can insist that players be conditioned enough to consistently apply defensive pressure - sometimes from one end of the court to the other.
On good days - and Saturday's 73-57 win at Boston College qualifies - the Terrapins appear to be playing at a different speed from their opponents. The Terps got 21 points off turnovers compared with four for the Eagles.
Longwood coach Mike Gillian called Maryland's defensive style "a big positive" for the Terps. Maryland leads the ACC in turnover margin at plus-4.4 and is second to Clemson in steals at 8.6 per game.
"That's the way we play," said Milbourne, a senior forward. "That's how we score a lot of the time."
The pressing style suits Maryland because the Terps are quick enough to push the ball up the court before the defense can get set. Maryland had 20 points off fast breaks against Boston College.
"We should be a good running team because we have ball-handlers on the court," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Landon Milbourne has become good enough where he can catch it [and] he can make a pass in the fast-break situation, so that gives us four of the five guys out there that can handle the ball pretty well."
If Maryland were to continue to make defensive pressure a priority, the players needed to know they had the stamina not to fade late in games.
Before last season, Williams brought in former Ravens assistant Paul Ricci to fill the new position of full-time strength and conditioning coach. "Conditioning always shows up on the defensive end," Williams said at the time. "Somehow players seem to find energy to shoot the ball."
Ricci said Monday that Maryland's two freshman players have faced an adjustment to the regimen.
"With Jordan Williams and James [Padgett], you've got to try to do the best you can to get them to fit in, but there's no way a freshman 'big' is going to be able to fit in with what [Greivis] Vasquez and Landon do on a daily basis," Ricci said. "They don't have the understanding of what it takes to work hard consistently where you're not going to be able to take plays off. You take a play off on a pressing defense, you're going to get beat."
Ricci brought with him an appreciation for yoga and other sorts of training. He said he borrowed the "22" from Michigan State's basketball program.
"It's incredibly, incredibly hard," Ricci said of the drill. "Not everybody is going to make it, and that's not necessarily a bad thing because I want guys to know that they can get better."
Said Milbourne: "It's tough, man. We had three guys throw up" trying to finish. But he said the drill, which is limited to the preseason because it so demanding, gives him an edge in games because he knows how hard he can push himself.
Ricci also had the Terps doing a preseason "turtle crawl," in which players scurry across the court on all fours.
Mosley laughed thinking about that drill. "Some things may sound crazy, but at the end of the day it helps," he said. "I feel like I'm in the best conditioning shape I've ever been in."