Plenty of ink was spilled and smudged this past season over Maryland forward Landon Milbourne’s move from the wing to the four.
At the start of the season, when Milbourne’s every move in the low post was accompanied by a tweet of an official’s whistle, this didn’t seem so great.
And in the latter stages of the season, when a weary Milbourne picked up his foul habit again, it didn’t look like such a bright idea.
But there was that middle stretch – the one that didn’t include November and March – when Milbourne was a really, really good (if undersized) power forward.
And it was enough to make you correctly wonder if he is better served playing down low – assuming he receives any sort of interior help on offense as a senior.
At this point, it would appear Maryland will probably have a similar (if not so entirely tilted) roster construction next year. The strength will be in the backcourt, and Milbourne is the one flexible piece who’s demonstrated he can play both inside and outside if need be.
His junior season wasn’t always steady, but for the most part he was a reliable rebounder and efficient at the foul line.
Milbourne was also one of nine ACC players with both 35 steals and 35 blocks this season, joining Trevor Booker, Kyle Singler, Chris Singleton, Alade Aminu, Danny Green, Deon Thompson, Jeff Allen and James Johnson.
The more the season went along, the more it seemed like Milbourne was taking a slightly more accelerated arc of another legitimately good power forward who’d passed through College Park in the not-too-distant past. And it’s true; Milbourne’s sophomore and junior seasons are just a bit better than Rodney Elliott’s were a little more than a decade ago.
The difference in those careers was that Elliott had to (and ultimately did) become a much more significant scoring option as a senior because of Keith Booth’s departure. That opening might not happen for Milbourne, and he might just be left to modestly improve rather than make a huge leap.
Then again, if he stays at the four, a leap might come anyway. Milbourne’s role has been so different in his three years – garbage time, starting three with two senior bigs and Greivis Vasquez running the offense, starting four on a team with no size – that he might just be better off if his situation is somewhat the same.
Despite being as fit as ever and probably being as consistent with effort as any player on the roster, Milbourne got a bit worn down toward the end of the year. If he receives some help in the post, he has a chance to approach (if not match) an Elliott-like senior season (15.0 points and 7.4 rebounds).
Still, for projection purposes on the career lists, let’s stick with duplicating Milbourne’s junior season and tacking it on. Another 11.4 point/5.2 rebound average over 35 games would place him higher on those lists (and others) than would probably be guessed.
Remember, these projections also take into account improvement from teammates next season, so Milbourne might be a spot or two below where the record books would currently indicate he might land:
Points: 1,086 (44th all-time, between Keith Gatlin and Kevin McLinton)
Rebounds: 492 (just outside of becoming the 38th or 39th Terp to reach that plateau; Greivis Vasquez has 494 after three seasons)
Blocks: 95 (13th all-time, between Tony Massenburg and Len Bias)
That’s a sound career, especially for someone who barely played as a freshman (and joked to teammates last month he made his first NCAA tournament even though he was on the team that played in Buffalo against Davidson and Butler two years ago).
Milbourne’s taken care of playing a role on a tournament team. With a little more improvement – and perhaps some added stability – his play rather than his position will be what people notice about his in his final season.