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Maryland year in review: Dupree

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Maybe it’s not fair to judge a big man by one season.

Two, on the other hand, is a more rational approach.

And based on two seasons, things haven’t worked out all that well for Braxton Dupree.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Certainly, in the preseason, a slimmed down Dupree seemed like a good bet to play a ton in the post for Maryland. Really, did anyone really think Dave Neal would play 25 minutes a night and prove a serviceable undersized big man after three years of injuries and mostly garbage time?

OK, so the preseason evaluation didn’t work out too well. Neal turned out to enjoy a fine season, maximizing his talents with his wiliness and helping Maryland reach the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Dupree, meanwhile, had fewer points, fewer games played, and worse field goal and free throw percentages than his freshman year. He did manage to match his 59 rebounds from his debut season.

This was a reality reinforced to me on a semimonthly basis, and not because that’s about how often he was playing by early February. Instead, that’s roughly the frequency I heard from a disgruntled fantasy college basketball owner who drafted Dupree solely on the basis of my dead-tree edition story from October, proceeded to barely finish out of the money in his league and blamed me for his predicament.

As it turned out, Dupree’s second season followed almost the exact same arc as his first. He tantalized with a few interesting moments early, then lost his starting gig and eventually faded deep down the bench.

The first time, Maryland could fall back on a little more of James Gist and Bambale Osby. This season, those obvious options simply didn’t exist – and it meant Dupree’s struggles stood out even more.

So it all prompts two questions: Did Dupree have trouble adjusting to carrying around a lot less weight, even if it was mostly cushion that disappeared? Or is he simply a guy who Maryland misevaluated in the recruiting process, and is his 2.3-point average over his first two seasons an accurate reflection of what is to come in two more ACC seasons?

It might not be; Dupree averaged 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds after the calendar turned to 2009. There were a few impressive moments in that span, including six points at North Carolina and some solid work in a regular-season game against Wake Forest.

A few days after the latter game, coach Gary Williams said the finishing stretch would be important for Dupree – especially with big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett arriving next season.

Dupree was a DNP-CD in three of the next five games, and didn’t score for the rest of the season. If that was a vital stretch, things bode ill for the Baltimore native.

Given the additions to the frontcourt, it would seem there’s only so much roster space to allocate to post players. Obviously the freshman will be factors, and Dino Gregory has earned a substantial role. It’s tough to know what to make of Steve Goins other than that he’s a project, and Jerome Burney’s health is his biggest question.

Depending on Burney and Goins, Dupree could be an odd man out. Or he could be back for another season, with dramatically diminished external expectations.

No matter the outcome, he’s played more than 500 minutes, averaging more than 10 minutes a game in his career while making 14 starts.

After two years, it’s fair to assert Dupree’s received ample opportunities to thrive. For better or for worse, there is a large enough sample size to conclude the ceiling on his college career isn’t quite as high as people thought when he arrived as the balleyhooed jewel of Maryland recruiting class of 2007.

Williams is correct – it wasn’t reasonable to cement those thoughts based upon last season alone. But after two lackluster years it would seem (to borrow the hackneyed phrase) Dupree is who he is. And rightly or not, he isn’t who we thought he was, ensuring he won’t be let off the hook by those who use recruiting rankings as unyielding guideposts for a guy’s entire career.

Patrick Stevens

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