The Washington Times - January 7, 2009, 04:04PM

The subject of Braxton Dupree came up during my weekly bleary-eyed appearance with WNST’s Drew Forrester yesterday morning, and it seems I’m not really alone in my assessment of his place on Maryland’s roster.

While he’s shown a few glimmers here and there and struggled a fair bit as well, Dupree is the only truly big, bulky guy Maryland has who can bang around inside.

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A loyal reader e-mailed me today and suggested Dupree had the tools to be just as good as Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair. I’m not ready to say that based on what I’ve seen over a season and a half (from both players, because the entertaining Blair is really, really superb), but Maryland doesn’t need Dupree to be that good.

They just need him to be presence, probably moreso on the defensive end.

“He’s going to be important,” coach Gary Williams said. “If you look at our team, we have to be able to put big people on the court. Braxton’s one of them, so he’s going to have to get it done. Sometimes that’s good where a player doesn’t have [a choice]. He’s going to go out there. If he plays well, great. If he doesn’t, well, then you get embarrassed a little bit if you don’t play well. That motivation sometimes helps guys to come out of it and helps them to play.”

Make no mistake, there are some forwards who spring to mind in the ACC who could make a lot of folks look bad. Obviously, that list starts with Tyler Hansbrough, but Clemson’s Trevor Booker, Georgia Tech’s Gani Lawal, and Wake Forest’s James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu all spring to mind. Assuming he wants to play inside, Virginia Tech’s Jeff Allen is on that list, too.

Maryland can score inside without much help from Dupree. It’s clear there are some slashers from the perimeter, and Landon Milbourne is becoming a more capable four-man as the season progresses.

It’s at the other end where they need Dupree to emerge.

“You can do some offensive things to negate the other team’s size,” Williams said. “If the other team has some big guys they can post up with, it’s really hard to play it with a 6-5 or something like that.”

It might be disconcerting to Maryland fans to hear Dupree might be the difference between a 19-win team playing in the NIT and a 21-win team that is shipped off to play in an 8-9 or 7-10 games in the NCAA tournament. But that just might be the case. We’ll find out for sure in the next two months.

Patrick Stevens