Maryland’s two freshman forwards figured to act as crucial figures in determining just how much better the Terrapins could be a season after reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Dino Gregory’s absence for a “violation of team rules” from Tuesday’s exhibition game at Comcast Center meant James Padgett and Jordan Williams were needed immediately - and it’s uncertain how long the two newcomers will be thrust into larger-than-anticipated roles.
Maryland issued a release before the Terps’ 75-54 exhibition defeat of Indiana (Pa.) announcing Gregory would not participate and, because of federal regulations protecting the privacy of student records, the school would have no further comment.
An athletic department official, when asked how long the junior could be out, referred to the release and declined to comment.
“Those things happen during the season, where a guy sprains an ankle and a guy can’t play, and that can happen the day of a game,” coach Gary Williams said. “So we’re fine, and we’ll be fine.”
Gregory averaged 2.6 points and 3.2 rebounds last year, acting as a defensive specialist off the bench for the height-starved Terps. He played better in the season’s final month, complementing senior forward Dave Neal as Maryland secured an NCAA tournament berth.
Gregory appeared to be a likely starter, at least early this season as Padgett and Williams got acclimated to the college game. Yet with no certainty about Gregory’s long-term availability, a greater onus could be placed on the freshmen.
Tuesday night, then, was not just a dress rehearsal for the Nov. 13 opener against Charleston Southern but also the first look at both freshmen against an opponent.
Padgett finished with eight points, while Williams had seven. Landon Milbourne and Sean Mosley led Maryland with 14 points each.
“Now they know what it takes,” guard Greivis Vasquez said of the freshmen. “We really have to be prepared to play at the jump ball. I thought overall they did OK for the first time.”
Padgett drew the start, alternated with Williams at the five and was nimble in the paint. He also had arguably the on-court moment of the night, slamming home Adrian Bowie’s missed jumper in the first half. Williams wasn’t as fluid but led the team with three offensive rebounds.
Either Padgett or Williams was on the floor the entire game, a necessity given the Terps’ suddenly slim depth. Sophomore Steve Goins sat out with a knee injury, while Landon Milbourne and Jin Soo Choi split time at power forward.
Against a Division II team, it didn’t matter. But just how ready Padgett and Williams are - and when Gregory might return - are questions that won’t be answered until another night. Vasquez acknowledged the freshmen need to grow up, then quickly dispelled any thought he was concerned.
“But we’ll be fine,” Vasquez said. “They’re good guys. They love working. They work hard. So they’ll be completely fine.”