- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2011

It’s the tail end of a long day. Lifting. Class. On-court work. Eating.

Lots and lots of eating.

Still, Berend Weijs’ mind is darting about. The Maryland senior is the sort who craves feedback and is acutely aware of how others perceive him. It is in the wee hours of the night, as he scans message boards, when he collects some aggravating information.

“For some people, the best coach is always sitting on the sideline or is always in the crowd,” Weijs said recently. “Some people never saw me play and they assume stuff about me because I’m skinny, I’m white, can’t jump, can’t do this, can’t do that. I’m just trying to prove everybody wrong.”

He’ll receive a chance to do so next season for the Terrapins. At 6-foot-10, he possesses a commodity Maryland is short on: Size.

Yet it doesn’t necessarily mean heft. At the end of last season - Weijs’ first at Maryland after transferring from a junior college - the Dutchman’s weight dipped to 198 pounds. His playing time declined as the year progressed, and he averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in 23 games.

The obvious concern about Weijs when he arrived in College Park remained in place after his first season. Sure, he could run (he clocked in at 20:50 in a 5K in the spring), but could he withstand the rigors in the paint for a full season?

Weijs’ effort isn’t an issue, and it never was. During the season, early arrivals to Comcast Center would see Weijs working on drills with assistant coach Bino Ranson nearly three hours before tip-off.

“He does, activity-wise, as much or more than anybody I’ve ever seen, whether it’s football or basketball,” director of basketball performance Paul Ricci said. “It’s a question of [whether] there’s a caloric cost, a metabolic cost for doing all that activity. It’s hard to tell a guy you should only put two hours in because you’re going to burn off all that muscle you want to try to build.”

Weijs is an unusual case, the college athlete who needs more girth, not less. His summer routine is designed to produce precisely that.

On a typical morning, Weijs will make an omelet with four eggs and add two buns to the meal. He keeps Gatorade and protein bars close at hand all day. At lunch, he’ll stop by the student union and grab a meal at Panda Express. Weijs downs a protein shake or two after late-afternoon lifts, and eats plenty of fish and chicken once returning to his apartment at night.

He tries to snack on fruit throughout the day. If a late-night craving hits, there’s a McDonald’s right across the street from his apartment. And in case he ever forgets, Ricci constantly offers reminders to continue eating.

“When it’s in my reach, I’ve got to eat it,” Weijs said.

The difference, though, isn’t immediately noticeable when he steps on a scale. He’s gained 10 pounds this summer, but his fat percentage decreased from all the physical exertion.

“I’ve been eating so much trash, too, a lot of fast food,” said Weijs, who also is playing in the Kenner League this summer. “It’s just hard for me to gain weight just eating regular. My cousin was here for two weeks and he gained 10 pounds [eating the same things]. I put on like one pound.”

Weijs, though, has reason for optimism: His strength is improving. When he arrived at Maryland, the long-armed Weijs couldn’t do a pull-up. By season’s end, he was at two or three. Now, he can manage 11 or 12.

His lifting production is better, too, and much of Ricci’s work centers on ensuring Weijs is stronger in various positions of the game. It means applying force correctly to the ground and playing with knees bent and chest up.

An effective Weijs would be crucial to the Terrapins, who have three unproven low-post commodities on scholarship for next season. Junior James Padgett was an end-of-the-rotation player his first two seasons, while redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey missed nearly all of the last two years with leg injuries.

Weijs, then, could play a key role if he can remain on the court.

“With his body, you’ve got to utilize him in the right way,” first-year coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s not going to be a deep post-up guy, so you’ve got to figure out a way for him to be successful. I think we’re going to have to play a fast style on offense if we stay healthy because we’re going to be a small team. I think that suits his style.”

Not much did last season. While Weijs was visibly perhaps the most supportive player on Maryland’s bench last year - which did not go unnoticed by former coach Gary Williams - his frustration understandably grew as his playing time diminished and the Terps scuffled to a 19-14 finish.

The lanky Weijs, who figured he would play out his career at NAIA school Northwood (Fla.) before Maryland offered a scholarship, understands he’ll need wits and guile as well as muscle to enjoy a strong senior season.

He also covets a chance to reverse how he’s viewed because of his wiry frame.

“One time I got out of the gym at midnight, read something on the Internet, and I was not sleeping,” Weijs said. “‘They say I can’t do that?’ They said I wouldn’t be able to guard big people or have good footwork, but the thing is I played against Jordan Williams all year last year, which definitely got me better.”

Such sleepless nights segue into long midsummer days. The cycle repeats as the season inches closer. And all along, Berend Weijs is attempting to generate strength for when he and the Terps need it the most.

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