- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maryland’s Pe’Shon Howard will make his season debut Friday night after missing nine games with a broken foot.

Rest assured, the sophomore guard is his usual self even after sitting out nearly two months.

“He definitely still has that swagger — ‘MVP,’ stuff like that,” forward Ashton Pankey said. “He’s still got it. He’s been waiting to come back, and he’s real excited to be back with the guys. It’s unfortunate for him to sit out. I was in his position, too. It’s not fun.”

Coach Mark Turgeon said Thursday he is unlikely to insert Howard into the starting lineup — yet. Nonetheless, Howard will not have any limitations as the Terps (6-3) play host to Radford (3-10) in their first game after final exams.

“He looks great,” Turgeon said. “Has no pain in his foot. Played every drill, every practice. Still a little bit out of shape, but he’s doing amazingly well. He’ll probably help us more defensively than anything.”

Howard was fully cleared Saturday (“A magical date,” Turgeon observed) and participated in everything in practice besides sprints. Howard was expected to miss 10-to-12 weeks when he was first injured, but Friday is a little more than eight weeks after the initial diagnosis.

It is a crucial addition for Maryland, which also will get freshman center Alex Len into the fold after an NCAA-mandated 10-game suspension for Wednesday’s game against Albany. In less than a week, the Terps will add their starting point guard and a potential starting center.

As much as Len’s addition will help, Howard’s return might have a greater trickle-down effect throughout the rotation. And that starts with the two guys who were sharing the point-guard duties with Howard absent.

Turgeon originally envisioned sophomore Terrell Stoglin as a shooting guard, with the steady Howard running the team. Stoglin still scored over the first nine games - he leads the ACC with 22.2 points per game - but he won’t have nearly the same ball-handling responsibilities.

The biggest winner besides Howard, though, might be freshman Nick Faust. The 6-foot-6 guard barely played point guard before arriving at Maryland, but he was an emergency stopgap when Howard suffered his injury in late October.

He struggled with turnovers (team-high 25) and shooting (28.8 percent) during the first month of his college career. With the chance to slide over the wing, his responsibilities running the offense will decrease, and he will be better equipped to use his size to provide rebounding help.

“It’s definitely more pressure off my shoulders,” Faust said. “Coach actually told me not to even worry about the one anymore and just get back to my position and start learning the two and three again. It’s definitely a big help to me.”

Maryland also establishes some modest depth and will have eight recruited scholarship players available for the first time all season Friday.

Yet in addition to the possibility of running a bit more, the Terps might benefit most over the rest of the season from a stabilizing presence. Howard averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 assists primarily as a reserve last year, and his 2.39 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games ranked fourth in the ACC.

“He gives us more defensive pressure on the ball, which helps the rest of the guys,” Pankey said. “Basically getting into our offense. It’s good. He’s not really a scoring point guard. He’s a pass-first point guard. That’s really going to help us in the long run getting us in our offense.”

NOTES: Maryland will meet Radford for the first time. The Terps are 10-0 all-time against schools currently in the Big South.

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