As James Padgett has soldiered through his senior season, the forward’s dwindling minutes have stood in contrast to his elder statesman status. Out with veteran savvy, in with youthful potential.
But considering Padgett is the only Terrapin who has been around long enough to experience the NCAA tournament with Maryland, it came to reason coach Mark Turgeon would eventually call upon the Brooklyn, N.Y., native once more. Game plans and fundamentals, after all, can be taught. Experience can’t.
So when Padgett was re-inserted into the starting lineup for Saturday’s meeting with Wake Forest, the 6-foot-8 big man was ready. His response? Twelve points on a 6-for-6 shooting day in an 86-60 shellacking for the Terps (16-6, 4-5 ACC).
“We’re so deep,” said Padgett, who also played 31 minutes off the bench in a loss at Florida State on Wednesday. “You can’t get down because you never know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, and you’ve just got to be ready when your number is called.”
It turned out Padgett had to wait awhile for that time to arrive. After starting for most of the nonconference slate, Padgett was relegated to the bench when ACC play came along, giving way to emerging freshmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare.
Padgett, however, showed no hesitation against the Demon Deacons in his second start of the conference schedule. He opened the scoring with a confident move in the post, then grabbed a steal and converted another layup before the game was 90 seconds old.
“When you come out making a couple of shots, your confidence automatically goes up,” he said. “You play harder, and you’re ready for anything that happens on the court.”
While Padgett and center Alex Len (6 of 7 for 12 points) commanded attention in the paint, the floor opened for Maryland’s perimeter shooters, who combined to go 11 for 16 from 3-point range.
“Padge and Alex were superaggressive on the inside,” guard Logan Aronhalt said. “It really opens things up for us.”
Just as Maryland wants to replicate that complete inside-out effort during a softer second half of the ACC schedule, the Terps also hope to continue holding teams near the 34 percent clip from the field Wake Forest struggled to.
“I have a lot of confidence in James on the defensive end,” Turgeon said. “His team defense was great. He’s a smart player. It takes a lot of pressure of off Alex, off of Shaq and Charles, when he plays that way.”
Added Padgett: “You’ve just got to keep working to get better. When you’re better as a person, it helps the team get better collectively.”
In a trio of recent contests against North Carolina, Boston College and Duke, Padgett logged just a combined 21 minutes. Before Saturday, he hadn’t scored in double figures since November.
But Padgett has just kept on working while maintaining a levelheaded philosophy. With Maryland hoping to return to .500 in the ACC with a win at lowly Virginia Tech (11-10, 2-6) on Thursday, it’s safe to say he has done enough to earn another starting assignment.