The Washington Times - April 1, 2009, 08:01PM

So the season’s over, and all the sudden people are looking forward to next season.

And it seems every time I turn around, someone is asking me about Jin Soo Kim.


As in: Can Kim help Maryland down the road?

And: Will Kim look like a stringbean next year?

Or: What’s Kim’s position.

And so on.

The answers from Maryland’s point of view are yes, no and forward.

The answers from the outside are maybe, he’d better not and three-and-a-half.

Let’s start with a glance back at Kim’s debut, which was accelerated a year after the Tyree Evans/Gus Gilchrist debacles of a year ago. He was supposed to be in Maryland’s class of 2009, but wound up arriving a year early after finishing up with some online classes while rehabbing an injury back in his native Korea.

But those classes drew NCAA scrutiny, so Kim took forever (as in early November) to receive clearance to play. A few days later, he dropped 20 points in an exhibition on Rollie Massamino‘s Northwood team.

He went on to score 34 points the rest of the season, one that was interrupted briefly by ineligibility for a game in part because of his struggles to pick up English as a second language in the classroom.

Coach Gary Williams insisted thoroughout the season Kim understand the language of basketball, and that’s obviously a good thing. But it sure was hard to read into much as he scuffled along with fairly minimal playing time once conference play arrived.

Kim’s reputation was as an outside shooter, but it didn’t exactly play out that way in his 21 appearances. He took just as many 2s (7-for-21) as 3s (5-for-21), but didn’t make either of them at a particularly impressive rate.

Still, that could just as easily be a function of minimal playing time as anything else. So let’s just assume there’s no evidence to suggest Kim can’t help out down the road (because, frankly, there’s not much to suggest he will or he won’t).

That brings up the next question, which is “Can a 6-foot-8, 195-pounder thrive at college basketball’s highest levels?” And that answer is “probably not.”

Maryland didn’t wear down at the end of the season, and a lot of credit for that should go to first-year strength coach Paul Ricci. However, Ricci (a former strength coach with the Baltimore Ravens) has an interesting task this summer: Make Kim stronger and bulkier, and do it in time for next season.

Put another way, this coming summer probably means much more for Kim than last fall and winter did combined.

This in turn leads to the last question: Where does this guy fit in. Even on a smallish team this year, he clearly wasn’t an ideal interior enforcer, though he did rotate in at the four when Landon Milbourne encountered foul trouble or needed a rest.

Maryland’s strength is likely to remain its backcourt, and it’s a safe bet the Terps will field a three-guard set next year for the most part. So that probably seriously reduces the three as a possibility for Kim.

The Milbourne/Dino Gregory/Jerome Burney/James Padgett/Jordan Williams combo looks likely to devour most of the minutes at the four and all of the minutes at the five. So for Kim, it would seem he’s a likely four going forward, even if he doesn’t pass the eyeball test for a power forward at this stage of his career.

Even though he played more than Burney and Steve Goins, we might know even less about Kim at this point in his basketball development. With those guys, at least you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of body type and it’s a little easier to project the future with them.

If Kim returns as a guy who is listed at 195 pounds, he’ll probably be moderately more useful than someone who averages 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds —- but hardly a guy who anyone should count on. If he comes back next fall at, say, 210 or 215 pounds, then things could get interesting.

Given all the problems Kim had just to get cleared, it’s easy to toss this year out as a somewhat lost season for the first South Korean to play Division I basketball. But this summer is big —- and the bigger Kim gets, chances are the better off he and the Terps will be next season when he’s a sophomore.

—- Patrick Stevens