The Washington Times - December 11, 2009, 04:40PM

Tomorrow, as you might have heard, marks Dino Gregory‘s return to playing in actual basketball games.

In truth, you’ve probably heard because Maryland coach Gary Williams has mentioned it on several occasions in recent weeks.


It also is a fair question as to how significant a difference will occur now that the 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior’s suspension is over.

Since he played reasonably well on defense late last season, it stands to reason Gregory will provide some needed help at that end on the interior. Maryland’s rebounding certainly figures to improve.

He’ll offer help for freshmen James Padgett and Jordan Williams, who have had little choice but to hold up inside over the first month of the season.

Taking out any element of skills (which is overly simplistic), he represents five fouls that Padgett, Williams and others wouldn’t have to pick up.

But at the same time, he’s still a guy who scored 2.6 points a night last season. And while it’s safe to assume he’s better —- most guys do get better, and Gregory’s scoring average jumped 1.7 points last year —- he probably isn’t going to suddenly become an offensive dynamo.

That’s the detached analysis, and it’s hardly original on my end. Others have already said so in similar terms, and others still will say it again.

But Gary Williams would seem to disagree.

“Players give to the team other things besides statistics,” Williams said. “When you buy a business, there’s an item line that’s goodwill. The goodwill you build up as a business, that goes into the value of that business when it’s for sale. It’s the same thing for players. Players like Dave Neal, like Dino Gregory give things to the team that are difficult to put a value on, but they’re very important to the team. With Dino, it’s effort every day in practice. Same effort shows in the games. It’s a player who wants to get better. Dino’s a much better player than when he came here as a freshman. His tenacity down the stretch last year in the NCAA tournament, in the ACC tournament, in the game against North Carolina, certainly were a big factor in our team’s success.”

There’s really not a whole lot to argue there. And it’s really uncertain if anyone is actually taking issue with any of that.

Gregory is a player who isn’t a stat stuffer but still provides value. He is an effort player. He is much, much better than he was two years. And after toiling at the end of the bench as an afterthought early last season, Gregory emerged as a useful piece on an unorthodox roster.

“To belittle Dino’s accomplishments is wrong,” Williams said. “I think most basketball people with knowledge of basketball would say the same thing.”

All true. Gregory has helped on defense in the past. Chances are, he will again starting tomorrow when Eastern Kentucky visits Comcast Center.

But questioning whether Gregory’s return will make a vast difference in Maryland’s offense —- especially when the guy he might spell just dropped 19 points on Villanova the other night? That’s legitimate.

Gregory will help, no doubt. He’ll provide depth and defense, and there will be some wiggle room in case Padgett or Jordan Williams has a rough night.

As for how much he helps the offense? That remains uncertain —- and there’s only one way to find out.

—- Patrick Stevens