- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The arrival of James Padgett and Jordan Williams was supposed to solve Maryland’s frontcourt problems.

Trouble is, the freshmen could make up two-thirds of the Terrapins’ frontcourt options Tuesday when they play host to Fairfield.

Padgett, Williams and Landon Milbourne are the only healthy forwards for Maryland (1-0). Jin Soo Choi, who spelled Milbourne in Friday’s season opener, suffered a sprained ankle and seems unlikely to play against the Stags (2-0).

“You never know,” coach Gary Williams said. “I think that’s the great thing about coaching. It’s never an exact science. You might see some interesting four men out there against Fairfield. James can play four and five, and obviously Landon has played the four for us for a year and a half. But it gets thin pretty quick.”

The disappearance of the big men didn’t happen overnight.

Jerome Burney endured a series of foot injuries during his first three seasons with the Terps, and his decision over the summer to end his career and become Maryland’s assistant strength and conditioning coach was not a surprise for the program.

Sophomore Steve Goins, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August, aggravated the injury less than two weeks into practice and has yet to return.

Goins played sparingly last season, and his absence probably wouldn’t be so acute if not for Dino Gregory’s issues. The junior was suspended before Maryland’s exhibition game for a violation of team rules and was not on the Terps’ bench for the opener against Charleston Southern.

It meant he didn’t have a front-row seat for Choi’s injury. The sophomore crumpled to the floor in the middle of the second half and was unable to put weight on his right foot as he was helped off.

Williams wouldn’t rule out Choi, but guard Sean Mosley acknowledged the Terps’ options could be limited with so few options inside. That could lead to a four-guard look at times, with the rugged Mosley a candidate to act as a de facto power forward.

“Jin Soo twisted his ankle a little bit and will probably be out for tomorrow’s game,” Mosley said. “Now it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and show coach what they can do while Jin Soo’s down right now. It definitely hurts the team because we don’t have that many big men, as you know already. It definitely will hurt us a little bit.”

The situation, though, won’t be too different for the Terps. They were demonstrably undersized last season, with 6-foot-7 Dave Neal playing most of the minutes in conference play at the five. That meant greater rebounding responsibilities for the backcourt throughout the season.

An uptick could be required again, especially since Maryland struggled in the preseason on the boards and managed an even split of rebounds with Charleston Southern.

“It feels like the same old thing is happening again,” guard Adrian Bowie said. “Now we just have to rebound better. The guards have to rebound, and we have to help the big men out.”

Whichever big men are still left. Any frontcourt foul problems will be acutely magnified Tuesday, which means Maryland’s versatility has a chance to receive a test even before next week’s Maui Invitational.

“Most of our guys can play a couple positions,” Williams said. “It’s not like they’re locked into one particular thing they do. That helps us. So even though you don’t have the numbers of players maybe you’d like inside, you can rotate some guys through there if you have to.”

Note - Ashton Pankey of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., committed to Maryland on Monday. He is ranked the No. 36 power forward in the class of 2010 by Scout.com.

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