- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams said Thursday he expects forward Dino Gregory to be ready to play Dec. 12.

Gregory has missed the No. 25 Terrapins’ preseason exhibition and their first two games because of a nebulous “violation of team rules.” Gregory was not on the bench for any of those games.

An athletic department official declined to comment on what caused Gregory’s status - which remained in limbo for more than two weeks - to change since Tuesday’s 71-42 rout of Fairfield.

The firm return date gives Maryland (2-0), which hosts New Hampshire on Friday, a concrete idea of how long it must continue to play with a depleted frontcourt. Gregory was expected to contend for a starting gig, and freshmen James Padgett and Jordan Williams have split time inside in the first week of the season.

“Dino’s been practicing with us,” Williams said. “Part of the reason for the development - a big part - of Jordan and James has been Dino’s efforts. I think that tells you somewhat of Dino’s character in that they both play kind of his position, and his willingness to work with them to help our team during this time has been tremendous, but it’s nothing I didn’t expect knowing Dino for the last couple years.”

Gregory isn’t the only forward who is nearing a return.

Williams said he is hopeful sophomore Jin Soo Choi will return from a sprained right ankle on Friday night. Choi missed Tuesday’s victory, but he ran straight forward in practice a day later and would provide an option to give Landon Milbourne an occasional rest.

There is also progress for sophomore Steve Goins, who has not played this season because of a knee injury. Goins had arthroscopic surgery in August, but pain resurfaced less than two weeks after practice began in October.

Williams said Goins, who played 12 minutes in four games last season, practiced Wednesday and “did OK.”

“We can use a big body,” Williams said. “He’s done some things in practice, but the knee flares up as a result of whatever he does. Hopefully he’s a little further along in his rehab.”

Still, a pinpointed return for Gregory - who ultimately will miss eight games before a date with Eastern Kentucky just before Maryland’s break for final exams - was a significant development for a team seeking quantity as well as quality in the paint.

Gregory averaged 2.6 points and 3.2 rebounds a season ago as a reserve, spelling the since-graduated Dave Neal as the undersized Terps produced a 21-14 record and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament.

The Baltimore native averaged 16.3 minutes last season, eventually developing into a far stronger defensive player than he was as a seldom-used freshman - a trait the Terps eventually will need in conference play against bigger teams.

Williams, though, was mum when asked how much a concrete return date meant for Maryland.

“I really don’t want to comment [on] anything regarding Dino,” Williams said. “We’re going to try to be as good a team as we can this year. That’s what we’re working toward, and Dino’s certainly a big part of that.”

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