- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

There will be times Maryland forward Landon Milbourne will be asked to play nearly entire games, remaining on the floor with barely a breather while an outcome is remotely in doubt.

Early-season absences have made those instances a little more frequent for a senior flourishing far more now than at this time last year.

“I kept telling coach, ‘You don’t have to take me out. I’m fine,’ ” Milbourne said last week. “He’s trying to work guys in and see how other guys are going to play.”

But not too much.

Milbourne logged at least 30 minutes in each of the No. 25 Terrapins’ first three games, which served as a tuneup for three contests at the Maui Invitational. Maryland’s opener in Hawaii is Monday night against Division II Chaminade.

The Terps (3-0) remain without junior Dino Gregory, who is expected to return Dec. 12 from a suspension for a violation of team rules. Jin Soo Choi sprained an ankle in the opener and likely will be available Monday. The same is true of Steve Goins, who has yet to play because of a knee injury.

The thin frontcourt meant more time for Milbourne, who shifted out of necessity last season from a more perimeter-oriented spot to a post position. The early returns weren’t particularly effective.

Milbourne fouled out of two of Maryland’s first three games, then averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games at the Old Spice Classic. But this season, Milbourne is different.

He leads Maryland in scoring, including a career-best 24-point outburst in Friday’s rout of New Hampshire. His rebounding is more assertive, and his comfort level in the post has clearly improved.

“I think he adjusted well last year,” coach Gary Williams said. “It was different. Now it’s easier for him. Just go out there and play. He doesn’t have to think about it.”

Williams bristled at the idea of assigning a position to Milbourne, who at 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds is undersized in the paint. But he is stronger than a year ago, an attribute certain to help against the tougher competition Maryland is likely to encounter later this week.

Milbourne’s also smarter, having figured out why he endured some rough nights - plenty early in the adjustment period, and more in February and March because of weariness from a long season.

“I’m sure last year was kind of tough for him because he really hadn’t played that position at all,” guard Eric Hayes said. “But he’s learning to like being the four man. He has a lot of matchup problems because if some big guys are on him, they can’t get out to the perimeter to cover him.”

Last year’s slowdown would seem to make conserving minutes a priority. Yet until the Terps are back at full strength, saving Milbourne might not be possible.

Not that he’s complaining; he has, after all, already logged more minutes this season (91) than his entire freshman season (77).

“Yeah, exactly,” Milbourne said with a laugh.

Of course, Maryland hasn’t encountered any towering teams early this season, but that could change in Maui.

Whenever it happens, Milbourne won’t back down - quite possibly from start to finish.

“He’s got the strength and the quickness that’s really a good combination for being a small forward, which he is,” Williams said. “You can say he’s our second-biggest guy, but he’s built like a small forward would be built like, and that’s the way he plays. There’s a lot of ways to play.”

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