Returning Players - First Look

3/22/2011 5:44:36 PM [Image flickrUrl="" url="" align="Left" caption="Will we ever see Ashton Pankey in a Maryland uniform again?" credit="Inside Maryland Sports"  width="400" height="500" ]Midnight Madness is almost 6 months away.  Can you believe it?  It's enough to make you wish summer would fly by.  Actually, the returning Terps need every bit of those 6 months to find themselves. 

The recent recruiting success notwithstanding, the 2011 Terps will still be lacking in some important areas. If some of last year's bench players can make strides over the summer, the Terps will be that much closer to a Top 25 team.

Let's start with the expected frontcourt bench players.  For arguments sake, that group includes Berend Weijs, Ashton Pankey, James Padgett.

Ashton Pankey

The past season for Pankey was a total washout.  He played for 1 minute, got injured, and never suited up again.  The upside is that he will, in all likelihood, have 4 years of eligibility left.  The bad news is that his latest injury is a continuation of his injury-plagued senior year in high school.  It's an open question whether Pankey will ever be healthy enough to play. 

Unfortunately, Terp fans have been here before with Jerome Burney.  Burney, in his brief career displayed jaw-dropping athleticism and yet played only a handful games due a stress fracture in his foot.  Quixotically, Ashton Pankey is dealing with the exact same injury.  Obviously, given the fact that the injury ended Burney's career, we have to assume that Pankey may never play for Maryland.  Anything we get from him is an absolute bonus. (note: this is literally lightning striking twice.  Losing two players to injury in such a short span is odd enough, but losing two players to the exact same injury?  You've got to be kidding me).

Berend Weijs

Outside of Jordan Williams, Berend Weijs is probably Maryland's best front court athlete.  At 6'10", he's a gifted runner.  He finished a scant 2 seconds behind Greivis Vasquez's best 5K time in the team's annual September race.  He beat all the guards.  That's an impressive feat.  During the season, Weijs did show a remarkable ability to get up and down the floor.  He's a good leaper too.  He led the team (by far) in blocks per minutes played. 

Weijs has the potential to be the shot blocking defensive presence that Maryland sorely lacked last year.  The problem is that Weijs is not able to hold his position on the defensive end.  He gets pushed around quite a bit due to his thin frame.  If Weijs hopes to play, he's going to need to get stronger.  He should be spending every day this summer in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program. 

It's also clear that Weijs fell out of favor with Gary Williams because he did not play particularly well in practice this year.  For a kid like Weijs, who could really contribute if he developed a better feel for the game; it's disheartening to hear that he's not giving it all in practice.

So what can we can expect from Weijs next year?  It's hard to say.  He probably has the widest array of possibilities of anyone on the team.  I could see him as a seldom used bench warmer and I can also see him as a starting center who anchors the Terps defense and is among the ACC leaders in blocks.  My guess is that we'll get something in the middle.  He'll likely give the Terps 7-10 minutes per game and will provide some upfront depth, but it's hard to imagine him getting starter's minutes (unless Martin Bruenig is a huge disappointment).

James Padgett

Padgett's slow development has been incredibly frustrating for Terp fans.  He's a skinny Braxton Dupree at this point. He's got a power forward's body and he has no idea how to use it.  He hasn't shown any ability to score outside of tip ins and put backs.  He's not a particularly good rebounder and his free throw shooting is atrocious.  

Unfortunately, Padgett is who he is at this point.  I don't think it is realistic to expect that he will suddenly "get it" and start to score with a bevy of low post moves.  If he becomes a defensive stopper and rebounder; he would start easily.  There is just something missing though.  Some guys are players and some guys aren't.  I don't know what it is with Padgett but he just isn't.  He looks the part for sure.  Maybe it's a mental thing.  Performance anxiety or something?  I really don't know. 

The bottom line is that the Terps desperately need Martin Bruenig to be the real deal.  His YouTube videos look great and he clearly has skill in the areas that Padget lacks.  The good news for Bruenig is that the power forward slot wide open.  Perhaps, that why he signed so quickly.  We'll talk about Bruenig later though. 
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