By Todd McElwee
|Through nine contests this year, Landon Milbourne is averaging 11.9 points and 4.8 boards per outing, and he tops the Terps with nine blocks. (Mitch Stringer/PressBox)|
Like an aircraft performing a touch and go, the Terps' forward instantly hit the throttle in anticipation of imminent takeoff. Hauling in a Greivis Vasquez feed, Milbourne, who's developing into a full court threat, took to the air for a deafening dunk that brought the Comcast Center to its feet as the Terps began to pull away.
"I felt like I had to come in and do something," Milbourne said after the Dec. 3 game. "I was pretty down on myself in the first half because of a couple of mistakes I made when I came out. When I got back in, I told myself I was just going to hurry up and do something, get a rebound, get to the line, do something to pick myself up and that was the perfect opportunity."
As a contingent of television, radio and print journalists filed into a cafeteria during Maryland's annual Media Day, one player remained on the Comcast floor. It was Milbourne. Slipping past imaginary opponents and pulling down his own rebounds, the voluntary session exemplified the dedication and incessant drive that got the 6-foot-7 forward elected by his teammates and coaches as a captain.
Becoming a captain was one of the goals Milbourne brought with him to College Park -- he shares the duties with Vasquez and senior forward Dave Neal. Off the three Vasquez is by far the most vocal and emotional. Neal's the elder statesman and the perfect illustration of grit for his younger comrades. Milbourne falls somewhere in between. He'll rally teammates if needed, but usually prefers to lead by example.
"[I don't need to] necessarily make plays, but I want to be that energy guy," Milbourne said. "Whether you start the game or come off the bench, you give the team a boost, and I wanted to do that tonight. I had an opportunity to do that so I took advantage of it."
Maryland head coach Gary Williams says Milbourne doesn't know how good he really is. Milbourne says he's worked on maintaining his confidence as well as focusing his energy after a miscue on returning to form.
Milbourne, who calls Roswell, Ga., home, capped off his scholastic career at basketball breeding grounds, Oak Hill Academy. As a junior he guided St. Francis (Ga.) to a 29-1 mark while averaging 29 points, nine rebounds and four blocks per game. He's the son Kaona Milbourne and Andre Foreman, a Salisbury alum who played professional basketball in Europe.
Milbourne, who saw action in 16 contests as a freshman, made his initial collegiate start last November against Hampton. Through nine contests this year, he's averaging 11.9 points and 4.8 boards per outing, and he tops the Terps (7-2) with nine blocks.
During Maryland's 76-53 beat down of George Washington Dec. 7 in the BB&T Classic, he posted a game-high and career best 20 points and four blocks while also hauling in eight rebounds. He followed that up with a 23-point effort in last Friday's 86-58 trouncing of Delaware State.
"He has been really big for us this year," guard Eric Hayes said. "We needed him to step up and be a leader in that forward position and has really come up big for us."
"Our guys root for Landon," Williams said. "We voted for captains and it was Landon, Greivis and Dave [Neal]. Landon earned that by what he did in the offseason in terms of how hard he worked and the condition he got himself into."
The University of Maryland men's basketball team is on hiatus. After collecting a third straight win against Delaware State, the Terrapins dance card is clear until a Dec. 22 meeting with American.
Maryland arrived at its layoff on a high note. Enjoying their most proficient shooting performance of so far, 51.7 percent from the field, the Terps also posted season highs in points as well as assists (23) against Delaware State.
A few weeks ago after knocking off Michigan, Williams, tagging his team as a work in progress, asked the faithful who remained within the Comcast Center to practice patience. Nothing has illustrated the Terps' maturity more than Milbourne and play of the front line.
Led by Milbourne, Maryland has began entrenching itself in the lane with an eye for the rim. During consecutive losses to Gonzaga and Georgetown, the Terps were outscored 78-66 in the paint. Both the Bulldogs and Hoyas also held a double-digit edge in rebounding.
In the three contests since Maryland has bettered of their past three opponents (Michigan, George Washington and Delaware State) in points of the paint while holding a 129 to 98 advantage on the glass. The Terps routed the Hornets in rebounds 41-30 last Friday. Sophomore forward Dino Gregory recorded career highs with eight points and three blocks.
Posted December 17, 2008