Preparing for Life Without Jerome Burney

You've probably heard by now that Jerome Burney, Maryland's injured-plagued, athletic PF/C, won't be returning to the team due to chronic foot injuries. Despite what the reports say, it's highly likely - almost certain - that he's officially done, not just "for this season", though I can't know for sure.

It's a terrible thing to happen to a what was, by all accounts, a great kid. You never like to see this happen to anyone, let alone someone as smart and potential-filled as Burney. Thoughts go out to Jerome and his family and friends.

Now, from a Maryland basketball perspective, this has two real consequences: the immediate and the future.

Immediately, the frontcourt is still Maryland's biggest weakness, and Burney would've been a major contributor if healthy. His loss hurts, but not hugely; after all, he missed all of last year, too and Maryland's actually gaining size, so that area of the team should improve regardless. It would've been great if he had been there to get quality minutes and teach the young guys, but it's not a killer, tactically. If you're wondering, this is a rough sketch of Maryland's now Burney-less depth chart:

PG - Greivis Vasquez
SG - Adrian Bowie
SF - Sean Mosley
PF - Landon Milbourne
C - Jordan Williams
Bench (in order of who comes off first): Eric Hayes, Dino Gregory, James Padgett, Cliff Tucker, Jin Soo Choi, Steve Goins, David Pearman

That's three real big men in Williams, Gregory, and Padgett, which is, admittedly, thin, but still miles better than last year. If Goins can get on the floor for only a few minutes a game, even, it would be a big boost.

Burney's unfortunate departure also gives Maryland an extra scholarship, meaning they'd have five total for the 2010 recruiting class. As they've already taken three, that leaves two more to give. One of those will hopefully go to Tobias Harris or C.J. Leslie, and the other will go to a "true" big man.

Gary Williams has probably known about this for at least a week or two, which explains why he's been expanding his recruiting to big men Ashton Pankey, Devon Collier, and Alex Kirk in recent weeks. Guys like Jon Graham and Hippolyte Tsafack remain possibilities, too.

The biggest upside to the extra scholarship is that Maryland doesn't have to worry about one of those guys stealing Harris' or Leslie's spot. That means that, if the coaching staff so chooses, Graham or Tsafack could finally get an actual offer and cement themselves in the class. It's a bit of protection for Maryland if Harris/Leslie fall through, which is definitely possible.

It also makes sure that there won't be a gap between Jordan Williams/James Padgett and the next big man. A guy like Pankey or Collier could come in, develop behind Williams and Padgett, and be ready to step in without any pressure after a year or two. That's a big bonus.

Again, it sucks that Burney can't play. He always had the look of someone who could be a beast. I'll leave you with his highlight video, which has literally every play he every made in his short career at Maryland - some mundane (a rebound?), some breathtaking (Miami putback dunk). He could've been an impact player.

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