It's taken him 9 games to get up to full speed, but he seems like he's finally there. At least, that what he thinks.
"I'm not exactly where I want to be yet, but the more games go by, you know, the better I get, so I'm almost there," Gregory said. "I think by next game against N.C. State I should be there."
He wasn't all that much better than he had been, but he was still solid. 8 points - most of them in garbage time - and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes isn't bad at all, especially when compared to some past performances. He's shown flashes of what we imagined he would be earlier. A working jumper, a block, a charge taken, a putback dunk - he's still a perfect energy guy, but we're beginning to see why there was excitement regarding him over the summer. No, he's not a true sixth man and may never be one, but he's the closest thing Maryland has. His playing time is still a bit much for me and I think it hurts him to a certain extent, but there's no other option.
If this is the real Dino Gregory, are you happy with him?
Meantime, James Padgett was all but ignored again, pulling a Boston College game by not getting in despite Maryland coasting. The more I think about it, though, the more sense this makes and the less willing I am to make too many assumptions based on it. The reason for this is twofold: it's Gary Williams' way, and N.C. State is a pretty small team.
First, to #1: He received 20 minutes against Longwood, his first big game in quite some time. It's in Gary Williams' blood to alternate playing time, in a way, eventually building up to larger amounts. You don't need to look farther than Jordan Williams' double-double against Villanova and then a 9 minute performance the next night. Even if he was impressed by Padgett's play against Longwood - he might've been - he probably wouldn't have given him a lot of time.
The second reason is a bit more strategical than motivational. Against smaller teams, like N.C. State and Boston College, it's likely that Gregory will see the majority of the playing time, and he did - he was in the 20s in minutes in both games, while Padgett was basically ignored.
Against bigger teams, Padgett will probably see a little more playing time. He got 7 against Wake Forest and 10 against Florida State, both of which are bigger increases in playing time from the past two games than they seem, since both were close. In both of those games, Dino saw significant playing time drops, down into the teens (although the Wake game was influenced by his foul trouble).
For those reasons, I'm not going to write Padgett out of my virtual rotation just yet, partially because I don't think Maryland can afford it. Speaking of the rotation, it's looking more and more like Landon Milbourne will hit around 35 minutes a game against major opponents. Jordan Williams is getting more and more in shape and his minutes, likewise, are slowly increasing - receiving between 24 and 28 minutes or so seems about right the rest of the way for him.
That leaves around 20-25 minutes to split between Gregory and Padgett. How much is split will depend on the matchup - the bigger the team, the more likely Padgett is to get more playing time. Will he ever outminute Gregory? Doubtful. But it's important to keep in mind that maybe he shouldn't. He's still extremely raw and can still look lost on both ends. But his size is something that Dino can't bring, no matter energy level.
The next few games will be interesting, because it'll be the first time Maryland has faced relatively short teams with a single dominant big man. Does Padgett spell Williams? Does Dino get PT to accommodate the smaller players? That's an equation to keep an eye on.
This is an area that's both confusing and polarizing. Any opinions?