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An Ode to Dino Gregory, Maryland's Unexpected Rock

Another two.
Another two.

I normally write game recaps while the game is still taking place - y'know, to be reporterly and get the post out early. For the N.C. State game, I didn't even think of mentioning Dino Gregory until Dan Bonner, of all people, reminded me that Gregory had hit a career-high with 18 points.

That probably says a lot about me. But it also says quite a bit about Dino. For weeks now, Dino has been the steady one, the guy who performs just enough to be impressive but not quite enough for me to throw in an extra paragraph lauding his performance. I had simply assumed it was going to be another one of those types of performances: a good game with around 12 points or so and a few energy plays, and I would've treated it as such, giving him a sentence. But no more: Gregory deserves some real 'pub.

It's not like this is news to anyone. If you watch the games, you know just what he brings to the table and how well he's played. He's been almost a Dave Neal-like figure, a great performer in his senior year when little was expected.

Before the season, I called him "a glue guy and energy player playing starter minutes." For much of the year, that's what he's been. His averages of 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game exceeded my own expectations of him, but only slightly. Really, there's no harm in that, either.

In ACC play, though, he's stepped up his game, transcending "glue guy" and moving into "legitimate ACC starter." Don't believe me? In the last month, his lowest points scored total is 8. He's averaging 11 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. In the past two weeks, that total ups to 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. He's had two double-doubles in the same timeframe. And he's shot 58% from the field while doing it, including an 8-14 game against N.C. State.

And speaking of that N.C. State game, Dino was a huge reason why Maryland won that game in the first place - after all, when you only get offensive production out of three players, it's impossible to underestimate the contribution of one of them. It was the epitome of a Dino game: he hit his trademark midrange jumpers, had a nice close finish or two, had an impact swat of C.J. Leslie, and even took a charge. Dino did what he almost always does. He just did it better than he'd ever done before.

For that, he deserves some recognition. No, he's not going to back anyone down in the low post. He's still kind of short. I still wouldn't trust him with putting the ball on the floor. And he's still almost a guarantee to miss his first shot of the night long (seriously, watch him).

But he's taken the next step. He's maxed out his potential. He's far from the most skilled or athletic player on the team, but I'm not sure he could be any better than what he's become. He's very nearly an impact player at this point.

For nostalgia's sake, let's look back through the 2007 class, the one Dino came in with. Adrian Bowie is fine, if inconsistent. Cliff Tucker was a top 100 player and a four-star; he ended up being Mike Jones Part Deux. Braxton Dupree was another four-star; he's at Towson now. Gus Gilchrist is at USF. Shane Walker is at Loyola. Dino may not be a lot, but compared to most of his classmates, he's golden.

So here's to Dino, the glue guy turned ACC-level starter. We may have qualms with Gary Williams' style of coaching and player development, but when it turns out like it's supposed to - like this, the four-year player who fulfills his potential all the way - it's heartwarming indeed.

Hopefully the source of that heartwarmingness can help Maryland get into the NCAA tournament, but that's a matter for another day.