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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jerome's Taking Over

Some of you may have noticed that I didn't really write any response to the Miami game. This is in part because I had conflicting feelings about what happened in that game.

On one hand, Maryland lost to a team they could've beaten, their stars struggled, and they lost a step in the race for the last bids of the NCAA tournament. It was a really disappointing thing to watch. I was fairly upset - I would start typing, look at the words and not really want to keep going.

On the other hand, Gary Williams FINALLY played my boy, Jerome Burney.

If you're a frequent reader, y'all know that I've been advocating for playing time for Burney for over two months since the freshman review. The guy is straight up physically imposing and seems like the logical replacement for James Gist at power forward after this season. I noticed that when I talked about Burney's dunking exhibition a few weeks ago before the Duke game, it picked up some interest on UMD message boards. And I think all of my close friends have now heard at least five times that Burney averaged a triple double in high school in points, rebounds, and BLOCKS.

And so finally, Gary played the guy after Gist struggled once again. And you know what? Four points and five boards in 12 minutes isn't so bad, especially considering how much our bench has been contributing. Actually, if you want to hear something really painful, consider that Burney was responsible for ALL of the bench points against Miami.

Yeah, it's that bad.

But Burney isn't bad at all. In fact, he's prominently featured in the Diamondback today. The article is about how he could receive more minutes in the coming games, which should be a relief to all of us. It's actually a relief to Boom Osby, who according to the article had been requesting Burney's minutes to be increased "for quite some time."

If you look at the big man reserves, you have Dave "The People's Champ" Neal, who hustles but is often rendered ineffective by the vastly more athletic big men in the ACC. You have Braxton Dupree, who has presumably hit a wall this season and played himself out of the starting lineup. You have Shane Walker, who has made some progress, but has still only scored a whopping 12 points in 117 minutes this season (Burney has 16 in 69 minutes, which isn't spectacular but still better). Dino Gregory is smaller and has hardly played much, so we can't say much about him.

Until Gus Gilchrist finally steps on court (and word is he's going to be as good as advertised), isn't Burney, the 6-9, 222-pound athlete, the only decent heir to the power forward throne? I think so, and I'm glad Gary is coming around to that thinking. At the very least, we now know he's doing well in practice, and as long as he continues to do so, he should get game time. Game time is going to be so valuable to Burney's development and should help him when he competes for a starting role next year (not to mention give us quality reserve minutes this year). Everyone loves to see Neal, but he shouldn't be the first guy off the bench - he's not a starter in any imaginable scenario next year.

Also, I'd like to present this snippet from Baltimore Sun beat reporter Don Markus' Q&A on Sunday about Burney:

Bill: How many minutes do you think Jerome Burney should be getting, and what should his role be?

Don Markus:
Before Saturday, which is the first I saw him play any extended time, I would say that he was probably getting as many minutes as he deserved -- none. But after seeing some of the things he did on Saturday against Miami in terms of his athleticism and physicality, the question I have is: why hasn't this guy received this opportunity before? Williams said after the game that Burney has played well in practice the past two weeks. If that's the case, why didn't he get in against Virginia Tech when James Gist and Bambale Osby got into foul trouble? If Burney continues to play as he did in Miami, I think he should be the first big forward in the game ahead of Braxton Dupree and Dave Neal, and possibly the first big man ahead of Shane Walker. And I take back the line I had in the paper about Burney resembling Joe Smith in jersey number only.

Another believer joins the flock.

Go Terps!

Photo Credit: Diamondback (Adam Fried), Baltimore Sun


JC said...

Hopefully, he doesn't tread into Earl Badu territory.

Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly!!! I don't know how Burney got on Gary's bad side, but Gary should have looked over that sooner for the sake of the team. Burney had such a strong presence against Illinois and then Gary refused to play him. Hopefully he gets more playing time a takes some of the pressure off Boom and Gist.

Anonymous said...

Jerome Burney highlight promo: