Terps freshman Nick Faust shooting his way out of early-season slump

The perception of what constitutes a good shot is often viewed differently by basketball players and coaches. A player might believe that a good shot is one that goes in, while a coach feels that it is one taken within the context of the team's offense.

Then there's Maryland freshman guard Nick Faust, who seems aware that some of his shots are ill-advised but remains undeterred about launching 3s that could have first-year coach Mark Turgeon looking down his bench for a sub to replace the former City star.

"I'm getting better at it," Faust said Saturday after hitting 5 of 8 shots, including 3 of 4 beyond the 3-point line in a 75-63 win over Samford, his best shooting performance in an otherwise cold start to his college career. "I definitely take some risky ones, but part of basketball, you've got to be a risky player."

After missing 25 of his first 30 attempts this season from beyond the 3-point line, Faust inadvertently banked in a long 2-pointer from straightaway on his first shot against Samford and later hit consecutive 3s to help build his team's first 20-point lead of the season.

Faust's shooting -- along wih 24 points by sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin -- launched Maryland (9-3) to its sixth straight victory going into tonight's game against Cornell (4-8), the last for the Terps before they open the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of their schedule Sunday at North Carolina State.

Turgeon joked later about the accidental bank shot -- "You bank the first one in, you probably think it's going to be your day, right?" he said -- but showed his now-expected candor when talking about Faust's shot selection on the 3s.

"To be honest with you, I didn't like any one of his 3s, except the last one he made right in front of our bench," Turgeon said. "He just caught it in rhythm … and just knocked it down. The other ones off the dribble I didn't love, to be honest, and he made them. Some guys on the bench yelled 'Bad shot' when he shot it, and they went in. But I'm happy for Nick. He needed that."

Said Faust, who finished with 13 points in 26 minutes, "It definitely boosts my confidence, but you still need to stay in the gym and just keep working hard and pressing through it. Having that low percentage shooting, you've got to push through it."

Faust, who came to Maryland with a reputation as a great shooter, had struggled mightily with his 3-point shot -- and his confidence -- through the first 11 games of his college career. At one point he missed 13 straight 3s during a three-game stretch. It did not surprise former City coach Mike Daniel that Faust kept shooting until he finally starting hitting some.

Like many shooters, Faust "thinks every shot is going in," Daniel said Monday. "He has no fear right now."

Part of Faust's early struggles had to do with transitioning to playing a lot of point guard -- something the 6-5 freshman said he had not done since "seventh or eighth grade" -- in the absence of sophomore Pe'Shon Howard, whose return on Dec. 23 against Radford moved Faust back to his natural position as a shooting guard.

On top of his shooting woes, Faust had more turnovers (25) than assists (22) his first 10 games. But in the three games since Howard's return, Faust has 10 assists to only one turnover in a span of 73 minutes. Faust has also taken Turgeon's advice to drive the ball to the basket. He scored five baskets against Albany last week, all either layups or dunks.

"If Nick shoots two airballs when you've got six scholarship guys, it's 'You're all right, buddy.' If he shoots two airballs when you've got nine, it's 'Quit shooting the ball, drive it,'" Turgeon said after Faust missed all three of his 3s in a win last week over Albany and played only 19 minutes, his lowest stint as a Terp. "There's a big difference."

Faust's shooting problems are also the result of less-than-textbook mechanics, which led to shots that were launched with too high a trajectory and with more sidespin than backspin. That form led to a frightening number of airballs and other shots that banged off the rim or backboard. Turgeon has said that he will address Faust's shooting form in the offseason.

Daniel kiddingly refers to Faust's rainbow jumpers as "smokebombs." But Daniel is quick to add, "At least he will take the shot as a freshman. I think it's all a matter of maturity. As he gets older, he'll start understanding what he needs to do. I think the sky's the limit for Nick."

Turgeon acknowledges that he has allowed Faust a little more freedom with his shot selection because of his willingness to play defense and his hard work in practice. It is something others, including Stoglin, often lack.

Faust said that moving back to his natural position has allowed him to get out on the wing, which "will help me get my flow going to the basket." He added that coming off the bench the past two games with the return of Howard has taken off some of the pressure he was putting on himself.

"I think it helps me a lot," Faust said Saturday. "I get to see how the defense is playing and adapt to it when I get in."

Turgeon has developed a close relationship with Faust, the only player from Gary Williams' last recruiting class to keep his commitment to play for the Terps.

"I really enjoy coaching Nick," Turgeon said. "He's a lot of fun to be around. He gets on the upperclassmen when they're not practicing hard. He does everything I ask. I think he's starting to fit in and feel comfortable. I think his last two games have been really good for us."

Note: Senior guard Sean Mosley has been playing with a gimpy right ankle, the same one in which he tore ligaments over the summer. "[It's] a little sore," he said Monday. "It's hard for me to sit out."


Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.

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