Nick Faust caught the ball in the corner, his hands in a shooter's position and his eyes focused on the rim as if the Maryland guard was ready to launch one of his rainbow jumpers.
When a Lafayette defender took a step toward Faust, the 6-6 sophomore from Baltimore burst past him decisively and elevated toward the basket. Faust was fouled as he went in for a dunk.
The message from second-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon had apparently reached Faust, whose hesitancy to use his athleticism rather than settle for what has long been an erratic outside shot has been a stumbling block toward his progress in becoming a college star.
"If the outside shot isn't falling, I definitely have to drive the ball," Faust said later, after scoring 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting as the Terps held off their pesky Patriot League opponent, 83-74, Tuesday night at Comcast Center.
Faust's outside shot has never gone in with much consistency dating back to his days at City, where coach Mike Daniel kiddingly called the high-arc, no-spin jumper "a smokebomb." Faust scored a majority of his points in high school dunking, driving and making free throws.
Turgeon said in the preseason that Faust had worked hard over the summer improving his mechanics, and promised that "you'll see a different kind of shot." But going into Saturday's home game against Georgia Southern (1-2), Faust is still struggling with his shot for Maryland (3-1).
Faust, who was on the ACC's all-freshman team a year ago, is averaging 10.5 points in 25.5 minutes a game despite missing 24 of 38 shots overall, including 10 of 12 on 3-pointers. Despite missing all four of his 3s against Lafayette, Faust played a team-high 31 minutes because he was able to do other things, such as grab eight rebounds and have two assists, including a neat no-look feed to James Padgett on Maryand's first basket.
"Nick wants to score," Turgeon said. "I said, 'Nick, some nights you're going to get 16 or 18, some nights you're going to get four or six. We've got a lot of good players.' He took the first 3 in the corner and I said, 'Nick, don't settle for a 3.' I thought he did a great job driving."
A few days before, Faust had tweeted after shooting 2-for-8 in a win over LIU-Brookyn that he had to get the "bad taste" out of his mouth. While the maintenance crew cleaned up the near-empty arena and reporters finished filing their stories, Faust worked out with the team's graduate assistant on his shot for more than an hour.
Turgeon seemed pleased to hear Tuesday night about that late-night session. Calling Faust's performance against Lafayette "by far his best performance of the season," Turgeon said that the Terps benefited from the poise Faust showed, adding that because of all the freshmen playing now "he's not allowed to act like a sophomore. He's got to act a lot more mature than that."
Faust's role on this year's team is going to be different than it was as a freshman. Early last season, Faust was asked to play point guard — a position he admittedly had not played since the eighth grade — when Pe'Shon Howard was out with a broken foot. He went back to small forward when Howard returned, then finished at the point after Howard sustained a season-ending knee injury.
With Howard again healthy, and with transfer Dez Wells and freshman Seth Allen more consistent offensively so far, Faust is back playing a swing position between shooting guard and small forward.
Howard thinks the fact that Faust has been moved around so much has impacted his consistency. It might not be a coincidence that Faust's most consistent stretch — when he averaged 13.4 points and nearly five rebounds over nine games — came when he took over at the point after Howard tore his ACL.
"There's been so many changes since he's been here and we didn't have many [scoring] options, so he had to create a little bit harder. I think he's trying to find himself," Howard said recently. "It's early and people are making a lot out of what's going on right now. … If he's still playing like this in January, maybe you can say he'll be like this for the season, but people's roles are still trying to adjust and trying to figure out where everyone's going to fit."
Howard said that Faust's early-season shooting woes haven't affected his effort in practice.
"He works hard every day and he's been a great leader for the guys," Howard said. "The freshmen can really look to him and see how hard you have to work."
Turgeon said recently that Faust might be pressing, and Faust admitted after Tuesday's game that he was "maybe at times" the past few weeks.
"I had up-and-down games and I just got to push through and get better," said Faust, whose off-court demeanor seems more serious, to the point of being somber, at times compared to his freshman year.
Wells, who despite being the same year as Faust appears to be much more in control on the court, said that his new teammate showed maturity by coming out to shoot last Friday night rather than going out with friends after the game.
"At the end of the day, it's not about how you shoot in that game — it's how you respond to how you shot in that game," Wells said Tuesday. "He took the right approach to it. He got extra shots up and he did what he was supposed to and it showed in this game."