Even as walk-on, Lipinski living hoop dream with the Terps

Aaron Craft is a senior guard for Ohio State, considered one of top perimeter defenders in college basketball.

Conner Lipinski, meanwhile, is a sophomore guard from Gambrills who played just two minutes in the first eight games this season as a preferred walk-on for Maryland.

The two appear to have little in common — no one would mistake their play if they faced off in a game. But Lipinski, a former standout at Annapolis Area Christian School, was trying his best Craft imitation recently during practices at Comcast Center in College Park.

It was Lipinski's job to portray Craft in practices as he led the scout team so his Maryland teammates would have an idea of what to expect when the Terps faced Craft and Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon conceded that it was a tough job for Lipinski to mimic Craft in practice. But the task, part of his role with the college program he grew up following, is still a thrill for Lipinski. The large state university is a long way from a graduating class of 121 at Annapolis Area Christian.

"It is pretty cool with how well we get treated, with all of the gear we get, all of the travel and the nice hotels and the nice restaurants. That is pretty cool," said Lipinski, sitting courtside at Comcast Center after practice last week before heading to Ohio State.

His father, Marty Lipinski, remembers taking Conner and one of his brothers to Cole Field House in the 1990s for a game between the Terps and North Carolina State. At one point, television cameras showed the elder Lipinski and his sons — he has the video to prove it.

"I became a Maryland fan during the Lefty Driesell days. I was just a big Maryland fan, and my kids inherited that," said Marty Lipinski, who attends nearly every home game and some road games.

In the past few months, Conner Lipinski has traveled with the Terps on a three-game summer tour in the Bahamas and then was with the team for a tournament in the Virgin Islands before Thanksgiving. The recent stretch concluded with the trip to Ohio, which came to a close Wednesday with the team's 76-60 loss to the No. 5 Buckeyes.

Lipinski said the travel and the schedule makes it a challenge to focus on Division I athletics and academics.

"It is definitely one of the hardest parts of it, balancing between academics and the athletics, especially with the travel," said the kinesiology major, who said he's thinking of one day being a coach. "You are always playing catch up."

But it's the path he chose; he certainly had other options.

He was offered a full scholarship by Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II program in North Carolina. He also attracted attention from Pfeiffer, another Division II program in North Carolina, as well as Division I schools Navy and Cornell.

Maryland became aware of Lipinski when Terps assistant coach Bino Ranson was scouting another player who was competing against Lipinski. Late in his senior year at Annapolis Area Christian, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound guard decided to walk on with Maryland.

"I thought it would be better for me to come to Maryland," he said, noting better career options and strong networking with alumni if he stays in the area.

"He just didn't want to settle for a Division II school where a thousand people come to the game," his father said.

Lipinski attended elementary and middle school at St. Paul's Lutheran in Glen Burnie, was also home-schooled for third and fourth grade and attended Millersville Elementary for fifth grade.

He scored a school-record 1,263 points at Annapolis Area Christian and also set the school mark for career assists and steals.

Last season as a freshman for the Terps, he scored seven points in eight games — he made his only 3-point attempt, and connected on four of six free-throw attempts. This season, his two minutes came on Nov. 22 against Marist.

Lipinski isn't the only member of his family involved with basketball. His older brother Evan, a senior at Maryland, is a manager for the men's basketball team. Another older brother, Patrick, played a year of college basketball at Trinity International in Chicago.

His mother, Kathy, went to Archbishop Spalding in Severn and works in the pharmacy department at Maryland General Hospital. His father attended Dundalk High and runs an engineering business.

Now the Lipinskis' youngest son is suiting up for the family's favorite team. And while he doesn't have star status at Maryland, Conner Lipinski is still appreciating, and adjusting to, a new environment.

"It has been a little bit of a transition [from Annapolis Area Christian], but nothing too crazy," he said. "In high school, you know everyone. Now I see new faces every day."

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