Travis Garrison knew there would be tough days as he adjusted to life on the big-time Division I basketball circuit. But the Maryland freshman power forward did not expect this much of a struggle after accomplishing so much at storied, neighboring DeMatha High School.
Among the Terrapins' four freshmen, Garrison collected the most accolades in high school. He was the lone McDonald's All-American, the only consensus top 25 recruit to sign with Maryland. He was the first D.C.-area star named to the city's annual all-star game since former DeMatha players Keith Bogans and Joe Forte earned those honors in 1999. He led DeMatha to a 31-3 record as a senior.
These days, Garrison, 6 feet 8, 235 pounds, sits for lengthy periods on the bench for the No. 8 Terps, wondering where he will find his next stretch of measurable playing time.
"I want to play, but obviously I'm not doing something the coach wants me to do," said Garrison, who won a starting job after seven games but lost it after six mostly ineffective showings. In the previous five games before last night's visit by Virginia, he had averaged a barely visible 7.5 minutes.
"I think [the benching] has something to do with I have to rebound more and work a little harder on defense. Until I do that, I'll be on the bench."
Garrison's problems are rooted in persistent foul trouble and a lack of toughness around the basket. At DeMatha, he relied heavily on his excellent jump shot and his size advantage around the boards. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Garrison finds himself too often out of position against equally strong and quick opponents.
Maryland coach Gary Williams is trying to instill power thinking in his power forward. Garrison is averaging 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds, fouling out of two games and finishing four others with four personal fouls.
"I'm not easy on Travis," Williams said. "We're trying to get him to be the most complete player he can be. He's one of those guys who could shoot so well in high school for a guy 6-8. Now we're trying to get him to rebound and play inside defense. He has to bang more. It's a tough adjustment. He's learning."
After Garrison played ineffectively in a loss at Wake Forest on Jan. 15, Williams benched him for the entire game against Duke three days later, then inserted Garrison for a combined three minutes against North Carolina and N.C. State.
Garrison's shining moment of late came at Clemson on Jan. 25, when he came off the bench in the first half and revived a stagnant offense. His seven-point contribution loomed large in Maryland's gritty 52-47 victory.
"I'm not really used to not playing. I guess it's something I'll have to get used to if I want to continue in this program," Garrison said. "I have to keep working at it, because my time will come. The good thing is we're still winning."
Parties at Duke's expense
It is becoming a repetitive scene that Duke would love to stop watching, although the Blue Devils are honored each time it happens.
Duke has lost three straight road games, underscoring the ACC's cumulative 8-28 record away from home. At the end of each loss - at Maryland, N.C. State and Florida State - the home fans rushed the court, creating a wild party scene for several minutes.
"I'm happy that people are so happy they've won against us, and I think it's good for our sport," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Either that, or we have a school that's producing graduates who are giving parties for other people. We're getting into the catering business. Parties to go. 1-800-CALL-DUKE."
Maryland, which has a chance to sweep its regular-season series with Duke for the first time since 1995 on Feb. 19 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, has beaten the Blue Devils once in each of the past four seasons. That has improved Williams' record against Krzyzewski to 6-25 since he took over in College Park in 1989.
Maybe Florida State is beginning to tap its potential under first-year coach Leonard Hamilton.
The Seminoles (11-8, 2-6), who got a huge confidence boost with Sunday's 75-70 victory over Duke, held off the Blue Devils primarily because the backcourt of freshman point guard Todd Galloway (City) and junior transfer Tim Pickett never stopped countering Duke's pressure defense.
Pickett has scored in double figures in 19 consecutive games, a league high. He leads the ACC in steals (3.3 a game).
Maryland could be treading on dangerous ground when it visits Tallahassee on Wednesday. Three of Florida State's past six home victories have come against ranked teams. And the fans might actually make some noise for a change. Florida State's average attendance is 6,397 - up 29 percent from a year ago.