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Maryland newcomer Richaud Pack knows how to aim high

Richaud Pack filled the stat sheet in Maryland's first exhibition game, and he figures to have a key role this season.
Richaud Pack filled the stat sheet in Maryland's first exhibition game, and he figures to have a key role this season. (Matt Hazlett, Baltimore Sun)

COLLEGE PARK — There were two lines of defense between Richaud Pack and the baskets on the court his parents built behind their home in suburban Detroit.

The first consisted of his father, Charles Edwards, and older brother Raynard.

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The second was a telephone wire that hovered a few feet above the makeshift full court and made shooting more of a precise art. To hit a jump shot, Pack had to figure a way to get the ball over his father, his older brother and Michigan Bell.

"He had to have a really good eye just to get it in that basket over the wire," Edwards recalled. "And he had to have a quick release to get it off before we would block it."

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Pack's game grew quickly when he joined Raynard, who was four years older, and his brother's friends on the court where everyone in the neighborhood gathered.

"Having to work harder to get my shot off because they were bigger and faster, it kind of got me accustomed to always having to make the right decision, because the wrong one has bigger consequences when you play older guys," he said.

It is that combination of high percentage shooting and a high basketball IQ that Pack has already demonstrated in summer workouts, preseason practices and his first exhibition game since transferring to Maryland after his graduation from North Carolina A&T in the spring.

"He's a knockdown shooter and has a great feel for the game," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, whose team will play Bowie State in a noon exhibition game Saturday at Xfinity Center. "I knew he was a great addition, but he's been even better than I thought.

"He has a chance to really help us this year, and he knows it. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now."

It showed in an 86-52 preseason win last Saturday over San Francisco State. The 6-foot-4 guard had the same kind of stat line — 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 25 minutes — that he often had when he averaged 17 points and nearly five rebounds last season as a junior at North Carolina A&T.

While he will likely not need to score as much this season for the Terps, Pack believes it will be easier for him to play in Maryland's system.

"There are a lot of scorers, a lot of good players who can do different things," said Pack, who hit 4 of 6 shots, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers, in the first exhibition. "It's easier for me because I think I'm going to get open shots this year because of guys like Melo [Trimble] and Dez [Wells] and Jake [Layman]. It will be easier for me to stay efficient."

Asked to assess Maryland's failings last season and how he can help the Terps this season, Pack was honest.

"Late game situations, I just felt like they lost a lot of close games," he said. "I feel like in the stretch, I can make free throws, I can hit a big shot if it comes to me. I can space the floor out…Being a floor presence, being a leader, making sure guys remember plays, execution — I think I can make a big difference in things like that."

Said Turgeon, "He never puts himself in a position he can't handle."

That is true off the court as well. Pack is now taking graduate-level classes at Maryland's Robert H. Smith Business School with hopes of getting an MBA in marketing. Pack said he picked Maryland based more on its business school than its basketball team.

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It isn't surprising to his mother, Kaija, who has watched the third of her six children continue to take on challenges from a young age. He graduated high school when he was barely 17. He made up the 27 credits he lost when he transferred from Florida International after his sophomore year.

"Not only has he always been a very mature kid, he's always been a very balanced kid," said Kaija Pack, who worked for General Motors for 17 years and now works as a community and parent liason for the Atlanta Public Schools, as well as a delivery manager for an international concierge company.

Kaija Pack, who has also sponsored 26 foster children over the past 22 years, said she has long talked to her son about living up to the family name.

"It doesn't mean being better better than everybody. It doesn't mean taking over and letting people know how good you are. It means doing the same thing, being consistent, working hard," she said. "I think Richaud embraced that. Your talent is your talent, but you're not going to outwork Richaud."

Pack's latest challenge at Maryland isn't surprising to a Michigan businessman who took him under his wing a decade ago.

Pack met Dan Gilbert after his mother coached one of Gilbert's sons in basketball. Pack later interned at Quicken Loans when he was in high school. It was before Gilbert bought the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I just saw this this kid who was incredibly positive, curious, outgoing, you name it," Gilbert wrote in an email. "I just saw this fire in him that you don't normally see in kids his age. More importantly, he didn't wait for opportunity to come to him, he went after it."

Gilbert believes that Pack's decision to finish his college career in the Big Ten goes back to the family's values.

"His mom raised her kids to be humble, work hard and go after their dreams," he wrote. "I also think that Richaud's ambition and drive is somethng inherent in him. It was natural for him to reach this stage in his basketball career because I know he wasn't settling for anything else."

Pack understands he is making a significant jump from playing his first three seasons on a much smaller and less competitive stage. Still, he feels he is ready to make the leap.

"I had to work to be ready for this level," Pack said. "My freshman year I wouldn't say I was a high-major player. I had to work toward that. I wouldn't say I'm happy [just] to be here. I think I deserve to be here. I don't think I was ready originally out of high school."

This summer, Pack showed off some of his abilities in the Washington, D.C.-based Kenner League at Georgetown. Playing on a team with Robert Carter Jr., who is sitting out this season at Maryland after transferring from Georgia Tech, and former Terps guard Pe'Shon Howard, Pack was named the league's Most Valuable Player when the team won the championship.

"I heard about Kenner League, watching [Allen] Iverson documentaries and seeing what he did when he played," Pack said. "It was big for me. We won the championship, and they felt I was the key player that made that happen. That felt really good to me."

Asked what it was like to play with Howard, who spent three years at Maryland before finishing out at Southern Cal last season, Pack smiled.

"The fastbreaks got fun, I will say that. Through the legs, behind-the-back passes," Pack recalled with a laugh. "You didn't know where it was going."

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Pack seems to have a clear grasp on what his role will be for the Terps this season. Slotted initially to back up both Trimble and Wells, Pack will likely start in a three-guard set thanks to an early-season injury to forward Evan Smotrycz, who is expected to be out until late November or early December with a broken foot.

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"I've never been huge on having to start," Pack said before Smotrycz was injured. "I think I'll be a key player. That's what I think matters."

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