COLLEGE PARK — When he joined the Maryland men's basketball team last summer after transferring from North Carolina A&T, senior guard Richaud Pack wasn't sure what role he would play for the Terps, except one: a good teammate.
Pack understood what transpired before he arrived, the dysfunction on and off the court that led to a disappointing 17-15 season, the departure of five players for a variety of reasons and the need for a mature, smart and selfless player in Mark Turgeon's reshuffled rotation.
Both Pack and the No. 14 Terps have benefitted more than either could have realistically expected. Pack has started at shooting guard in 15 of the team's first 16 games. Maryland (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) has gone from being a team picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten to one that is now tied for first.
Though Pack's role changed Saturday, when he returned to the bench for the first time since Nov. 25 and scored 11 points in a 69-60 win at Purdue, his approach has not. He will likely remain a key reserve, at least for Wednesday's game against Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) at Xfinity Center.
"Richaud played well, he accepted it well, it was one game, our whole team has been that way this year," Turgeon said Tuesday. "Our guys want to play well and help the team continue to win … I needed to do it for a while, I was just waiting for the right time to do it."
Said Pack: "It's not a big deal to me regardless [of starting or not] because I just want to play. I'm still going to be an important part, play an important piece, I don't think that changed much. I still play the same amount of minutes. It wasn't really an adjustment. ... Honestly I don't think it changed much, besides I get to look at the game and see the flow.
"In that sense, it kind of makes things easier. It's easy to look at a scouting report or at video, but if you have three to five minutes each half to look at a team and how they're playing, it helps out when you come in a game."
Turgeon moved Pack out of the starting lineup earlier this season after the 6-foot-3 guard was in the midst of a shooting drought in which he missed 13 straight shots. That night, in a win over No. 11 Iowa State, senior guard Dez Wells fractured his wrist and Turgeon made Pack a starter again.
While Pack fell into another shooting slump prior to the Purdue game, hitting 6 of his last 24 before making 4 of 6 shots against the Boilermakers, the move this time was to "separate the young guys" — freshmen Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley — as well as made Pack more of a steady backup behind freshman point guard Melo Trimble.
"I keep saying I've got to figure out ways to get Melo more rest," Turgeon said of Trimble, who still played 36 minutes against Purdue. "I just think it helps our rotation. I'm going to play different guys, if they're playing well, I'm going to play them."
Despite some streakier shooting from the field than he displayed at North Carolina A&T, where he averaged 17 points while taking only 10 shots a game last season, Pack has been a steady contributor. He is averaging 8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while consistently playing solid defense.
Senior forward Jon Graham, who transferred to Maryland after his sophomore year at Penn State, recalled how he hoped Pack would become a Terp after announcing plans to transfer. Pack, who grew up outside Detroit, was being pursued by Michigan State and Michigan.
Pack said last summer he chose Maryland because of its graduate business school, where he is pursuing an MBA in marketing.
"Richaud's a very intellingent basketball player," Graham said, "I think he's really smart, he makes good decisions while he's out there, he gets maximum effort on the defensive end, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes when he's out there."
Pack said the ability to be flexible is not uncommon on a team considered a lock to make the NCAA tournament. Some are now giving Maryland a chance to win the Big Ten over No. 7 Wisconsin, which will be without senior point guard Traevon Jackson for an indefinite period because of his broken foot.
"That's what makes us good, that people are willing to accept their roles and embrace their roles," Pack said. "You have to be flexible because it's not about one player, each player can make our team different … I'd be a fool not to."
NOTE: Ivan Bender, a 6-9, 230-pound forward from Bosnia who enrolled at Maryland Monday, has not been cleared to practice after meeting with team doctors. Bender, who tore his ACL and missed most of 2014 after playing with a Junior Euroleague team in Croatia and the U-19 Croatian team in the FIBA World Championships, will be re-evaluated in a month, a team spokesman said Tuesday.