COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon knew that the start of Diamond Stone's college career was going to be the equivalent of an amusement park thrill ride: highs and lows, and more than a few bumps along the way.
After alternating between good performances and bad ones in his first four games, the celebrated 6-foot-11 freshman center has put together four consecutive solid efforts that show both Stone's resolve and potential.
Since picking up two quick fouls and playing just 10 minutes against Illinois State in the semifinals of the Cancun Challenge -- finishing with two points and zero rebounds -- Stone has averaged 12.5 points and 4.3 rebounds over the past four games while shooting 20-for-32.
Despite not starting for only the second time all season in Friday's 96-55 win over Saint Francis at Xfinity Center, Stone finished with a career-high 16 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes. He hit seven of the nine shots he took, all but one of them dunks, drives and layups.
The first time he didn't start, coming off a five-point, one-rebound performance in 14 minutes against Georgetown, Stone had 12 points and five rebounds to lead the Terps to a come-from-behind win over Rider on Nov. 20.
"The kid can score the ball. The kid can catch anything. Diamond makes it look easy down there," Turgeon said. "Most important, I thought his defense was better. His ball screen was better, his awareness was better. I was proud of him. It was a step in the right direction."
Turgeon said before the season started that it was more important to Stone that he start in terms of his comfort level and confidence than it was to junior center Damonte Dodd, who started 31 of 35 games last season. But Dodd's defensive presence could keep him in the starting lineup for a little while.
Connecticut 7-foot junior Amida Brimah is considered more of a rebounder and shot blocker (three blocks per game), though he did once score 40 in a game last season against Coppin State.
There is also the fact that the Terps got off to one of their best starts of the season against Saint Francis, with Dodd in the lineup. It also gives Stone a chance to be more of a scorer with the second team.
"I don't know what lies ahead. I know that's what we went with tonight and we had a quick start," Turgeon said "That was important to me. We jumped out 13-3 on them and that was big."
Junior forward Robert Carter acknowledged Friday that he is still more comfortable playing with Dodd as the team's last line of defense than he is with Stone. That's more a reflection on the experience Dodd brings than it is an indictment of Stone's defense.
"We've just been together longer. I played with him all of last year and the summer. Diamond just got here this summer, so I haven't played with him as much. But eventually it will be the same," Carter said. "Diamond's a great player; Damonte's good, too. It'll be fun."
Carter, who had similar ups and downs as a freshman at Georgia Tech, has confidence that Stone will continue to work hard and improve.
"He's just young. He's learning every day," said Carter, who scored a season-high 20 points Friday. "He's getting better every day. He got better this week in practice. I don't think coach took him out of the starting lineup because he was playing bad. He's learning. You see what happened."
Not that Dodd's starting position is set in, uh, stone.
Stone is shooting 32-for-53 from the field (60.4 percent) and 15-for-20 from the free-throw line (75 percent). Overall, Stone is averaging 9.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game, compared to Dodd's 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18 minutes per game.
"If he [Stone] continued that against UConn and other games, he'll be back in the starting lineup," Carter said.