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Ex-Duke assistant Chris Collins: Rasheed Sulaimon 'in a good place' at Maryland

Ever since Rasheed Sulaimon left Duke last summer and arrived at Maryland a few weeks after graduation, the senior shooting guard has done his best to put his three years as a Blue Devil and controversial dismissal from the men's basketball program last season behind him.

The first public reunion between Sulaimon and someone else with strong Duke ties came here Saturday night. It came before No. 4 Maryland's game against Northwestern and its third-year coach Chris Collins, a former Blue Devils player and assistant.

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It ended with Sulaimon having hit his first five shots and six of nine overall against the Wildcats, including four of six 3-pointers, finishing with 16 points in a 72-59 win.

Sulaimon used his last game as motivation. He had missed all five of his shots Wednesday against Penn State, including an ill-advised 3-pointer late in the game that he followed with a hustle play to keep alive the possession as the Terps rallied from a 13-point deficit with 6:34 left.      

"It's was just one of those games when it wasn't falling," he said. "I came out tonight and I wanted to be aggressive and not force anything, but when the shot presented itself, take it with confidence, and that's what I did. Going forward, I'm going to continue to be aggressive."

Sulaimon said he noticed Welsh-Ryan Arena's soft rims before the game and wanted to take advantage. Asked when he started to feel his shot was on, Sulaimon said, smiling: “In warmups. Once I saw it go through the net, I just tried to forget Penn State and have a quick memory and just have a good game.”

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Sulaimon had "exerted so much energy" on the defensive end against the Nittany Lions that he didn't have much to give the Terps offensively. Also, sophomore point guard Melo Trimble was busy trying to drive to the rim or get the ball to freshman Diamond Stone, who set a school record with 32 points in the second half and a freshman record of 39 overall.

Turgeon said Sulaimon made a promise to him after the Penn State game.

"He told me right after the game, 'I'm going to give you more offense against Northwestern,' " Turgeon recalled Saturday. "He's a veteran, he hit some big shots, some tough shots. It's good to see. If Rasheed shoots that way, Melo's playing well and Jake's being aggressive, we're good."

Trimble finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including five of 12 3-pointers, after missing 11 of his first 12 shots against the Nittany Lions and 12 of 15 overall. He started 0-for-4 against Northwestern, including a corner 3-pointer that hit the side of the backboard.

Collins noted that it was difficult to defend both Trimble and Sulaimon when they were playing so well "and looking for each other the way they were." The two combined for 14 rebounds, 14 assists and only one turnover, with Trimble playing 38 minutes and Sulaimon 34.

Collins, who left Duke after Sulaimon's freshman year, in which he averaged more than 11 points per game, said he was "really proud" of a player he helped recruit.

"Been in a lot of battles with him. I know how good he is, how talented he is, and I'm just proud that he's got a home at Maryland and a second opportunity to be really good," Collins said "He's got a great role on this team and he seems to be happy and in a good place."

Collins joked that the only thing he "wasn't happy for him was the way he was playing against me. He didn't like me that much, the way he was killing me."

Though Collins didn't address the situation that led to Sulaimon's dismissal, the first at Duke under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, he said it didn't affect what he thought of Sulaimon.

"When you go through a lot of battles with someone, you share a bond," Collins said. "Whatever happened at Duke or didn't happen at Duke, I'll always look after Rasheed and want what's best for him, and it's good to see that he's found a home at Maryland."

It was clear that Sulaimon had motivation playing against a coach with whom he said he "had a great relationship."

Asked what Collins said to him, Sulaimon said: "He just said he was proud of me and to keep my head up and to keep going, and I told him that he had a great team and I looked forward to playing against them again."

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Sulaimon said Collins' kind words and warm embrace meant a lot.

"Definitely, it's bigger than basketball," Sulaimon said. "Me and Coach Collins developed a great relationship at Duke even through it was for one year. I'm very happy for what he's done at Northwestern, and he expressed that he was happy for me as well. It was great to see him and give him a hug, and I'm glad that we left here with a win."

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