James Padgett is Mark Turgeon's biggest reclamation project

Coaching changes are not only good for college basketball programs, they are good for players.

If the retirement of Gary Williams and the hiring of Mark Turgeon has helped reinvigorate the Terps when it comes to recruiting, it has also benefited junior forward James Padgett more than any other player.

Maybe Padgett would have emerged after two disappointing years if Williams was still in College Park, but listening to Padgett talk earlier this season and watching him perform for the past month leads to me to believe that Turgeon has much to do with the leap Maryland's hardest-working player has taken from a bust to an offensive-rebounding beast.

Padgett came to Maryland from a storied Brooklyn, N.Y. high school program - the same Lincoln High program that had produced Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and, most recently, Lance Stephenson.

Just as he was overshadowed in high school by Stephenson, Padgett was overshadowed his first two years at Maryland by Jordan Williams. With both of the Williamses gone, Padgett has emerged with respectable numbers: 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. 

His numbers the first two years - 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds  in a little over nine minutes a game- only told part of the story. Padgett said before the Terps went to Puerto Rico in November  that he was intimidated by Williams' coaching style and played more looking over his shoulder than playing with a chip on it.

Turgeon had no choice to play Padgett a lot of minutes before Alex Len became eligible last month, but after a slight period of adjustment of playing with the 7-1 freshman center, Padgett has become a terrific complement and, with Len struggling offensively the last couple of games, Maryland's main inside weapon.

While most of his points are coming off follow shots or from the free throw line (13 of 25 the past two games), where he has improved dramatically (13 of 16 in those two games, 16 of 20 in his last four)  Padgett's ability to keep the ball alive on the offensive boards has become a vital part of a Maryland team struggling to make anything look easy.

Only one ACC player, North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, has more offensive rebounds than Padgett (71-70).

Two plays he made in the second half in Sunday's win over Georgia Tech were typical Padgett: one where he powered in an off-balanced bank high off the glass and a second where he missed badly from the right side but stayed with it and put in a layup from the left side.

Turgeon has said that Padgett is the kind of player who will do anything whether it means coming off the bench or starting. When the Terps add Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman to their frontcourt next season, it might mean playing a lesser role.

But just as Sean Mosley has proved his value as Maryland's only senior starter this season, I have a feeling that Padgett might play a similar role next season.

I have come to really appreciate Padgett for his effort this season, as I did when I first covered Maryland 25 years ago with an undersized power forward named Derrick Lewis and, to an extent, with Bambale Osby and Dino Gregory in recent seasons.

Every good team needs a guy like Padgett and any chance Maryland has of continuing its surprising start under Turgeon has a lot to do with its hardest-working player.

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