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Terps teammates and Mark Turgeon share Jared Nickens' confidence

The Terps' Jared Nickens, left, shoots over North Carolina Central's Dante Holmes, center, and Jordan Parks in the second half at Xfinity Center.
The Terps' Jared Nickens, left, shoots over North Carolina Central's Dante Holmes, center, and Jordan Parks in the second half at Xfinity Center.(Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Jared Nickens smiles when he recalls some of the summer basketball camps he attended growing up in New Jersey.

"I always wanted to do the shooting drills, I never wanted to do the dribbling drills or other drills, I would always want to shoot," Nickens said Tuesday.

While Nickens has certainly expanded his game to include playing defense, the Maryland freshman small forward still enjoys putting up shots, in particular 3-pointers.

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Going into Wednesday's game against Rutgers at Xfinity Center, the 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing is tied with fellow freshman Melo Trimble with a team-high 26 3-pointers, in 71 attempts.

It is a combination of Nickens' ability to hit from long range as well as his quiet confidence to take shots when open that allowed Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to move the lowest-rated prospect in his Top 10 recruiting class back into the starting lineup last Saturday in a 69-60 win at Purdue.

Nickens started this season at Oklahoma State, helping the Terps to a 73-64 win as a nearly 10-point underdog by getting Maryland off to a good start in each half by hitting a 3-pointer from the wing.

A month before that, Nickens had a breakout performance in a 72-63 win over No. 11 Iowa State in the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, scoring a career-high 15 points off the bench.

Turgeon said that Nickens' ability to shoot from distance gives Maryland a chance to open the floor for Trimble and senior guard Dez Wells to drive. Unlike Maryland's other freshman guard, Dion Wiley, Nickens seems more confident as a starter.

"It's just the way it is, it's [the difference in their] personality," Turgeon said. "It's good for me. If they both wanted to start I'd have problems. Most kids do want to start. Dion made it clear at the beginning of the year that he wasn't quite ready for that. He feels more comfortable coming off the bench."

Though Nickens only hit one shot at Purdue -- at the end of a three-shot sequence in which he missed his first two 3-pointers before making the third early in the second half -- he has the full confidence of his coach and teammates.

Chuckling at a question about Nickens' willingness to launch shots, Turgeon said: "Jared thinks he has the green light all the time. Our guys want him to shoot it. He got three quick ones up at the start of the second half and made one, which was great.

"He does help us space the floor. He's got a quick release. We all think it's going in all the time. The key is that he continues to defend well and rebound well for us. As long as as he's defending well, he's going to stay in as long as he's making shots or not making shots, that's the way it is."

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Even the normally-serious Trimble laughs when the suject of Nickens shooting is broached.

"Jared's a knockdown shooter, he takes a lot of threes," Trimble said, a smile creasing his face. "That's what we look to do in our offense. When a defender is guarding Jared, they want to stay close because he can shoot it and he's definitely going to make it."

Nickens, who grew up patterning his game after Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson, doesn't disagree with his coach and teammate's  assessments.

"Every [outside] shot I take I think is going in," he said.

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