Last month, Maryland men’s basketball interim coach Danny Manning said Mark Turgeon’s sudden departure wasn’t in the “coaching manual.” The same could be said for the players, particularly freshman Julian Reese, a former St. Frances star who is navigating through his first college basketball season while the future of the program remains uncertain.
But just like Manning, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward has approached the turbulent season with a sense of calmness while showing flashes of his potential.
“I’ve just been going with the flow,” Reese said. “That’s all I can do as a freshman.”
Reese, who is averaging 6.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for the Terps (10-9 overall, 2-6 Big Ten), quickly became a fan favorite after he scored in double figures in three of the first five games and showcased his ability as a valuable stretch forward.
Even before Turgeon decided to step down, he mentioned how Reese looked like a veteran at times, saying, “when he’s fresh, and he first goes in, he plays way beyond his years.”
But the Baltimore native fell into a freshman slump where he was constantly getting into foul trouble, as he scored four points or less in five consecutive games, causing him to feel down on himself and prompting junior Donta Scott and senior Eric Ayala to remind him that he is still a freshman.
“They just pick me up saying, ‘You got it. It’s going to come along,’” he said.
Reese even said his sister and Maryland women’s basketball star Angel Reese, who can be seen at home games yelling at the top of her lungs, has pulled him to the side, telling him to stop fouling out, which he has done three times.
During Maryland’s recent three-game stretch, however, which included his first career start against Rutgers, Reese said his confidence has grown, and Manning said he continues to be a sponge at practice and soaking up as much information as possible.
Reese’s confidence was on full display in Maryland’s victory over No. 24 Illinois on Friday, when he had seven points, five rebounds and a steal while knocking down a pair of 3-pointers during critical moments of the second half.
“I feel like the most improved thing is my confidence, nothing physical,” Reese said. “Feeling like I’m able to play with those guys.”
Reese has been hell-bent on becoming a better shooter, calling it a “priority” whenever he works out, and that effort has also started to pay off. He’s made four of his last six 3-point attempts after starting the season shooting 16.6% from outside.
“I’ve seen him grow a lot from his shot to defense,” Scott said. “He’s really been trying to improve on his shot. In the last game, it looked like he was using the practice he’s been doing on the court.”
After the Illinois game, Maryland’s second victory over a ranked opponent, Manning said Reese is “just scratching the surface of how good is going to be.”
“He’s skilled,” Manning said. “We’ve seen him knock down 3-pointers, drive the basketball, throw backdoor passes, contest shots at the rim [and] play good post defense. He’s a baby at the end of the day and just learning what Big Ten play is all about.”
Wahab expected to play vs. Rutgers
Manning expects junior forward Qudus Wahab to play Tuesday night against Rutgers despite injuring his hand in the win over the Fighting Illini. Wahab, a transfer from Georgetown, practiced in full on Monday, Manning said.
“Obviously, if [Wahab] gets it whacked again, it might be a little bit different,” Manning said. “But I don’t expect anything different from him. I expect him to be available like he was at practice.”
Before injuring his hand in the second half, Wahab tallied 11 points and four rebounds, marking the first time he scored in double figures since Jan. 3 against Iowa (12 points, seven rebounds).
Today, 8 p.m.
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