COLLEGE PARK — As the North Carolina A&T shot ricocheted off the rim and backboard Monday night at Xfinity Center, a tangle of arms and hands belonging to the Aggies tried to tap it into the basket as their Maryland counterparts pursued the defensive rebound.
It seemed as if there were so many involved that nobody would grasp the ball, at least on the first attempt. But as most of the players began their descent, one Terp remained airborne and came down with the rebound.
It was one of seven that freshman Ricky Lindo Jr. grabbed in his team’s 82-59 win. The rebound went along with the skinny 6-foot-8 forward’s four points, four assists and three steals in 17 productive minutes.
“Ricky had his best game since he’s been here,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the Terps moved to 3-0. “We’ve seen that in practice. He’s very long, he really rebounded well, affected shots by the rim. He made some really good passes.”
Lindo’s length — his wingspan is of a player 3 or 4 inches taller — athleticism and feel for the game have moved him up in Maryland’s rotation as the team’s first sub at power forward or center.
It has been a rapid rise for the last member of a six-player freshman class ranked No. 7 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten to sign. That it came after the Terps returned from their summer trip to Italy in early August is only testament to Lindo’s potential.
Before he signed, there was some question about whether Lindo would pass up the offer Turgeon had made to take a year at prep school to put much-needed weight on his 200-pound frame.
After signing, many still wondered whether Lindo would get enough playing time to not seriously consider redshirting as a freshman.
“Coming in signing, Coach Turgeon said I could really play this year,” Lindo said Monday. “To make sure I just got in the gym, put in the extra work so he could be confident when he calls my name I could do what I needed to do.”
Asked whether his initial decision about signing or going to prep school was a difficult one to make, Lindo said: “It was hard, but once I got on campus it felt like it was right. I felt comfortable. It was close to home. I grew up a Maryland fan. It wasn’t a bad decision. I like it here a lot.”
Lindo was a late bloomer at Woodrow Wilson High in Washington, where 2019 signees Makhi and Makhel Mitchell are playing their senior year. Once considered a skinny, undersized shooting guard, Lindo grew 6 inches between his sophomore and junior years.
Knowing that the Terps are counting on sophomore Bruno Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) to be their primary scorers inside, Lindo’s role this season is more of a rebounder and, because of his vertical leap and length, an extra rim protector.
“Coach Turgeon really emphasizes that, I’m really long, but I can rebound well, I’ve always been a good rebounder,” Lindo said. “I think it’s good that it translates to the college level. Everybody is physically stronger. You just box out, do what you have to do, you can get rebounds.”
Lindo has grabbed 14 in his first 34 minutes over the three games. While his scoring has come mostly on post-ups and putbacks against smaller players, Lindo’s first 3-point attempt rimmed out Monday and he showed his passing skills with his first four assists as a college player.
“He [Turgeon] doesn’t tell me to work on one area [like rebounding], he tells me I’m very versatile so use that to my advantage,” Lindo said. “If it’s rebounding, getting steals, running the floor, I’ll just do it.”
Lindo’s performance Monday came on a night when the other four freshmen who are part of the rotation all contributed.
Coming off the bench for the first time, wing Aaron Wiggins had 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Smith finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Shooting guard Serrel Smith Jr. scored his first seven points of the season to go along with three rebounds. Point guard Eric Ayala had a team-high five assists.
“At practice we just make sure we do what we have to do, get extra shots up if we need to, just play hard on defense, try to get every rebound, box out,” Lindo said about he and his fellow freshmen. “Coach Turgeon has been drilling us, telling us if we practice hard, it translates over to the game.”
NOTES: The Terps had a season-high 24 assists on their 31 baskets, with 12 turnovers. … After starting the season 7-for-50 on 3-pointers, including missing the first seven it tried Monday, Maryland finished Monday’s game 10-for-30, with Wiggins and junior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. hitting four each. The Terps play Friday at 7 p.m. against Hofstra.