Well-traveled guard Jaylen Brantley hopes he has found a home at Maryland

Jaylen Brantley will try to replicate his season-best performance when now-No. 4 Maryland plays Marshall.

Sophomore point guard Jaylen Brantley didn't show much in the first 10 games of his Maryland career. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior college transfer seemed hesitant and, at times, completely overmatched.

The breakthrough for Brantley came in the 11th game.

In an 82-61 victory for then-No. 6 Maryland over Princeton on Dec. 19 at Royal Farms Arena, Brantley scored a season-high 14 points, all in a span of eight minutes in the second half.

Bringing the crowd to its feet, Brantley looked like a mini-Melo Trimble in hitting six straight shots, including two 3-pointers and two scoop layups in traffic. A seventh basket on a driving layup was wiped away by an offensive goaltending call.

At least one of his teammates had seen it before.

Senior forward Jake Layman was on the same Amateur Athletic Union team (Boston Amateur Basketball Club) more than five years ago when Brantley — then going into his junior year in high school and playing up a year in age group — helped win the first of two straight national championships.

"He's always been a scorer. I've just been waiting for it to come out in the game," Layman said. "I hope he can keep that up going forward."

Brantley will try to do that when now-No. 4 Maryland (10-1) plays Marshall (4-8) on Sunday afternoon at Xfinity Center.

The West Virginia school is one of three stops the now-22-year-old Brantley made between high school in and near Springfield, Mass. and his eventual arrival at Maryland.

Academically ineligible to play for the Thundering Herd after also spending a post-graduate year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., Brantley left Marshall when the school's coach, Tom Herrion, was fired following the 2013-14 season.

Brantley played last season at Odessa College in Texas.

Before the Princeton game, Brantley said he didn't know if his academic issues would derail his dream of playing major college basketball.

"I never thought that I could get to this position where I am today," Brantley said. "After my junior year in high school, a lot of stuff went down in the whole school and I didn't know what was going to happen. Just me staying humble and working hard and fighting through the adversity, that's why I am here today."

Brantley recalled his reaction to hearing the news from school officials at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass., that he was one core unit short of fully qualifying under NCAA rules. He said he had taken the same English class as an 11th grader there that he already passed in 10th grade at a public high school in Springfield.

"If I had taken 11th-grade English when I went [to Wilbraham & Monson Academy], I would've been fine," Brantley said. "It was difficult when it first happened. I was in my room crying for a few days. I didn't know where I was going to school."

With Herrion's help, he enrolled at Notre Dame Prep with the idea that he would later go to Marshall despite having more high-profile programs, including Virginia, interested in him before the academic issues arose.

"I didn't want to go to juco out of high school, so I went to Marshall [with plans to sit out and become eligible]," Brantley said. "Then Coach Herrion got fired. That's when I went to Texas."

After playing well at Odessa College, the adjustment to Maryland and Division I was slow.

In his first three games, including a 16-minute stint in the season opener against Mount St. Mary's, Brantley didn't attempt a single shot. He scored his first point on a free throw six games in and didn't make a shot from the field until hitting two Dec. 4 against Saint Francis (Pa.).

In the team's two high-profile games, against Georgetown and North Carolina, Brantley barely got off the bench. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon blamed himself for Brantley's development, saying two days before the Princeton game, "I probably had him more screwed up than anything" by using him both at point guard and shooting guard.

"He's been a reluctant shooter, but I think as he gets more comfortable over his career, he'll become a huge weapon for us [behind] the 3-point line," Turgeon said. "I think he's much further along, he's much more comfortable than he was a month ago, I expect him as the year goes on to really help us."

Turgeon said the combination of backing up Trimble and the transition to a faster, more physical game were factors in Brantley's struggles.

"He's smart kid. He knows his role. He knows what he needs to do," Turgeon said. "Once he gets used to everything, and he's open, he's going to let it fly. And we all think he's going to make it because we watch him do it in practice. He's doing what's best for the team right now."

Brantley has said repeatedly this season that he trusts Turgeon to have his best interests at heart.

"I'm very blessed and thankful that Coach Turgeon gave me the opportunity to come here, and I'm definitely going to make the best of it," Brantley said. "It's definitely different and new. Finally I'll be somewhere for a few years. Now I have stability."

Against Princeton, Brantley showed the skills that Turgeon and assistant coach Dustin Clark had talked about since the well-traveled guard first signed. Brantley looked like the player Clark had said "could shoot the cover off the ball."

After a rough first half in which he missed the front end of a one-and-one and then had a rushed 3-pointer blocked, Brantley didn't miss.

"It was a lot of fun," Brantley said afterward. "I always knew I could play that way and it was great to be able to finally show it."

It might have surprised the fans who had not seen much from him, but Brantley said before the game in Baltimore that he was starting to feel more confident, in large part because of the confidence Turgeon and the other players showed in him.

"I trust Coach Turgeon 100 percent," Brantley said. "If he wants me to play 20 minutes or two minutes, I'm fine with it; whatever he wants me to do to help the team win.

"I look it as a learning point. I'm behind a potential lottery pick in Melo and an NBA player in Rasheed [Sulaimon]. It's just going to help me get better in the long run."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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