Terps' Milbourne plays up to competition

COLLEGE PARK — - Landon Milbourne smiles, opens his mouth and absently taps one of his teeth as if making sure it's still there.

The Maryland senior chipped the tooth against North Carolina State on Jan. 23 when he leaped to block a shot and his chin landed on top of an opponent's head. The tooth required a crown and the chin needed stitches - injuries that barely registered to a player who has incurred bloody noses (against Florida State last season and Miami last week) and bruises from College Park to Tallahassee and multiple points in between.

The stoic, 6-foot-7 forward's catalog of injuries is testament to his routinely battling larger men - a skill he honed out of necessity last season when Maryland was all but center-less. Milbourne spent much of the year guarding - and often jumping center against - "bigs" such as Florida State's 7-foot-1 Solomon Alabi and North Carolina's 6-foot-9 Deon Thompson, one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's most prolific players.

Rather than shrink from his travails, Milbourne has blossomed - like no one this side of Lonny Baxter. Baxter, the bulky forward, went from averaging 6.8 points as a Terps freshman in 1998-99 to better than 15 in each succeeding season. Maryland coaches note that it's a similar arc to that of Milbourne, whose father, Andre Foreman, 40, is the career scoring leader at Division III Salisbury University and starred overseas.

"That's definitely where I get my talent from," Milbourne, 22, said of his father, who schooled him in basketball during offseasons when Milbourne was growing up. But Milbourne said he inherited his work ethic from his single mother, a Georgia hair stylist who had the boy while attending high school near Ocean City and raised him and his younger sister herself.

Milbourne, who is quietly religious, sports a tattoo with a quote from Ecclesiastes: "The man who fears God will avoid all extremes." A second tattoo honors his mother, Kaona Milbourne. "She was raising me and my sister on her own," Milbourne said. "I saw her struggling every day. She definitely influenced me to focus and work hard."

In addition to the tattoo, Milbourne recognizes his mother in a nontraditional way. She taught him how to cut hair when he was in high school. In a subtle tribute to her and her profession, he has become the team's unofficial barber.

Said his mother: "I taught him before [he left] to go to Oak Hill [Academy in Virginia]. He was cutting teammates' hair there, too."

Kaona Milbourne continued: "Landon is focused and dedicated, and he's a natural athlete. The fact that you have a dad playing basketball helps. They look exactly alike. Andre is probably 1 inch shorter than Landon."

Milbourne's yearly scoring averages read like an upward bar chart - from one point a game as a freshman, to 8.2 as a sophomore, to 11.4 last season. This season, he's averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds and has scored in double figures in the past nine games. Entering today's game at Clemson - in which the first-place Terps will attempt to improve their ACC record to 5-1 - Milbourne needs 32 points to become the 49th Terrapin to reach 1,000 for his career.

"Landon has worked as hard as any player I've had," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "You go from averaging one point as a freshman to one of the better players in the ACC. He was not a very good player facing the basket when he arrived."

Foreman, who lives in Waldorf, said he had long considered his son a small forward - the father's position. "Everything we worked on his whole life was for a '3' man, and then he ended up playing the '4' position. He was unfamiliar with playing the position. I don't think he really got it until this year."

With 6-foot-10 freshman Jordan Williams starting this season, Milbourne has had more flexibility to play on the wing offensively and shoot his high-arcing, left-handed jump shot from mid-range - a staple of his game. But Milbourne still often guards the opposing team's biggest player.

He got good at it last season, and his reward - or is it a punishment? - is that he continues to match up against centers and power forwards.

Milbourne, whose game face is almost a scowl, jokes about winning the opening tip in a game against Alabi, the 7-footer. "I jumped with him last season and this season. I think we won the tip [once] but I don't think I hit it. He just hit it to the wrong guy."

Milbourne's defensive strategy against bigger men is to deny the ball in the inside post. "If I let my man catch it in front of me, it's kind of tough because usually they try to take two dribbles and go over top of me," he said.

Is he ever intimidated? "That's not in me, really. You can't be intimidated by anyone," he said.

As aggressive as he is on the court, Milbourne is just as reserved off it. He still habitually lowers his head and avoids eye contact when being interviewed by reporters who want to tell his story.

"I'm not really a people person as far as going out, meeting people," he said softly. "I've got a smaller circle. My teammates, you know, are like family. They all know me, and that's who I'm around most of the time."

He shares a suite with Jordan Williams and James Padgett, the two freshmen forwards.

Coaches say Milbourne, a team captain with fellow seniors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, prefers to lead by example. But they have noticed a new comfort level this season.

"He's not afraid to get vocal at practice now, which I really appreciate," Gary Williams said.

Milbourne aspires to play in the NBA. He is ranked 54th among NCAA seniors by, a Web site that specializes in mock drafts. Vasquez is 18th on the same list.

Foreman, who played in Finland and Australia, among other countries, said he wants his son to have something he believes was not offered to him when he left Salisbury in 1992 - a fair shot at the NBA. "I came from a small town, and I got involved with the wrong agent and he didn't have any connections or anything. I never got any tryouts."

Milbourne "is playing in the ACC at Maryland," Foreman said. "He'll probably have a better situation than I did."

Milbourne, a criminology and criminal justice major, can hardly imagine life without basketball.

"I love basketball. It's what I do every day," he said. "You know, hopefully I'll be playing somewhere."

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