Had he stuck to his plans of playing this season at the tony Northfield Mount Hermon Academy prep school in Massachusetts, Ricky Lindo Jr. would be eight games into his postgraduate high school season, playing against the likes of the Harvard club team.
Instead, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward, whose long arms give him a 7-foot wingspan, is getting ready for his 11th game at Maryland, going from playing a season-high 24 minutes in Saturday’s 55-41 win over Loyola Chicago in Baltimore to preparing for Tuesday night’s home game against Loyola Maryland.
Now entrenched as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon’s first big man off the bench — really the only legitimate backup center the Terps have — Lindo has demonstrated a quick learning curve in that he was the last of this year’s vaunted freshman class to arrive, having signed in early August.
“The more I’ve been with my teammates and the coaching staff, I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable, just getting to know the guys better and being on the road with them at Purdue and Navy,” Lindo said after practice Monday.
Asked how impressive Lindo’s growth has been given that he has been around the team only for the past four months, Turgeon said: “He’s just so athletic, he’s so talented. He works so hard. … He’s really improved his shot. I think his confidence is growing.”
Said Lindo: “I think I’m still getting used to the system, making sure I know the plays. Now that, what are we, nine games in [actually 10], I’m more comfortable when Coach Turgeon calls my number.”
What has also helped Lindo is that he’s starting to put on weight and muscle, especially in his upper body. He has gained 10 pounds since coming to Maryland and probably will try to play at an even heavier weight as his career progresses.
“I think it helps a lot,” Lindo said of the added bulk. “Coach Turgeon, when he recruited me, told me that I was a really long player and I can use that to my advantage defensively, especially with passing lanes, deflections and rebounds, too.”
Lindo’s offensive game has appeared to grow as well. After hitting just two of his first 13 shots over his first eight games, Lindo has made outside jumpers in each of the past two games, including his first career 3-pointer in a 62-60 loss at Purdue on Thursday night.
Asked whether that is something he brought with him to Maryland, Lindo said: “It was kind of there, but I’ve been working with [assistant] coach [Matt] Brady for the past month. It’s gotten better, and I’m more confident shooting the shot against Purdue.”
Lindo’s 3-pointer gave the Terps an early 18-10 lead. It seemed as if he showed Turgeon and the rest of the coaching staff that he wasn’t fazed by the raucous crowd at Mackey Arena, one of the tougher road venues in the Big Ten.
It even seemed Monday that Turgeon regretted not playing him more against the Boilermakers.
“He made a big shot at Purdue and I didn’t really give him a chance after that to play,” Turgeon said. “I can see his minutes go up. We’re getting more confident [in him]. We’re starting to trust him more. It’s a good feeling because he’s got a huge upside.”
After playing just eight minutes in the team’s previous three games combined, including two at Purdue, Lindo saw his minutes grow exponentially Saturday at Royal Farms Arena in the featured game of the Charm City College Classic.
With sophomore center Bruno Fernando and freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) in foul trouble early in the game, Lindo got his longest run of the season.
Though he only scored two points — making his only attempt on a long jumper — Lindo was active defensively and finished with five rebounds and a blocked shot.
“It helped my confidence a lot, knowing that Coach Turgeon trusted me to be in a close game, especially with all the other freshmen,” Lindo said. “At one point I saw there was all five freshmen on the court. That’s just lets me know how much confidence Coach Turgeon has in all of us [freshmen] and in me, too.”
Given the amount of practice time the 8-2 Terps will have after Tuesday’s game — they won’t play again until Dec. 22, against Seton Hall at Xfinity Center — Lindo and the other freshmen will have time to get even more accustomed to the system before Big Ten play resumes Jan. 2 against Nebraska.
Knowing that Tuesday’s game starts a stretch four straight at home, Lindo said with a smile: “My parents love it. It’s good because it gives me time to bond with my teammates. Being home is always good because you play better in front of your fans. You want to play good.”
It doesn’t surprise his father, Ricardo Lindo Sr., that the oldest of his three sons is growing so quickly. In the spring of his junior year at Woodrow Wilson High in Washington, the younger Lindo began a growth spurt — more like an explosion — during which he shot up from 6-1 to 6-7 in a stretch of around four months.
“It was like a perfect storm. He was showing his athleticism while he was growing,” the elder Lindo recalled.
According to the elder Lindo, his oldest son is still growing. When the younger Lindo went to play with the Panamanian national team this summer — his parents are from Panama and he has dual citizenship — a knee injury led to an MRI, which showed his growth plate was still open. Lindo might grow another couple of inches.
The elder Lindo believes Maryland fans haven’t yet seen what his son can do.
“They really haven’t given him the green light to really open up,” Lindo Sr. said. “Once he gets the confidence that he can open up and do things, you will see what kind of athlete he is. I tell him, every time they call your number, you’ve just got to be ready.”
» Turgeon said sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), who sprained his ankle in warmups Saturday and played just 12 minutes in the first half in a homecoming game for him and Smith, is “day to day.”
Morsell didn’t practice Monday. If he can’t play or doesn’t start Tuesday, Turgeon said, freshman wing Aaron Wiggins would take his place.
» Maryland, which was ranked the past two weeks, fell from No. 23 and out of the Top 25 after the loss at Purdue.