Terps count­ing on Wi­ley to keep his con­fi­dence up

Guard, in re­turn from sea­son-end­ing surgery, shak­ing off shooting slump to bol­ster bench

Baltimore Sun - - MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

COL­LEGE PARK — All sum­mer, as Dion Wi­ley con­tin­ued his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from a torn menis­cus that re­quired surgery and kept him off the court for last sea­son, he worked to re­gain the 3-point touch he had been known for in high school and for a few, rare mo­ments dur­ing his fresh­man year at Mary­land.

Through­out fall work­outs, Wi­ley had im­pressed team­mates and coaches with the way his shot had im­proved, helped in part by drop­ping more than 20 pounds and be­ing able to get more el­e­va­tion when shooting jumpers.

But when the Terps be­gan their sea­son ear­lier this month, Wi­ley’s touch had dis­ap­peared. In Mary­land’s first three games, the 6-foot-4 guard missed 10 of 12 shots from the field, in­clud­ing all five of his 3-point at­tempts. His con­fi­dence faded too, rem­i­nis­cent of his fresh­man sea­son two years ago.

“I knew it was go­ing to be like that for Dion,” ju­nior guard Melo Trim­ble said this week. “He’s so ex­cited to be out there play­ing for the team again, play­ing at the col­lege level, to come back from an in­jury like that. It’s dev­as­tat­ing for him to miss a whole year. I un­der­stand how he came back a lit­tle slug­gish.”

As with most shoot­ers, Trim­ble knew that all it was go­ing to take was Wi­ley hit­ting his first 3-pointer in a game. That happened early in Tues­day’s 77-63 vic­tory over Stony Brook at Xfin­ity Cen­ter, when Wi­ley hit his first shot shortly af­ter com­ing in.

Wi­ley pro­ceeded to hit his next three and rimmed out his fifth at­tempt. Though ham­pered by foul trou­ble that lim­ited him to 13 min­utes, Wi­ley fin­ished with 13 points, and, with ju­nior cen­ter Michal Cekovsky (11 points in 16 min­utes), gave the Terps a much-needed lift off the bench.

“We’re al­ways looking for Dion to hit that Bar­clays Clas­sic At Brook­lyn, N.Y. Tonight, 9:30 TV: MASN Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM one shot just to get his con­fi­dence back,” said Trim­ble, who fin­ished with a game­high 21 points. “Once he got that first one down, I just told him, ‘It’s time now.’ ”

Wi­ley said his team­mates and coaches never lost faith in him, telling him to shoot his way out of his early-sea­son woes.

“I don’t think they looked at me as hav­ing a shooting slump. They were just wait­ing for me to get go­ing,” Wi­ley said. “I think I can build off of this when we play Rich­mond.”

Mary­land (5-0) will play Rich­mond (3-1) tonight in the first round of the Bar­clays Clas­sic in Brook­lyn, N.Y., with the win­ner play­ing Satur­day against the win­ner of the Kansas State-Bos­ton Col­lege game for the cham­pi­onship (the losers will also play Satur­day). The Terps will be looking for their fourth hol­i­day tour­na­ment ti­tle in as many years.

While many at­trib­uted Wi­ley’s slow start to the six months he was off the court — eight be­fore he was able to be­gin play­ing pickup games with his team­mates — it might have been the result of a sim­ple me­chan­i­cal de­fect.

Wi­ley cred­ited his best per­for­mance since early in his fresh­man year to a shooting ses­sion last week­end he had with Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon, who got Wi­ley to take his left thumb off the ball be­fore re­leas­ing it with his right. Tur­geon also in­structed Wi­ley to hold the fin­ish longer to cre­ate more back­spin.

Though Tur­geon was not a great 3-point shooter at Kansas — he made13 of 46 tries in his se­nior year (1986-87), the first sea­son the 3-pointer was used in the col­lege game — Mary­land’s Dion Wi­ley goes up for a dunk in last week’s win over St. Mary’s. Wi­ley, who strug­gled shooting to start the sea­son, scored 13 points in 13 min­utes Tues­day night against Stony Brook. the coach has worked with enough shoot­ers in 19 sea­sons as a Di­vi­sion I coach to spot and cor­rect flaws.

The per­for­mance of Wi­ley, Cekovsky and ju­nior guard Jaylen Brant­ley off­set the fact that Mary­land’s three fresh­men starters — An­thony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter and Justin Jack­son — had quiet nights of­fen­sively. The fresh­men, who had been help­ing Trim­ble carry the Terps, fin­ished a com­bined 6-for-15 from the field.

“I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant for us to get go­ing,” Wi­ley said of the up­per­class­men com­ing off the bench, in­clud­ing Brant­ley and Jared Nick­ens, who has missed 23 of 27 shots from the field (16 of 20 on 3-point­ers). “The young guys and this team are go­ing to need us to make it far in the tour­na­ment and be a top 25 team.”


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