Brantley emerging as threat off bench for Terrapins
Last season as a sophomore, Maryland guard Jaylen Brantley was known more for a viral video than his production on the basketball court.
Brantley starred as teammate Jared Nickens’ main sidekick in their famous running man dances to “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ. The hilarious videos warranted an appearance by both Brantley and Nickens on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The slick dance may have been the only thing Brantley felt comfortable doing.
“Last year, I didn’t really feel like I belonged,” Brantley said of his role on the team. “But now I really feel like I belong.”
The junior posted a 14-point effort against Howard on Wednesday night. Brantley, despite coming off of the bench, finished as the second-highest scorer behind center Michal Cekovsky, who had 16 points as the Terrapins marched past the Bison in a 79-56 win.
It’s the second straight effort Brantley was able to finish with at least 12 points. In Maryland’s first 10 games, he’s scored at least 11 points three times. Last season, he had just one game where he scored more than 11 points in 32 efforts.
Brantley played an key role in Maryland’s game plan against the outmanned Howard team. The Terrapins took an inside-outside approach offensively. With a tremendous height advantage under the basket — Cekovsky stands 7-foot-1 while Howard’s big men, Solomon Mangham and Tyler Stone, both stand just 6-foot-7 — the Terrapins would kick the ball down to to their center.
If Cekovsky was able to get it to the basket, he’d take a shot. If the defense collapsed on him, Cekovsky would dish it out to the three-point arc. Many times, the ball landed in Brantley’s hands, and he wasn’t afraid to shoot. Brantley’s eight three-point attempts led Maryland, as did his four three-point field goals.
“The kid’s unbelievable,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s coming off the bench, playing hard. He’s communicating. He’s being a leader. He made the first three and made some big ones in the second half. He’s just getting more and more confident.”
Confidence has been a big factor in Brantley’s newfound role, and it’s beginning to swell within him. He said he knows that whoever ends up working hard in practice will get the playing time, and his coach is taking notice of just how hard he is working to improve.
“Jaylen brings it every day in practice,” Turgeon said. “If they start doing it in practice, it’s going to carry over into the game. It’s finally carried over for him. He’s getting confidence, his teammates are getting confidence in him.”
Brantley said he recognizes that his team is relatively young and that anything he does should be an example. Of Maryland’s starters against Howard, three were freshmen. Freshman starting guard Kevin Huerter is certainly taking notice of Brantley’s determination.
“Jaylen plays with a lot of energy,” Huerter said. “You can see he’s playing with a lot more confidence. He’s shooting the ball a lot better and he’s making plays. He’s getting to the basket, he’s playing defense. He’s been a really good spark for us off the bench.”
Brantley is also starting to find more success due to his “yes sir” attitude. If Turgeon wants Brantley to run through a wall to help the team, Brantley will do just that.
“If coach tells me to just go in and play defense, I’ll go in and play defense,” Brantley said. “If he wants me to make a shot, I’ll do that as well. Me playing as hard as I can is going to keep me on the court more.”
Brantley providing a bit of offense from the bench can only be beneficial for Maryland. With Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan serving as the team’s primary backcourt, Brantley can provide a change of pace, make a seamless transition for him and his teammates on the court and comfortably provide rest to his backcourt teammates when needed.
Maryland (9-1) hosts Saint Peter’s (4-4) on Saturday.