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Maryland vs. North Carolina: Logan Aronhalt made the most of his one year with the Terps

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It’s Monday afternoon at Dave & Buster’s, and Logan Aronhalt is out for blood. The Maryland men’s basketball team’s oldest soul has driven to North Bethesda to destroy a reporter at Pop-a-Shot.

Carnage ensues. Even in the cramped shooting cages with basketballs intended for child-size hands, Aronhalt doubles up his opponent with ease. Ten in a row. Eleven. Twelve. The machine spits out prize tickets. “Here, I’ll bank every shot,” he says, before firing from his hip and reeling off 18 more.

Aronhalt will be in College Park for just a short time before riding into the sunset. But the 23-year-old graduate student won’t be getting any reward, save a possible NCAA tournament berth that as of now is a long shot. Nor does he desire any treasure from Maryland except an education and a gateway into the real world.

“He’s kind of a role model in that way, that there’s more to life besides basketball,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “He leads in a very quiet way, usually isolated by himself, but I think they see how serious he takes it.”

The transfer from the University at Albany — where he spent his first four collegiate seasons — is enjoying this final lap. On a team brimming with youthful talent and the immaturity that goes along with it, Aronhalt adds a refreshing sense of perspective and experience. It’s why two reporters, including the one he’s humiliating at Dave & Buster’s, have affectionately begun calling him Old Man Basketball, a nickname Aronhalt will wear with pride.

“As long as it’s old and wise,” he says.

A ‘roly-poly kid’

Scott Aronhalt recently concluded his 23rd season coaching the varsity boys’ basketball team at Ohio’s Zanesville High School, the alma mater of the greatest dunker Scott ever saw – his youngest son.

In his father’s words a “roly-poly kid with butterball cheeks we called Bear,” Logan tagged along from an early age, meandering in the gym’s corner while Scott coached. But one afternoon, before a particularly subpar Zanesville varsity team began its sectional playoffs, an eighth-grade Logan marched into the gym and declared he had first dunked earlier that day. After Scott resumed practice, the team heard a thunderous metallic thump. True to his word, Logan had dunked again.

“It was the worst thing that happened,” Scott joked. “I told my assistant coaches, ‘We need to be playing him instead of some of these clowns we’ve got.’ It was entertaining. It wouldn’t have made any difference, we were so bad that year.”

They got better, largely thanks to Logan, who started every game for four years and led the Blue Devils to three straight regional playoff appearances. When he committed to Albany, Scott told the coach the Great Danes had gotten a steal. But a broken foot cost Aronhalt his freshman season. For three years he played with regular pain and still topped 1,000 career points. On separate occasions, he has suffered a herniated disk, a shoddy patellar tendon, a stress fracture in his foot and, in his big toe and shoulder, arthritis. Yes, Old Man Basketball had arthritis.

But Aronhalt needed more physical therapy than he received at Albany, and he found the school’s master’s education program lacking. “A miserable experience,” he says. He needed a change.

He found Maryland.

‘A smart kid’

Aronhalt never officially visited Maryland before deciding to transfer, unless you count the 83-72 loss the Terps dealt Albany on Dec. 28, 2011, in his junior season. But his brothers — Drake and Jordan — lived nearby. And he spoke with Turgeon and assistant coach Scott Spinelli, hearing about their vision for the program, Aronhalt’s expected role and the sports medicine staff that would help Aronhalt heal.

“I remember thinking, next year could go 1,000 ways,” said Aronhalt, who was allowed to transfer without sitting out a year because he had earned his bachelor’s degree at Albany, and because Maryland offered a graduate program — exercise physiology — that Albany did not. “I could go, hate it and not play. Or I could go, play and be a part of something great. I had no idea. It’s a huge risk to take.”

Instead, it wound up being No. 1,001. Entering Wednesday’s Senior Night against North Carolina, one last home hurrah for him and fellow senior James Padgett, Aronhalt has handled an up-and-down season with a resolve that perhaps his younger self couldn’t have mustered. “So many things you worry about that aren’t in your control,” Aronhalt says now, waving his hand like he’s shooing away a bad thought.

Two weeks ago, Aronhalt scored a season-high 26 points against Boston College, looking ever the high-flying guard who left Zanesville as its all-time leading scorer. He also played fewer than 10 minutes in six games, but is still Maryland’s third-leading scorer in ACC play and by far the team’s best three-point threat. And, save the moments his muscles groan after extended time on the bench, he has remained healthy.

But before Aronhalt dives into the sweaty, post-graduate world of adult-league hoops — Drake and Jordan want to reunite the “Blood Brothers,” a name they chanted before workouts growing up — he hopes to play overseas.

“Logan’s a smart kid,” Scott said. “He’ll do well. He’s done his homework. When basketball’s over, he’s going to have a career. But gosh, if he could go play for a couple years and still be a kid for a while, that would be awesome.”

Back at the pop-a-shot machine, Aronhalt wrapped up another blistering round before venturing into the prize room. Scanning the walls of video games and household appliances, he happened across a bin of stuffed Testudos, mini versions of Maryland’s mascot. The perfect reward.

Except not even a plastic cup overflowing with tickets could purchase the plush turtle. So Logan Aronhalt, wise Old Man Basketball, instead went home clutching two strips of candy and one pink rubber whoopee cushion.

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