By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008
Three and a half minutes into the Maryland men's basketball team's game against George Washington on Sunday night, the score was tied and the Terrapins were in desperate need of a rebound. Coach Gary Williams signaled for sophomore forward Dino Gregory to head to the scorer's table. At that moment, the voices that have shaped Gregory's life returned.
Gotta go! Gotta go!
Gregory has been hearing those voices ever since he picked up his father's pastimes in grade school. Selected by the Washington Bullets in the fourth round of the 1982 NBA draft out of Long Beach State, Dino Gregory Sr. tried to translate his basketball talents into a career before settling down as a Baltimore police officer.
When Dino Jr. was in sixth grade, his father began to teach him the work ethic necessary to be a success on the court, but Dino Jr. wasn't interested. The 6-foot-7, 227-pound bundle of energy Maryland fans will see tonight when the Terrapins take on Delaware State was not always so vivacious. Gregory has assumed an integral role for Maryland over the past few games thanks to a drive he did not always possess.
Focus! Clear your mind!
Dino Sr. would pull his car right up onto the outdoor court in Glen Burnie to oversee his son's development. Make six layups in a row at full speed and they could go home.
"He'd be crying and I'd be out there getting mad, saying: 'Let's go, Dino, let's go. Make 'em,' " Dino Sr. said. "And then we'd go home and we'd play chess."
At Long Beach State, Dino Sr. played under Tex Winter, who told each of his players to find some method of taking their mind off basketball before each game. Dino Sr. chose chess. To this day, he's not sure why. But it helped clear his mind, and so father passed another game along to son.
"I had to make him play at first, 'cause he didn't like it," Dino Sr. said. "But he loves chess now. When he learned to think about the next move, he got a whole lot better."
Don't settle! Create a niche for yourself!
Gregory sat out the final 16 games of his freshman season. He wasn't injured or disciplined. He was forgotten.
Throughout his prep career at Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore, Gregory said he felt the need to raise his effort during summer camps only when the competition level increased. During the winter high school season, Gregory didn't play as hard but still found success. His natural ability landed him a Division I scholarship, but his old work habits quickly proved insufficient once he arrived in College Park.
"Before the season started, my dad told me: 'The bench is real lonely back there. You've got to bring it every day.' And I really didn't understand what he was talking about, but toward the end of the season I saw that," Gregory said. "It was real frustrating. It got to a point where I thought I wasn't a good player myself. I was calling my dad every day saying: 'This is crazy; it's not working. I can't do anything. Why'd I come here?' "
Last spring, Gregory met with Pat Clatchey, his high school coach. Clatchey said he gave Gregory two choices: pack up and leave, or work hard and make it impossible for Williams to keep him on the bench.
"To his credit," Clatchey said, "he chose the latter."
Think Dennis Rodman!
Since the summer, his father has been imploring him to channel the former NBA star nicknamed "Dennis the Menace" for his peskiness around the boards.
Sunday night, Gregory played 27 minutes and grabbed nine rebounds, and the Terrapins finished with a 45-42 rebounding edge over the Colonials.
"They outrebounded us at the start tonight," Williams said afterward. "And Dino Gregory went in and that changed."
Terrapins Note: Sophomore forward Jerome Burney will miss three to six weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.