Landon Milbourne Developing Into Inside Force for Maryland Men's Basketball Team

Maryland forward Landon Milbourne will square off with bigger opponents again tonight when the Terps take on Virginia.
Maryland forward Landon Milbourne will square off with bigger opponents again tonight when the Terps take on Virginia. (By Rob Carr -- Associated Press)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Landon Milbourne draws you in with a soft voice that undermines his perpetually cold stare. He sits in a visiting locker room, leans forward with his forearms pressed against his thighs and looks off into another time and place, perhaps reliving the tale he is trying to tell.

His words barely register above a murmur. So you lean forward, too, trying to see what he sees by hearing what he has to say.

"I felt like I really didn't do my part in the Miami game," Milbourne said, referring to a game three days earlier in which he tallied eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a two-point Maryland loss. "I felt like I could have played a whole lot harder than I did."

This was in response to a question about his admirable performance earlier that day, when Milbourne shouldered the same burden he has all season, yet, for the first time, claimed it as his own. With the Terrapins desperately in need of some offensive reassurance and a road win in conference play, Milbourne embraced his plight like never before, outmaneuvering bigger and taller opponents to grab rebounds and score putbacks.

Milbourne took care of the first item on Maryland's wish list -- 17 points, six offensive rebounds -- but could not single-handedly deliver the second. The Terrapins (12-5, 1-2 ACC) dropped their third decision in four games, falling to Florida State, 76-73, in overtime.

"He tried to win the game for us," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "That's the best way I can put it 'cause we weren't shooting well, and we knew we had to get the ball back."

Undersized for his position at 6 feet 7 and 207 pounds, Milbourne has matched up against bigger and taller players all season. Tonight, when Maryland takes on Virginia (7-7, 1-2) at Comcast Center, will be no different. Milbourne likely will guard Mike Scott, who is better suited for post play at 6-8 and 233 pounds.

Williams entered this season understanding that his team lacked size and experience down low. His options were limited to raw prospects and unimposing veterans, and Milbourne, who had played as a swingman during his first two seasons at College Park, was asked to move to the interior.

Milbourne understood the team's need. Still, curiosity centered on how he would respond to such a transition. How quickly can mind and body reprogram to think and act like a larger player?

During the team's preseason media day, Milbourne proclaimed he was "ready" and that he didn't have any problem with playing in the post, though his early performances indicated otherwise.

Following a win over George Washington on Dec. 7, Milbourne admitted he frequently caught himself standing around down low and had collected "cheap" fouls by reaching instead of moving his feet. Over the next month, he honed in on the subtle aspects of an unfamiliar position. His statistics into early January were impressive, but they came against inferior opposition.

Beginning with a close win over Charlotte on Jan. 3, points and rebounds became increasingly difficult to compile. Foes were still bigger and taller than Milbourne, but they played with more savvy.

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