University of Maryland sophomore guard Kevin McLinton would be the first to admit his style of basketball rarely places him in the limelight.

"Defensive players rarely get noticed. People will say 'Kevin doesn't score any points,' but I don't worry about scoring," the 6-foot-4, 203-pound McLinton said. "I know offense puts folks in the stands, but defense wins games. You have to be aggressive and determined to play defense and I enjoy doing that. I'm not trying to impress anyone. As long as my coach, my teammates and my family appreciate what I'm doing out there, I'm satisfied."

Certainly, no one connected with the Terrapins basketball program is complaining about McLinton's performance this season. Because of his tenacity on defense, an unselfish attitude and the ability to handle the ball, McLinton has become a starter, ironically at shooting guard.

On most teams, he'd be the designated perimeter shooter, but McLinton is averaging only 7 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Instead, he often acts as the setup man for point guard Walt Williams (19.7 points per game) and swing man Matt Roe (15.7). McLinton's scoring average is the lowest among the starters.

"If Kevin gets nine, 10 points, that's fine. He doesn't have to score for us," Coach Gary Williams said. "He does so many other things that don't get attention. The reason he's starting now is because he handles the ball so well and can take some of the pressure off Walt. And he is such a good defensive player. He takes the challenge of stopping the other team's best scoring guard."

A football and basketball star at Springbrook High School, McLinton says he has always enjoyed his role as a defensive specialist. McLinton's father, Harold, was the starting middle linebacker for the Redskins -- under George Allen -- who was killed in a car accident in 1980.

Kevin chose basketball over football thinking he could play on the Division I level. He ignored the turmoil that surrounded the basketball program and signed with Maryland because he always liked College Park and was impressed with then-coach Bob Wade. But the thought of playing both sports was nothing more than a passing fancy.

"Maybe when I'm an old man, I'll ask myself 'What if?' " said McLinton, who had season highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds against West Virginia. "Right now, I have no interest in playing two sports. It's too difficult. I came here because I liked the school. I have no regrets. I'm comfortable with what I'm doing right now."

Despite some deficiencies last year, McLinton was starting to fit in with his teammates and Gary Williams's new system when he suffered a stress fracture of his left leg. He spent the remainder of the spring and the summer rehabilitating his injury and didn't play full time until mid-August.

"I worked on drills, played a couple of pickup games in the summer but nothing major. I didn't want to risk anything," McLinton said. "My leg is fine now, no problems."

Williams said having McLinton in the lineup allows him the freedom to experiment with his top scorers.

"He gets the ball to the right people. I saw signs of him coming around last year before he broke his leg," Williams said. "He has been very consistent this season and if he continues to improve his ball-handling and work at the same level he is now, he'll be a fine player. His scoring will come in time. Besides, very few new players come in scoring a lot of points."

Walt Williams also is appreciative of his backcourt mate's abilities.

"I'm not surprised at Kevin's contributions, he is a fine player," Walt Williams said. "He played well last year, started a few games {three of the six he played}. He is a great defensive player, he can handle the ball and he can score if he has to. I think he will continue to surprise people."

Maryland probably will need another good defensive effort from McLinton Saturday when the Terrapins (3-3) play Lafayette (3-3) at Cole Field House at 1 p.m. The Leopards' leading scorer is guard Bruce Stankavage (15.5).

"I'll look at the tapes of the guy I'm guarding and see what he does best," said McLinton. "Then, I'll try to take advantage of his weaknesses."