The Maryland Terrapins have been playing in their new arena for only a few months, but senior forward Tahj Holden said he is right at home at Comcast Center.
"I'm always here," he said. "It feels a little more cozy than my room sometimes, because it is cleaner. The only thing they don't have here is a kitchen."
Holden said he enjoys amenities such as the players' lounge, which includes a big screen television and satellite television. But Holden has had some awkward moments on the building's court this season.
Holden struggled to find his way when he joined the starting lineup, replacing Chris Wilcox, the eighth overall pick in last year's NBA draft. But after missing several days of practice and one game to attend the funerals of an uncle and an aunt in late December, Holden has played well as a reserve.
He is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Terrapins' 89-62 rout of Florida State on Saturday.
"I was just comfortable," Holden said. "I went out there and did the things I'm comfortable doing. It's not like I did anything special."
As No. 17 Maryland prepares for games Wednesday at No. 19 Wake Forest and Saturday against No. 1 Duke, there seems to be little question that Holden's play is critical to the team's success. With freshman Travis Garrison and junior college transfer Jamar Smith adapting to a higher level of play, the Terrapins are relying on Holden and center Ryan Randle to perform inside.
Randle has been one of the ACC's more pleasant surprises, averaging 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Holden, though, has been plagued with inconsistency, leading Coach Gary Williams to wonder if the four-year contributor might be more comfortable coming off the bench. In the four games since Garrison replaced him in the starting lineup, Holden has averaged 9.5 points and shot nearly 50 percent.
"I'm comfortable playing whether it is starting or coming off the bench," Holden said. "I'm going to play the same amount of minutes either way."
Williams has stressed that he is concerned with who starts each game, but he has said that having Holden as a reserve is beneficial because it gives the coach an experienced option if things do not go well from the start. Also, Williams said, it prevents Holden from picking up cheap fouls at the beginning of a game, ones that might prevent him from being available in the closing minutes.
"With Tahj, you have to look past the stats, I've always felt that with him," Williams said. "He is probably the best position defender out of our post players -- he can play a relatively quick forward or a power center. And he knows the offense. We run better offense and play better team defense with Tahj in there. That doesn't show up in the stats."
Holden is averaging 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. Still, he said he knows that many fans and observers expect more from a player who is 6 feet 10, has the bulk to play inside and the range to shoot three-pointers. Holden, a career 43 percent shooter from three-point range, said he would not want it any other way.
"I want people to think of me as a really good player and them to be disappointed if I do play badly -- then I'm disappointed in myself because I have those same expectations," said Holden, who is president of Maryland's Student-Athlete Advisory Council. "I think a lot of people expected me and this team to be something that we're not. We're not last year's team. We're not the guys from last year's team. For us to be successful, we have to know that as well. We have to go out and do the things we're capable of doing."
Note: Wake Forest guard Justin Gray was scheduled to have surgery last night for a fractured jaw suffered in Sunday's loss to Duke and is highly unlikely to play Wednesday. Gray, who started in the Demon Deacons' first 10 games, is averaging 10.5 points and four assists per game.