Shaquille Cleare will make his second career start Sunday at Miami, meaning that, for the fourth straight game, senior James Padgett will come off the bench.
Originally, Padgett became a reserve to give freshman Charles Mitchell an opportunity in the starting lineup. Going up against a physical Hurricanes front court, however, Cleare will slot in at center and Alex Len will move to power forward.
A quiet senior leader, Padgett’s minutes have steadily reduced since he began coming off the bench. He’s averaged just 15 minutes over the past four games, never logging more than 16.
It was long expected that Padgett’s playing time would decrease as Mitchell and Cleare progressed, but he still remains an effective role player with little pomp and pageantry. Padgett averages 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, but is shooting 63.2 percent from the field and improved his free throw percentage by around 11 percent dating back to last season.
Though Padgett’s offensive chances are few and far between – he’s on pace to have almost 122 field goals through 32 games, 76 less than last season – he’s also become adept at drawing contact. Seven of his 25 trips to the free throw line are and-ones.
Now, Padgett provides a reliable option off the bench. He’ll provide solid minutes each game, likely less than 20, and will make a majority of his field goal attempts while taking up space and crashing the boards. Since the Lafayette game on Nov. 20, when Padgett went 6 for 7 from the field, he’s attempted more than five field goals just once.
“It’s a long season,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “I told James not to accept anything. The first game he didn’t start, had his best game of the year and really played well.”
Turgeon also pointed to Padgett’s history against Miami. Last season, he averaged 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds over 23.5 minutes in two games, shooting a combined 10 for 14 from the field.
But Maryland hasn’t run its secondary break efficiently, Turgeon said, which has caused breakdowns in its screen/roll and motion principles, in turn affecting Padgett’s ability to get post-ups or slip passes.
“When he touches it he’s really good,” Turgeon said. “His attitude’s good, he works hard. We all like James, we all know what he can do, just want him to compete a little more in games, that’s what’s important. Just last go-around, compete a little harder. I think he’s handling it well.”