Lindo, whose physical development this offseason has perhaps been overshadowed by that of his fellow sophomores with similar transformations, quickly registered a block to breathe some life into his top-10 team, which had been lacking poise against the Atlantic 10 foe. But soon after, Lindo tried to pass to Darryl Morsell, who wasn’t looking, and picked up a silly turnover. Lindo, visibly frustrated, later hit a three-pointer, something he did only twice last season, but then missed a layup and was subbed out after about five minutes of play.
Lindo then stayed glued to his seat — apart from a little more than one minute to close the first half and another minute during the second. Coach Mark Turgeon asked him after the game whether he knew why he didn’t come back in. (Eleven Terps played in what became a dominant 73-55 win.) Lindo wasn’t sure. Turgeon told the 19-year-old he didn’t play because of his poor body language, an oft-discussed piece of the game that doesn’t show up in the box score but coaches always emphasize.
“So he’s changed it,” Turgeon said Tuesday after Maryland’s win over Fairfield. “Once he changed that — because he’s so hard on himself — he’s become a better player.”
Lindo reaped the reward in its fullest form against Fairfield. Though Lindo’s role centers on defense, the forward picked up a career-high 13 points. As part of the rotation last season, Lindo never reached double digits. He also grabbed seven rebounds and played 21 minutes against the Stags, his most time on the court this season. He made all six of his shots; last season, he never attempted more than four in a game.
When asked whether this was the best performance of his college career, Lindo said, “The season’s not over, so I don’t know yet.” He then admitted that, yes, so far, he does consider this his best game.
Lindo can hold onto the confidence boost as the Terps’ competition picks up, starting with Friday’s game against George Mason and then a Thanksgiving tournament in Orlando with quality opponents. While Turgeon begins solidifying his group, Lindo should remain part of Maryland’s rotation as long as he keeps trusting his role. Turgeon wants the 6-foot-8 sophomore to play defense, grab all the rebounds he can and let his teammates take care of what Maryland needs offensively.
“We’ve got enough scoring,” Turgeon said after the season opener. “We’ve talked about that. If he can offensive rebound for buckets and hit a wide-open three every now and then, that’s going to help. He’s worked so hard on his offense. I think he worries sometimes too much about trying to score than just being who he is.”
The message Turgeon has preached to Lindo is that if he plays within his role, his offense will come. But that doesn’t need to be Lindo’s focus. Perhaps Lindo understood that before Tuesday, but now he has a reference point: Lindo did what was asked of him against Fairfield; he got to stay on the court; he scored 13 points; and the Maryland team, Turgeon and Lindo all left happy.
“Once Coach Turgeon told me what I need to do, what he wants me to do . . . executing that tonight really feels good,” Lindo said with a smile. “Makes me want to keep doing it for the rest of the season.”
Lindo arrived in College Park as a 17-year-old, still developing, still learning. He initially planned to spend a postgraduate year at prep school, but then Maryland offered Lindo a scholarship, needing depth following the departure of Schnider Herard. After joining the team in August, Lindo had to play catch-up well into the season.
But Lindo’s confidence grew and so did his playing time, and he finally established himself as a solid option off the bench. From the beginning of January until mid-February, Lindo played nearly 16 minutes a game, rarely scoring but helping in other ways. His contributions dwindled late in the campaign, during the matchups that mattered most. Lindo played just six minutes in each of Maryland’s three postseason games.
Lindo added 35 pounds in a year, suddenly looking much more like a Big Ten basketball player than a lanky senior at Wilson High in the District. He’s worked on shooting and can hit an occasional three-pointer. But the most meaningful development will come if he continues to understand and embrace the version of Ricky Lindo Jr. that Turgeon wants him to be.
“Sometimes when freshmen become sophomores, they think they need to be somebody else,” Turgeon said. “And he just needs to be Ricky. If he’s Ricky, the rest will take care of itself.”