COLLEGE PARK -- Much of this is uncharted territory for Maryland guard Jaylen Brantley. He came from junior college, where he played nearly every minute. High school? Same thing.
Now, he entered Tuesday's game against Bowie State having played a combined total of 11 minutes over the past nine games. That includes not registering any time on the floor at all in four of those contests. But then he got his opportunity.
With head coach Mark Turgeon wanting to put starters Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon on a pitch count against the Division II Bulldogs, Brantley played 21 minutes and scored 11 points, including 2-of-4 shooting from three-point range.
“It’s a confidence booster for me,” he said after the game. “It gives Coach [Mark] Turgeon confidence in me to see I’m ready to play with the guys, so I think it was good.
“Basketball’s all about confidence, so if I play good today, I’m going to have enough confidence on Saturday [versus Wisconsin] if he puts me in. I’m ready to just go.”
“You hope it gives him confidence moving forward. I think every game is different,” Turgeon said. “Every situation is different, but I do think that Jaylen played with a lot of confidence on offense and he’s a guy that can score points, which is nice to see.”
A confident Jaylen Brantley -- and, additionally, a coach who is confident enough in him to insert him into the game -- changes a lot for Maryland.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Trimble and Sulaimon were routinely forced to play 35 minutes or more as the only two consistent ball handlers on the team. Brantley shows when he is in the game that perhaps defensive pressure can trip him up, but he is more than capable as a penetrator who can dish to the team’s talented big men for easy scores.
Even if he is able to take 10 total minutes off of the shoulders of Trimble and Sulaimon, that changes the rotation for the better as tournament time approaches. That could involve him playing as the lone ball handler or, more likely, alongside Trimble or Sulaimon while the other gets a breather.
The cumulative effect of overuse shows itself more in tournament play and Brantley’s presence could fend off the most serious issues.
“When you have two and three guards on the court at the same time, it can really put a lot of pressure on the defense,” Sulaimon said. “It’s definitely something that, going forward, we’re looking forward, hoping that can happen more often.”