COLLEGE PARK -- It’s remarkable how skilled Maryland freshman Diamond Stone is offensively at this point in his young career. And he’s only going to get better.
Even over the last two games, his development has seemed to pick up as he was shifted to a sixth man role and responded with back-to-back 16-point games in two Maryland victories.
Credit some of that to the players he has around him, with defensive-minded junior Damonte Dodd entering the starting lineup -- taking the pressure off of Dodd when he enters the game because he can now be paired with sophomore Michal Cekovsky or with Dodd himself.
Dodd, who came in like Stone as a player who contributed far more on one end of the floor than the other, speaks with the freshman regularly -- both in games and in practice. As good as he is offensively, his defense still needs work, and he knows that.
“Defense is just all about effort,” Dodd will say to Stone. “If you just give max effort on defense and just try to get every rebound and just try to be in the right places, you can have a chance to make a lot of money.”
To begin the season, head coach Mark Turgeon said that being in the starting lineup “means a lot” to the freshman. Perhaps that is why he was so consistently a starter, though he was paired with another offensive force in Robert Carter, Jr. while the bench went through dry spells when Dodd and Cekovsky were on the floor simultaneously.
Now, the tune has changed in favor of pragmatism and it has worked.
“He’s going to do what I tell him to do,” Turgeon said. “I do think that he enjoys challenges and he’s being challenged a little bit, but he does seem very comfortable.
“Long as he’s productive and he’s going to play well, he’s going to probably play the same amount of minutes whether he’s starting or not starting.”
Turgeon went on to praise the freshman, saying there is an extra hurdle he must clear in the sense that there are no other young players around him traveling along the same development curve.
The only other true newcomer, Jaylen Brantley, is 21 years old and has college experience at the junior college level already.
“Me and Rob, we just try to talk to him because we’ve been through there so we have to tell him where to be at because offensively you can see he can score the basketball,” Dodd went on to say of Stone. “So he’s just got to come defensively and once he comes defensively, he’ll be an outstanding player.”