With about five-and-a-half minutes left in Maryland men’s basketball’s 82-60 win over Gardner-Webb, the players at the end of the Terps’ bench jumped and entered their usual celebration of a teammate’s reverse layup.

The group of walk-ons mimed maneuvering the ball around defenders and posed with their arms arched toward the sky as if they’d just released it.

But unlike most other bench celebrations over the past two seasons, forward Joshua Tomaic wasn’t there to participate. Instead, he was retreating back to defense after scoring the bucket that sparked the burst from the teammates he usually spends entire games sitting next to.

Injuries and foul trouble forced Tomaic into the first significant minutes of his career, and the redshirt freshman delivered with a career-best nine points and six rebounds.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team who deserve to play who don’t really get the minutes they want,” guard Kevin Huerter said. “Josh got his opportunity today with foul trouble and he was ready to play. He’s been really good in practice for us, so I was happy to see him carry it over.”

[Read more: Maryland men’s basketball beats Gardner-Webb, 82-60, despite thin frontcourt]

Tomaic redshirted last season and played just 17 minutes entering Saturday, entering during garbage time as one of the deepest players on coach Mark Turgeon’s bench.

But Saturday, with forwards Justin Jackson and Bruno Fernando unavailable — with an illness and sprained ankle, respectively — and two other big men in foul trouble, Tomaic entered midway through the first half with Maryland leading by just eight points.

Shortly after, the Canary Islands native found himself wide open in the corner and nailed the second 3-pointer of his career, showing intriguing range for a 6-foot-9 post player. While shooting has always been a part of Tomaic’s game, the team was at a consensus that he is one of the squad’s hardest workers.

“He’s usually one of the first ones in the gym, one of the last ones to leave,” guard Darryl Morsell said. “He stays with [Director of Basketball Performance] Kyle Tarp after and gets stronger, works on some of his weaknesses.”

Tomaic’s emphasis in the weight room has helped him transform his body and has made him one of Tarp’s favorite players, Huerter said.

His drive comes from his time at the Canarias Basketball Academy, where he watched players who went on to play professionally.

[Read more: Maryland basketball forward Bruno Fernando suffers right ankle sprain]

“They always worked hard before practice and after practice,” Tomaic said. “It led to results, so you can really see how they developed because they did extra. That really is my motto. My high school coach always told me I need to live in the gym if I want to get somewhere.”

Turgeon said Tomaic’s performance offered a glimpse into his bright future over his next three-plus years in College Park. But he admitted once Maryland returns to full strength, Tomaic’s minutes might dwindle back to nearly zero, reiterating his belief that the talent on his roster crowds out capable players.

“It’s easy when you’re sitting here after the game and [you say], ‘Oh well, maybe against Penn State we’ll put Josh in there,’ but in the heat of the moment it gets difficult,” Turgeon said. “He’s going to help our program in the future. Immediate future? I don’t know yet.”

Still, it was a welcome opportunity for a player the team feels had earned it.

“I see his work. When he came in today, it gave us a good spark off the bench,” Morsell said. “It’s all paying off.”