Julian Reese plucked the ball off the court, fresh off of a pick-and-roll reception from Jahmir Young. Reese had only Binghamton guard Dan Petcash between him and the net as he peered ahead.
But Reese’s ferocity showed as he elevated and slammed the ball home — sending Petcash to the court.
The play was not the decisive score in Maryland men’s basketball’s 76-52 romp of the Bearcats, but the dunk felt indicative of the potential the sophomore displayed as the No. 1 class of 2021 recruit in Maryland.
Coach Kevin Willard has taken notice of his starting forward’s strong play and his newfound rugged approach.
“[Reese] is playing a lot more physical, his duck-ins are getting more physical, I think he’s embracing physicality a little bit,” Willard said. “He’s not shying away from it, [which] is something I saw last year.”
Because of the added physicality, Reese has been able to attain better post positioning and has drawn more fouls, Willard said. The forward has shot 9-of-12 from the charity stripe in three games.
“This is what I see everyday in practice, so this is not surprising to me,” Willard said. “I do think he should have more assists, I think he’s got that ability … he does it in practice.”
Reese lit up Binghamton and Western Carolina for 38 points on 15-of-18 shooting and 19 rebounds combined. According to KenPom, he has the 14th best offensive rating among players used on at least 20 percent of possessions in the country. KenPom’s offensive rating metric measures a player’s efficiency by dividing points produced by possessions used.
Reese’s recent success came after a frustrating opening night performance from the sophomore that saw him with no shot attempts in the first half. He’d finished with seven points and rebounds in 26 minutes.
“I can definitely tell the difference within the stats and on the court,” he said. “First game, I didn’t really do those type of things … we took that into [account], and I made sure I did it the next game.”
With added opportunities in his next two games, Reese has thrived, even with the fourth most minutes among Maryland’s starters.
While the Terps’ faced a mediocre opening trio of opponents, Reese has already shown growth from his freshman season where he put up 5.7 points per game and 4.4 rebounds in a reserve role.
The first major test for the sophomore will come this weekend at the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament as Maryland matches up against larger schools for the first time this season.
Either way, Reese is a different player, in part due to increased belief in himself.
“I’m more confident out there,” Reese said. “I’m growing as a player.”