After entering the season with high expectations, Jordan Geronimo, much like Maryland men’s basketball, stagnated to start the year.
The Indiana transfer averaged just three points and 3.5 rebounds, shooting 30.8 percent from the field as the Terps got off to a 1-3 record. The forward didn’t make multiple shots from the floor in any of his first four games, a stretch he capped with a two-point, one-for-nine outing in a loss at Villanova.
But in Maryland’s last two games, Geronimo has begun to show why coach Kevin Willard labeled him a “game-changer” before the season. The redshirt junior has averaged 11.5 points and seven rebounds on 63.6 percent shooting in the wins while tallying three steals and a block.
Though the two games — against UMBC and South Alabama — were against the opponents that Maryland was heavily favored to beat, Geronimo’s impact was key for the Terps. As the season goes on and Maryland meets with Big Ten foes, his play on both ends of the court could prove to be a major factor for Willard’s squad.
“I think Jordan’s getting used to the way we play,” Willard said. “We play totally different than what Indiana does, so I think early on a lot of his mistakes, a lot of my mistakes with him were just game slippage, [him] going back to what he’s been playing for three years.”
Geronimo’s decision-making revealed the differences between Maryland and Indiana’s systems early on. The former Hoosier resorted to his former team’s strategy to guard pick and rolls, Willard said, adding that Geronimo also occasionally switched on defense at the wrong times.
But Geronimo cleaned it up, with Willard calling him Maryland’s best defender on the court in the Terps’ 68-55 win over South Alabama on Saturday.
Geronimo displayed his physicality and athleticism on both ends of the floor. He showcased his vertical leap with blocks and dunks. Those are among the assets that have allowed Geronimo to find his fit with Maryland after the early struggles.
“At Maryland, we play more fast, just up and down,” Geronimo said. “We press obviously, so [we] apply more pressure in the backcourt. At Indiana, I would say we play more half-court, we ran a lot more sets.”
Willard said he sees Geronimo as someone who thrives within the flow of the offense.
The forward did so on Saturday, frequently finding holes in the South Alabama zone and tallying 14 points — his highest since the 2021-22 season.
“[Geronimo is] finding his flow, finding his rhythm. He’s out there a lot, so [he’s] just finding his spots and being able to contribute,” fifth-year guard Jahmir Young said. “Just getting himself going on the defensive end first and then me and all the rest of the floor generals find him when he’s open.”
Geronimo started Maryland’s first two games before moving to the bench. Willard, still looking for the Terps’ optimal lineups, re-inserted him into the starting five for each of the last two games: Geronimo’s best of the year.
He’s worked well alongside Donta Scott and Julian Reese in Maryland’s frontcourt as a high-level defender who has used his athleticism in the flow of the Terps’ offense.
“Seeing that frontline kind of work well together has been fun the last couple games,” Willard said. “I’m getting a lot of confidence in what Jordan’s doing down there, especially defensively … [Geronimo, Reese and Scott] got good size, they’re rebounding the ball well, they’re doing a lot of good things.”
While encouraging, Geronimo’s strong play has come against some of the worst teams Maryland will play this year. Tuesday’s game against Rider will be another.
But Geronimo and the Terps will get to measure themselves on Friday in a homecoming when they travel to Indiana for a huge early-season test.