Maryland assistant coach Dalonte Hill pulled Nick Faust to the side while the freshman made his way down the bench, presumably to offer mild words of encouragement following a dynamic blown dunk from the 6-foot-5 guard. Hill palmed Fausts neck, spoke briefly in his ear, then let him continue to his seat.
Faust planted himself in the padded ACC chair and looked up, a grin fixed on his face, Hills words or his own harmless failure still fresh in his mind.Ten seconds later there was a media timeout and Faust rushed to the scorers table to check back in.
Missed dunk or not, the Terrapins needed their newfound point guard back in the game.And he was more than happy to be there.
The coming-of-age for Nick Faust has not arrived yet. He rushes the action at times, he suffers from freshman hiccups of concentration on defense and, ultimately, he is still adjusting to life as the quarterback of an ACC team. But all of that noise falls on deaf ears when he puts together a game like he did against the ninth-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Thursday.
His numbers on Thursday against Wake Forest19 points, five rebounds, two assists in his teams 82-60 winprove that hes starting to get the hang of things. Senior guard Sean Mosley called it Fausts finest game of the year, and not many would disagree.
He got his rhythm early driving the ball, which hes so good at. And once he started making some free throws, his jumper started falling, Mosley said. He got all the guys involved, it was a big game for him.
Big games are becoming more of the rule than the exception for Faust, a Baltimore, Md., native who first committed to Gary Williams before the legendary former Maryland coach walked away from basketball in the offseason. In the retirements wake, Williams left new coach Mark Turgeon an incomer who could potentially change the course of the program. And perhaps changes are coming, just a little later than recruiting gurus hyped.
Faust entered with potential, but not polish. He was likened to Stephen Curry out of high school, but could not seem to match that undeniable effectiveness of the former Davidson star. For a guy who was touted as a killer on offense and the No. 50 overall recruit in the country, scoring in double figures just five times in his first 21 games was not enough. Turgeon blamed the issue on coaching, but Faust is mature enough to dismiss that notion.
At the beginning of the season, I felt like I was more passive, more tentative. I didnt know what to do, Faust said. I think it was just a maturity thing. It was really just me, my personal feelings.
Wake Forest had no answer for the Terrapins talented backcourt, pouring in bucket after bucket as Faust accented every point with his own style.He saluted after a made basket. He wagged his tongue at opposing point guards when his teammates made shots. He offered high-fives to anyone who would give him the time of day when things were going.
Some might call that style of play immature, but with Faust its more the innocent vitality of youth, and that contagious smile wore off on everyone in Phillips Arena except Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Bzdelik made it clear at the tournaments practice day that he expected ACC leading scorer Terrell Stoglin to get his points, but that he simply wanted his team to prevent other players to have All-Star nights. That gameplan might have worked a little better without Faust on the floor, who takes the ceiling of this Maryland team to much greater heights.His aggressive play, including that high-flying missed dunk, set the tone for the second half: Maryland was going to attack.
Thats just me, you know. I know Im a player, I know Im gonna bounce back, said Faust, whose team will face North Carolina on Friday. I know its gonna come back to me, I dont really worry about plays. I know the next time Im gonna be fired up and Im gonna finish it."
When asked about his short conversation with Faust on the bench, Hill cracked his own smilethe punchline after that missed dunk replaying in his mind.
I told him I had my phone on me, Hill said. I told him, Call me if you scared.
That shouldnt be a problem.