Terps freshman shows his skill at rebounding

Working out in the weight room in high school, Maryland basketball player Charles Mitchell was approached by a football coach from the University of Georgia, intrigued by his size and strength.

"They came up to me and went, 'Want to go play left tackle in college?'?" Mitchell recalled. "I was like, 'No I'm good. I'll stick with basketball.'?"

Those who have seen Mitchell play his first two games for the Terrapins are certain he made the right choice. The 6-foot-8, 262-pound freshman has demonstrated a knack for rebounding. In 37 minutes, he has 19 boards to go along with six points. The performance is evidence that Mitchell's 15 rebounds in 18 minutes in an exhibition against California (Pa.) were not just a case of Mitchell overpowering a Division II lightweight.

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It also helps explain the day in March in Atlanta when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon seemed happier about receiving the commitment from the mid-level prospect than he did about beating Wake Forest in the opening round of the ACC tournament.

"He just goes after it," Turgeon said. "He's got good feet. He's got some quickness to him. He doesn't accept block-outs, kinda has a nose for the ball, kinda has a feel for it. He just works at it."

Mitchell isn't a high-flyer. His rebounding success comes from a combination of his football-player build, quick feet and strong, sure hands. Mitchell said there's an effort component as well, crediting inspiration from J.J. Hickson of the Portland Trail Blazers, who ranks fourth in the NBA in rebounds (11.9 per game). Hickson preceded Mitchell by four years at Wheeler High in Marietta, Ga.

"J.J. Hickson always told me rebounding is gonna get you where you want to go. Rebounding will help out your team more than you think," Mitchell said. "He told me rebounding is an effort thing."

Effort was involved in Mitchell's stunning physical transformation. Last spring in the Capital Classic high school all-star game, Mitchell appeared out of shape, unable to keep up with the game's fast pace. But hard work with Maryland trainer Kyle Tarp and attention to diet has melted away 26 pounds.

"If you want to be the best, you gotta let some stuff go," Mitchell said. "You gotta get better every day."

While 6-9 Shaquille Cleare and 6-8 Jake Layman have done nothing to disappoint, Mitchell and guard Seth Allen have been the unexpected early stars of the Terps' freshman class. In addition, with his big personality, Mitchell has taken on a leadership role among his classmates, Turgeon said. The coach, however, is expecting to see more from Mitchell on the court.

"I don't think Charles is playing real well yet. I think he can really score the basketball around the basket. I think he can defend a lot better," Turgeon said. "I'm excited about his rebounding. But I think there's so much more to like about that kid. You'll see it as the year goes along."