Season recap: James Padgett
James Padgett has always been a man of few words.
The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln power forward famously told one Maryland recruiting site that his official visit to College Park was “fair,” just days before committing to UM.
But Padgett took his strong-and-silent persona to another level last December, according to Lincoln head coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton.
“The most important part of his senior year was when he got injured,” Morton said. “He sprained his ankle ... [when he] went up for a dunk and came down awkwardly before the game started. ... We were playing Duncanville (Texas) on TV and he didn’t even tell anybody [he sprained his ankle]. But he kept working, kept playing and didn’t quit.”
The Railsplitters suffered a 77-57 loss that day, but Morton said what stood out most about the game was Padgett’s toughness.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder was slowed by the ankle injury for much of his senior year, but he played through the pain. Lincoln hit its stride once his health improved. While Maryland target and five-star shooting guard Lance Stephenson drew all the accolades for turning in 30-point performances on a nightly basis, Padgett did the oft-overlooked dirty work in the post.
“He did a great job,” Morton said. “He had a great end to his senior year. He probably averaged 18 [points] and 12 [rebounds] in the playoffs. He made a couple All-City first teams and we won our fourth city championship in a row. ... He brought a lot of leadership. He always kind of led quietly by example.”
After the season, Padgett faced a minor dilemma. NCAA rules permit student-athletes to participate in no more than two postseason all-star games. Earlier this year, Padgett was picked to play in the Jordan Brand Classic Regional All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. The event was Padgett's last chance to play on his hometown’s biggest stage.
But when Padgett was invited to play in the Charm City Challenge at the Towson Center and the Capital Classic at American University’s Bender Arena, the decision was simple.
“When I heard about [those all-star games], I thought it was a great situation for Padgett,” Morton said. “I know he wants to get used to playing in front of the Maryland fans and they’re not used to seeing him. So I was kind of happy he got used to playing down there.”
At Charm City, Padgett earned MVP honors, scoring 22 points on 11-for-13 shooting. Four days later in Washington, Padgett contributed four points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Both all-star game performances ramped up expectations for Padgett among Maryland fans, but Morton said that’s fine. He expects Padgett to go about his business as usual upon arrival in College Park.
“He just has to play to his potential,” Morton said. “I don’t think they’re going to push him too hard, expecting too much from him. They love his potential, which I’m happy about. ... I think once he gets down there and gets his strength together, he’s going to be OK.”