On Saturday, the #3 Maryland Terrapins (14-1 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) will come to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers (9-7, 1-2). There’s no doubt that this will be an important game for Greg Gard and his team, but everybody knows who this game will mean the most to: Maryland freshman center Diamond Stone.

The Milwaukee (Dominican High School) native will be playing his first (and maybe only) game at the collegiate level at the Kohl Center. Many of Stone’s family members and friends will be present to see him play in Maryland’s first of two matchups this year against the Badgers.

“I’m just really excited to come back home and play in front of my family and friends,” Stone told the media in College Park on Thursday. “They’re going to be excited to see me play. I played in that arena in high school in the state championship game. Everyone is excited, so it should be a fun game.”

After a controversial decision to pick Maryland over his home school in Wisconsin, Stone returns to what he knows will be a rowdy and unforgiving crowd. Still, Stone told reporters that this game will not be any different than any other Big Ten game, and he is not treating it any differently.

“This is a regular Big Ten game to me,” Stone emphasized. “The only difference is that there’s going to be a lot of family and friends.”

In reference to playing against Wisconsin’s team, which has lost seven games already, Stone said he was especially excited “to play against Bronson [Koenig], Nigel [Hayes] and the whole Wisconsin team.” He should find some success against a Wisconsin team that has struggled against centers so far in Big Ten play, giving up 24 points and 7 rebounds to Purdue center A.J. Hammons and 10 points and 7 rebounds to Indiana center Thomas Bryant.

Stone has averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this season overall, but 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three Big Ten games so far. He put up 39 points and 12 rebounds last week against Penn State.

Many people still wonder why Stone chose Maryland over Wisconsin. Whether it be grades, Under Armour, or whatever other reason people have come up with, Stone stood by one answer on Thursday. He was asked if he came to Maryland because of the recent and imminent success the program would have this season.

“Yes, that’s the main reason why I picked Maryland, because first of all you have a great point guard in Melo Trimble,” Stone responded. “He’s probably the best point guard I’ve ever played with. His vision is just off the charts, he makes plays and he does a lot for the team. I didn’t know Rasheed (Sulaimon) was going to be coming here so that was kind of a surprise. Anyone on our bench can play in the game, and that’s what I wanted to be around a championship contender. I wanted to win games.”

Special thanks to Maryland Senior Associate Athletics Director of Media Relations and Strategic Communications Zack Bolno, who shared audio and quotes with me from Thursday’s media availability in College Park.

Photo: Baltimore Sun