October 19, 2012
By David Driver
For the The Times
Used with permission
As a young boy John Auslander would make the trip with his family from Northern Virginia to Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland.
His parents, Christine and Bill Auslander, graduated from the school in the 1980s and their son grew up as a fan of the Terps.
Auslander recalls attending men’s basketball games and watching Juan Dixon, who helped lead Maryland to the NCAA national title in 2002.
A decade later, Auslander, a 2008 graduate of Herndon High School, is living a dream as he prepares for his second season on Maryland’s roster. A former Division III player at Greensboro, he practiced with the team but did not play during the 2010-11 season under former head coach Gary Williams.
“The transition was crazy. I put so much effort into it,” said Auslander, who trained for five hours per day, six days per week during the summer of 2011. “I just wanted to get better. I felt I could play at this level.”
The hard work paid off. Last season under new head coach Mark Turgeon, the 6-foot-7, 225-pounder saw action in eight of the first nine games while Alex Len, a 7-footer from Ukraine, was sitting out due to NCAA regulations. Auslander played a season-high 20 minutes and had six points against Florida Gulf Coast.
“It was a great experience,” said Auslander, who played for Chris Whelan at Herndon. “Coach called on me to be ready. I made the most of my opportunity. It was great to contribute.”
Len returned to the lineup in late December and after that Auslander played in just six games the rest of the season. But he played in the last four games of the season against ACC foes North Carolina (twice), Virginia and Wake Forest.
“Every player has a role,” he said. “I embraced the role.”
Auslander came off the bench in 14 games last season and totaled 14 points and eight rebounds in 92 minutes of action. Maryland begins this season Nov. 9 against defending NCAA champion Kentucky in Brooklyn at the new home of the NBA’s Nets.
“I just want to help the team and take on more of a leadership role,” Auslander said. “I think it’s important that I start being more vocal and helping guys, because I do know what coach [Turgeon] wants: help them understand the principles that we’re trying to instill, and just keep bringing it in practice with energy. Coach wants me to be more of a leader.”
Turgeon noted the leadership role of Auslander during media day at the school Oct. 9. Although Auslander may not be a star for the team, he is a vital cog.
“He has tremendous respect in our locker room. He is a leader every day for us,” said Turgeon, who came to Maryland from Texas A&M. “He has leadership abilities.”
How does Auslander view himself as a leader?
“The biggest thing is knowledge of the game,” Auslander said. “If you understand what coach wants and it’s instinctual to you, the guys can see it. Also, if you’re bringing it every day, and also trying to get others to bring it, it’s huge. I think it’s rubbed off, and people have started to respect my opinions.”
After graduating from Herndon, he was the most valuable player at West Nottingham Academy in Maryland during the 2008-09 season and then played one year at Greensboro, where he averaged less than eight minutes and two points per contest.
Auslander is the oldest of four children and his brother, Kent, played basketball for Herndon High last season. John Auslander was high school teammates with Austin Hamilton, who played last season as a freshman at Division I Elon in North Carolina.
Auslander is not sure how much playing time he will see this coming season.
“I have no idea right now,” he said. “I am working as hard as I can. I am trying to do the best that I can.”