Gameday Feature: John Auslander
Feb. 7, 2012
This story appeared in the January edition of the Maryland Gameday program.
By Taylor Smyth, Maryland Athletics Media Relations
At the end of last summer, John Auslander was given the prize that every walk-on in college basketball covets: a scholarship. When head coach Mark Turgeon presented him with the news, Auslander soaked in the accomplishment, his hard work and dedication to the sport that he loves finally realized.
But even after such a tremendous accomplishment, Auslander's first thoughts were not of himself, but of his parents.
"I'm just happy to be able to help them with the money situation," Auslander said. "I have two other brothers who have to go to school and I'm happy to be able to help out."
That unselfish attitude, along with high-energy play and a strong basketball IQ, have been an asset to a Maryland team lacking in front-court depth. With the losses of Jordan Williams to the NBA and Dino Gregory to graduation, along with the early-season suspension of freshman center Alex Len, Turgeon was forced to rely on many unproven commodities to fill minutes in the Terps' rotation early in the year.
One of the surprises has been Auslander, whose steady play has been noticed by his fellow teammates, fans and most importantly his head coach.
"John does everything right," Turgeon said after Auslander's six-point performance versus Florida Gulf-Coast. "He's in the right position and he knows every play. He understands how to play the game. We're teaching other guys how to play the game right now and they can learn from John. He gave a lot of guys confidence."
For the 6-foot-7 forward, playing at Maryland has been something of a lifelong dream. Auslander's parents are both Maryland grads and have been taking John to Terrapin games his entire life. Even though playing for his childhood team may be a dream scenario, Auslander has been able to stay grounded, and keep his opportunity in proper perspective.
"I'll probably look back at it more when I'm older, but right now, I'm just trying to just stay even keeled, just keep working hard and getting better."
Perspective is something Auslander had to keep throughout his long, unorthodox journey to Maryland. A native of Herndon, Va., Auslander starred at Herndon High School before playing one year of prep-school ball at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Md., where he was named the team's Most Valuable Player.
After surveying his college options, Auslander decided on Division III Greensboro College. He played one year for the Pride, averaging 1.4 points a game in 7.4 minutes, and while he worked hard to help the team, Auslander believed he could contribute more in a different situation.
"I started off at Greensboro and at the time it was the right place for me, but as the year went on I wasn't happy," said Auslander. "I was looking at schools, going and working out at places and I ended up playing pickup at Comcast. I liked it, I wanted to try and walk-on and eventually I was brought up last year."
Once a member of the Maryland roster, Auslander had to overcome major adversity over the past year to not only guarantee his spot on the team, but also gain the scholarship that Turgeon mentioned as a possibility.
During summer workouts, he started to experience serious lower back pain, and was subsequently diagnosed with two herniated disks. Knowing that he had to continue to improve in order to achieve a place in the Terps' rotation, Auslander worked through the pain and was rewarded by Turgeon with his scholarship. That meant Auslander could get surgery without worrying about his place on the roster, and he was cleared to play again in late September.
Basketball is something Auslander does not only want to play, but also teach. The basketball IQ that his head coach praised so highly at the beginning of the season is a skill Auslander wants to parlay into a career. Studying game film is an activity some players dread, but one that Auslander craves as he continues to learn about the finer points of the game. He credits coaches from every point in his career for helping him form a philosophy he will use when he starts his coaching career.
"I eventually want to try and coach, so I have always been a student of the game," Auslander said. "I have been preached this stuff since I was young and I have a knack to pick up on it real quick, and really buy into things and work hard to get it right."
If his intelligence and demeanor on the basketball court are any indication, Auslander has the makings of a coach that will not only be able to teach his players, but also provide them with the energy and motivation to be successful. For now though, Auslander is focused on making the 2011-2012 Maryland Terrapins the best team it can be, and all indications are that the hard working, lifetime Maryland fan who found his way from a Division III school to a scholarship on an ACC team will let nothing stop him.
"I just want to help push everybody to get better," Auslander said. "If somebody needs help with something, try to be a leader if possible. Lead by example and just bring energy every day."