BALTIMORE (AP) -Jay Greene looks more like he should be carrying towels and water bottles than running the offense for the first-place team in the America East Conference.
At 5-foot-8, Greene doesn't make much of a first impression. But he's put up some impressive numbers as the starting point guard for Maryland-Baltimore County.
Greene is the only Division I player to be ranked in the top 10 in assists (7 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.36 to 1). He doesn't just dish off the ball, either - Greene scored 26 in a victory over Vermont and 21 against American.
``J.G. just controls everything,'' UMBC forward Darryl Proctor said. ``He's the backbone of this team.''
When Proctor first saw Greene, he couldn't imagine how this tiny guy was going to help the Retrievers win.
``Then, when I saw J.G. play, I was like, 'This dude, he's something else,''' Proctor said. ``He's got all you need. And his heart, it's crazy. We call him 'Go Hard.'''
He still gets it, especially when the 165-pound junior walks onto the floor in an opposing arena. The pattern rarely changes: The fans shout their insults, and Greene shuts them up.
It happened during road victories at Vermont, Richmond and LaSalle, and it even happened at Ohio State, when he had 14 points and nine assists in a closer-than-expected 92-83 defeat.
``I'm sure people look at me and don't think I can do what I do,'' Greene said. ``I've worked hard to get where I'm at, and I'm not backing down from anybody.''
Greene can't remember when he played against athletes his size. And no one around him can remember him not playing better than almost everyone he's gone up against.
When Greene was in middle school in Pennsylvania, he nailed 11 3-pointers in a single game. At the time, he didn't look big enough to get the ball to the basket from inside the foul line.
``He's small now, but can you imagine him then? He was a peanut,'' said Jim Greene, Jay's father and coach at the time. ``I always liked his game, though, and thought he might be able to play college ball. But Division I? I wasn't so sure.''
His son was.
``I always knew I had what it takes to play here,'' Greene said. ``Coaches say I have big heart and stuff like that. But I just work, and I never let anybody bring down my hopes of being a Division I basketball player.''
convinced that Greene was his point guard of the future. Monroe was checking out a big man at a national tournament in Florida a few years back when his assistant at the time told him about a little guard for the Lehigh Valley All-Stars that was dominating a game on another court.
``His size didn't matter to me,'' Monroe said. ``You go with your heart and you go with your gut, and the first time I saw him, my heart and gut said, 'Yes.'''
Greene's heart is what makes him the player he is, a feisty guard who will charge the basket against a 7-footer. He may be a little man in a land of giants, but few can come close to equaling his enthusiasm and determination.
Instinct, too.
When the Retrievers lost leading scorer Brian Hodges to an injury, Monroe considered asking Greene to focus more on scoring in an important game against league foe Vermont. Monroe opted to keep quiet and see how things developed. Good move: Greene scored a career-high 26 points.
``My teammates got me the ball and told me to shoot. It was my night,'' Greene said.
One week later, he had 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and only one turnover in a 63-59 victory over Binghamton.
``That little guy? He's one tough, little son of a gun,'' losing coach Ken Broadus said. ``The way he plays, he makes every player on the floor with him better.''
That may explain Greene's popularity with his teammates.
``He gets his teammates the ball. He thinks about the team before himself,'' Proctor said. ``He could take advantage of a lot of guards in this league, go past them and shoot all night. He could take over a game by himself if he wanted to.''
That's not what motivates Greene. His focus is getting UMBC its first trip to the NCAA tournament, and the best way for that to happen is for him to distribute the ball.
``That's what my job is on this team. I've accepted that,'' Greene said. ``There's going to be nights when I'm going to score, but I don't worry about that. We're all worried about getting the win at the end of the night.''

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