By: Cody Wilcox
Coming to the University of Maryland as the No. 2 overall recruit in 2017, and the first All-American out of the state of Utah, Bubba Fairman drew some attention.
But joining a team filled with talented offensive weapons such as Tim Rotanz, Connor Kelly, Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas, Fairman didn’t receive the same amount of attention on the field with teams typically electing to place a short-stick defender on the then-freshman.
With departures from that group, Fairman has been adjusting this year to teams placing one of their four long-pole defenders opposite him. Fairman will admit that while becoming accustomed to his new role at times he has become frustrated. So he turned to Kelly, who wielded the position last year, for advice.
“I gave [Kelly] a call a couple of weeks ago,” Fairman said. “And [Kelly] called me and just told me to be patient with it. And that’s a hard thing for me, because I like to think I’m pretty competitive.”
Fairman said that the 2018 Maryland team captain gave him a few pointers that helped him settle into the role after some initial frustration in the adjustment.
Fairman appeared confident on Sunday against Rutgers when he recorded his second hat trick of the year, finding success against two different Scarlett Knight long-pole defenders.
Fairman has shown glimpses of promise throughout the season in his new role, such as when he posted a career-highs against Villanova on March 16, with four goals and six assists.
He’s totaled 17 goals and 13 assists in his sophomore campaign after posting 26 goals and nine assists last year.
Maryland head coach John Tillman and his coaching staff fully expected Fairman, a talented dodger with a blistering shot, to get more attention from long-pole defenders and opposing coaching staffs coming into this season after last year’s success.
“We felt like with everything that he did, and losing a guy like Timmy Rotanz, you kind of look and go, ‘OK, looking at who’s returning, the knowns that you knew [were returning] were pretty obvious,’” Tillman said. “You kind of looked and said, ‘All right, the guys that are going to get the most attention, I would probably say would be probably Bubba, Logan and Jared.’ Those were the knowns.”
Along with turning to Kelly for guidance, Fairman has spent a lot of time working with assistant coach J.L. Reppert reviewing film. He’s also worked with multiple scout team defenders to find other ways to protect his stick or get his shot off. As Fairman has continued to stay after practice to communicate with older guys and put in the extra reps, teammates like sophomore midfielder Roman Puglise have taken notice.
“Just staying after it every day and just getting back to the basics and just doing the little things makes him a great player,” Puglise said. “And that’s what all great players do. When things aren’t going their way they figure out ways to adjust and get better, and I think he’s done that since he stepped on campus last year.
“…And that’s just one of the greatest things about being a great competitor and great player is just your time investment. I think he has one of the best on the team.”
Over time, Tillman expects Fairman to progress in his new role for Maryland. In previous years, the Terps have seen other players make the transition to playing against long poles and find success, and the Sandy, Utah, native could be next in that trend.
“It just seems like every year there’s somebody that kind of has to learn how to do that,” Tillman said. “A couple years ago it was Connor Kelly who was all of a sudden going from a short stick to a pole, and he had to go through that–and Bubba obviously this year. And I think he’s doing good job with it.”