- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Terence Morris has traded his beat-up Honda Civic for a new Mercedes, just one of the spoils the former Maryland star will receive as he prepares for his life as a pro basketball player.
But a new ride isn't all the soft-shooting and soft-spoken forward is seeking as he heads toward next Wednesday's NBA Draft. He wants a change of scenery both physically and emotionally.
"I think if I go far away, it's for the best," said Morris, who struggled under constant scrutiny during his final two seasons with the Terrapins. "To finally get out on my own and get away from everybody and everything and start over new. It's not a preference for me to stay close to home now. Maybe when I was in college, but I'm grown up now."
Morris spent a rare day at home last week after flying back from Sacramento, Calif., following individual workouts with four Western Conference teams. After the day in College Park, he took off on a weeklong journey to visit six more teams, ranging from New Jersey to San Antonio to Seattle. The thousands of air miles are designed to improve his tenuous draft status, which has been jeopardized by a down senior season along with a flood of underclassmen and high schoolers trying to make the jump to the NBA.
"Honestly, I don't really see anybody in the draft that is better than me," Morris said following a workout last week at Cole Field House. "I just have that confidence, but a lot of NBA teams look at other things."
He knows that being a top senior and a refined player often are not the top criteria for NBA franchises, for whom potential like that of the three high school players expected to be selected among the top five picks can be more appealing.
Morris, who helped guide Maryland to its first Final Four last season, is unsure where he will be taken but is convinced it will be in the first round. The 6-foot-9 forward, considered a lock as a lottery pick had he come out early, watched his stock plummet in the past year, leaving many draft analysts wondering whether he will be chosen in the first round at all.
Morris' lackluster final college season and his sometimes-passive style of play have scouts questioning his desire and commitment.
"Morris has all the tools to be an NBA player," NBA director of scouting Marty Blake said. "He had a strong junior season, but he did not have a good senior year. He has first-round talent. It's a question of how he applies himself."
Morris, an athletic big man with a flair for blocking shots, is sharpening his skills to play small forward after a college career at power forward. The Frederick, Md., native also can see himself playing at shooting guard.
Blake likes Morris' quickness, rebounding and long-range shooting and can see him going in the middle of the first round, perhaps in the "14 to 20" range. Various mock drafts have Morris being selected late first round or early second round.
It shouldn't come as a great surprise that Morris is a mystery heading into the draft considering he has been an enigma the past two seasons. The smooth big man launched onto the national scene as a sophomore and was named first-team All-ACC, playing alongside Terps stars Steve Francis and Laron Profit. Morris was selected preseason All-American in both his junior and senior seasons and was expected to become Maryland's driving force but never lived up to the lofty billings. He never became the team's leader and wasn't selected first-team All-ACC either season as the pressure took its toll.
"I feel sorry for him," Maryland coach Gary Williams said late last season. "Terence has had some great games for us. But he's had so much hype. It's been tough on him with his type of [low-key] personality."
It is impossible to gauge how much the burden of unfulfilled expectations will affect Morris' draft selection. While he's not considered a potential superstar, he is widely regarded as someone who can be a strong complimentary player, similar to the way he supported Francis during his sophomore season. One possible scenario has Morris reuniting with Francis in Houston; the Rockets have the 13th, 18th and 23rd picks overall.
However, draft status and lucrative contracts never have been the prime driving forces for Morris. It was important for Morris, the oldest of seven children, to set a good example for his four brothers and two sisters brothers by staying in school.
"I didn't want them to see me leave after my second year," said Morris, who plans to complete his final 24 credits to graduate during his offseasons. "I didn't want my brothers and sisters to see that and say, 'I can drop out of school, too.' I want to be a good role model, so when they look at me they say, 'If he can do it, so can I.' I learned a lot in college. Not just basketball but about myself and things off the court."
These days, he is both anxious and excited as the draft approaches. Morris feels next Wednesday will be a day to celebrate so long as commissioner David Stern calls his name in the first round.
"I would be really disappointed otherwise," he said. "If it's 25th or if it's seventh, as long as I have the opportunity to play, it doesn't matter."
And if he plays some place far, far away, that's just fine with him, too.

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