- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team lost to Duke three times last season the final one in the Final Four threw down the gauntlet yesterday.
"The next time we play Duke, we're going to beat them," Williams said, causing a room full of reporters to raise their eyebrows.
With a subtle smile, Williams added, "Of course, that's October 20 in football," prompting a burst of laughter.
For Williams, always quick with a witty remark, it's difficult not to be in good spirits these days. He starts his 13th season at Maryland with the program in fine shape, having won 25 games or more in three straight seasons and finished in the top three of the ACC in four straight. Maryland returns 10 players from last year's national semifinal squad and has earned few rankings outside the top five this preseason. Of course, Duke is the one team that is consistently ranked above his Terrapins in preseason polls.
"What we did was break a ceiling that was around here for a long time," Williams said. "When you talk about the Final Four, it's not something we hope to get to, that's a place where we've been."
Maryland finally will enter a season without the dubious distinction of being one of the most successful programs never to have made the Final Four. The Terps appear to have the elements in place to make another deep tournament run, but they'll have to do it despite the expectations and pressure that come with being a defending semifinalist.
"We know that we're on everybody else's level in the country. We know we got there and got it done," said All-American guard Juan Dixon, who led the U.S. team in scoring at the World University Games this summer. "We don't mind [the pressure] at all. We've been through it. I think we can handle the pressure; we just have to go out there and stay hungry."
The Terps, who held their annual preseason media day yesterday, have the tools that should carry them to another memorable season, their last in Cole Field House before the Comcast Center opens next season. Dixon (18.2 points per game), Lonny Baxter (15.6) and Byron Mouton (9.6) are the top three returning scorers, but as seniors, they will have to assume increased leadership roles as well.
"It will be interesting to see if they can do that and still be the top players that they are," said assistant coach Dave Dickerson, now Williams' top assistant after Billy Hahn left to coach La Salle. "We've been able to have solid seniors in our program, and that has allowed us to get better and teach the freshmen that come in how to be good and get better."
Williams has replaced Houston Rocket Terence Morris, Mike Mardesich and LaRon Cephas (lost to graduation) and Danny Miller (transferred to Notre Dame) with freshmen Andre Collins and Mike Grinnon, and JUCO transfer Ryan Randle, all of whom should log significant minutes this season.
Williams said his fifth starter, a forward spot, is up in the air. Junior Tahj Holden enters practice as the front-runner, but sophomore Chris Wilcox, who showed signs of his enormous potential last season, and Randle could challenge him. It's a good dilemma for Williams, who goes to his bench early and often and should have at least a nine-man rotation at his disposal.
"Starting is really not a big deal," Holden said. "I'm expecting to start, but it should be interesting to see who starts. We all probably deserve starting spots. You go anywhere else in the country, probably the majority of us are starting."
Notes The Terps appear to have completed their highest-rated recruiting class in years as DeMatha High School's Travis Garrison is the latest to make a verbal commitment for next season. The 6-foot-8 power forward averaged 16 points and nine rebounds for Morgan Wootten's Stags last season. The blue-chipper joins three other high school seniors; Maine small forward Nik Caner-Medley, Forestville High shooting guard Chris McCray and Virginia Beach point guard John Gilchrist. The quartet should officially sign during the early signing period in November.
Maryland's men's and women's teams will hold Midnight Madness festivities tomorrow night at Cole, starting at 9. The men's team will participate in a jersey presentation to commemorate last season's Final Four run. Fans are encouraged to bring canned food goods to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank. Admission is free, and fans will receive free T-shirts.

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