- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

Maryland guard John Gilchrist has kept a low profile for two games. After a public spat with coach Gary Williams, the point guard has worried more over assists than points while melting into the background of two straight victories.

Gilchrist, though, might re-emerge tonight against N.C. State at Comcast Center. This game is personal for the resident of Virginia Beach, almost equidistant between N.C. State and Maryland. His spurning the Wolfpack (11-6, 1-3 ACC) for the Terrapins (11-4, 2-2) caused a lot of bad feelings among once-friendly supporters. Gilchrist hasn’t forgotten even three years later.

“I held grudges with N.C. State before, because I didn’t like the way I heard certain things they said about me after I didn’t go to their school, like I was a bad kid,” he said. “If you look at my past games, I got up for N.C. State.”

Gilchrist led Maryland to an 85-82 victory over the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament semifinals last year. Converting 11 of 13 shots from the floor, including five of seven 3-pointers while getting seven assists and four steals helped Gilchrist become the tournament’s MVP. Just 10 days earlier, he scored 21 points in Maryland’s 70-69 victory at N.C. State.

This overlooked series doesn’t quite match the passion of Maryland’s games against Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, but it’s still a heated matchup. Alumni well remember the Wolfpack’s famous 103-100 overtime victory for the ACC tournament title in 1974, a decade before Gilchrist was born.

The Terps don’t like Wolfpack guard Julius Hodge’s habit of slapping the court in defensive defiance. Hodge is considered the conference’s biggest trash talker, so it’s not hard for Gilchrist’s adrenaline to surge trying to counterpunch. Gilchrist may see to it that he ends his slump of scoring just 19 points over three games after earlier getting 20 or more in five straight.

However, Gilchrist is no longer the Terps’ offensive core. Forward Nik Caner-Medley (17.0) is Maryland’s leading scorer after averaging 27.3 points over the last three games.

“I haven’t been shooting the ball exceptionally well,” Caner-Medley said. “I’m just being real active and aggressive.”

Offensive rebounding has fueled Caner-Medley’s surge. He has averaged 7.3 rebounds during the streak, often converting teammates’ missed shots.

“I’ve always felt Nik could be a much better player when he went to the offensive glass,” Williams said. “Last year every once in a great while, he’d go in and tap dunk something, and then you wouldn’t see him do it for a couple games. Now for the last three games, he’s been pretty consistent going to the rim. That changes the way people defend you. It makes it easier to get off your 3-point shot.”

And there’s nothing sweeter than dunking a rebound in one motion.

“That’s the easiest points in the world,” Caner-Medley said. “It’s a layup already in the air. The crowd likes to see athletic plays.”

Nicknamed “Gunner” by high school teammates while earning the honor as Maine’s 2002 high school player of the year, Caner-Medley decided to play closer to the rim this season. However, it took many discussions with coaches and his father, plus extensive film study, before Caner-Medley committed to the new style.

“They told me to stick around [the basket],” he said. “All I did in high school was score. Being able to score in the flow of the game is a lot different [in college] than just coming down and shooting it any time. I’ve learned to help the team and score points by doing it in the offensive flow.”

The Terps are trying to get freshman forward James Gist to play with the same passion. Gist didn’t appear in the second half of Maryland’s 82-68 victory over Virginia on Wednesday because Williams was unhappy with his effort.

“He makes spectacular players that you notice,” Williams said, “but it’s those plays every time down the court [when he] doesn’t dunk the ball or block the shot that I’ve been on him about. He has to get involved in every play. He’s just scratching the surface of his ability. He does it a lot in practice, but that’s typical of freshmen where they’ll do things that they don’t carry over into the game.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide