Clearly, conditioning played a role. And since so many other programs now allocate a single strength coach for roughly a dozen players, Williams recognized what might have been his most crucial priority.
“I had to fight for that,” Williams said. “You’re always looking to improve the program. If you look at other schools, that’s your competition. You want a level playing field. If they hire a guy strictly for men’s basketball, then you’d better.”
Ricci, who was let go after the Ravens changed coaches, was available. Maryland approached him, and he bounced ideas off colleagues in the industry, coming back to Williams several times with even more questions.
Ricci needed to know that Williams was committed to a revamped program. What he didn’t know was precisely what he would inherit when he arrived - and how quickly he would make a difference.
“When I came here, with Landon I said, ‘By the end of the summer, you’ll be able to use 100-pound dumbbells,’” Ricci said. “And he’s like, ‘For real?’ like I was from another planet.”
Walk into the Maryland locker room after a game, and there’s a notable new accessory - small tubs filled with ice water, with Milbourne, Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez soaking their feet after the pounding of playing 30 minutes.
It’s Ricci’s resourceful solution to non-NFL conditions - run down to Target, purchase some $7 containers and rush like crazy to have them ready after a game to improve the players’ recovery time.
Other adjustments aren’t visible. Ricci ordered nutritional adjustments for the entire roster, adding an array of supplements, shakes and bars. He also instituted a mandatory breakfast.
But the biggest change arrived in the overhauled conditioning. Ricci soon developed a tough-but-fair reputation among the Terps, who found his expectation level more demanding than they anticipated.
“Sometimes, I was hating Paul,” Tucker said. “But we need it a lot.”
Bowie believes the improved conditioning might have won Maryland its game against Michigan State, a team the Terps dominated in the second half but that is typically known for its physical play. If nothing else, players admit they feel different than in years past.
Williams, though, is optimistic a greater payoff awaits later in the season - when games the Terps frittered away a year ago could turn the other way.
“I think you’ll get into that in January and February, when every game is intense and conditioning probably becomes more of a factor,” Williams said. “It’s a gradual thing. You don’t just do it in three months or six months. You build that into a program where that’s just the way it goes when you go to school.”
Note - Williams said forward Jerome Burney has a stress fracture in his foot and will miss three to six weeks. Burney, who is averaging 0.6 points and 1.9 rebounds, redshirted two seasons ago because of foot problems.