- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Chris Wilcox is on his way to the NBA.
Maryland's sophomore star, who helped the Terrapins win their first national championship three weeks ago, as expected has decided to forgo his final two college seasons and declare for the NBA Draft. He is projected to be a top-10 pick and garner a multi-million dollar contract.
The 6-foot-10, 220-pound power forward withdrew from school and yesterday was in the process of moving his belongings from College Park to his home in Whiteville, N.C. The high-flying Wilcox has watched his draft status soar after strong performances in the Final Four, where he outplayed Kansas' Drew Gooden and Indiana's Jared Jeffries both likely top-10 selections in the June 26 draft.
"As time went by after the season, his stock went up," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who had hoped to see Wilcox continue to develop with one more season in college. "He won't be [age] 20 until August. I thought he had a chance to be player of the year next year. That's one side of it. The other is he can do very well in the draft and have a good financial position. I wasn't sure of that during the year. What he has now is a sure thing."
Many NBA analysts see Wilcox as a top-six selection, and he could go as high as No.3. Duke point guard Jason Williams and 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao Ming are viewed as the top prospects. The third choice will get a guaranteed three-year contract for $8.3million. The sixth choice gets a $6.2million deal, while the 10th spot is assured $4.5million. Wilcox apparently has ruled out any chance of returning to Maryland.
"We've been hearing top six all the way to the third pick in the draft," Wilcox's mother Debra Brown said last week. "That's hard to pass up."
Wilcox, who was not available for comment yesterday, said during the season that he planned to return for his junior year, but would reconsider after the season depending on where he was projected in the draft. He becomes the third Maryland player to leave early for the NBA in the past eight seasons, following Joe Smith (1995) and Steve Francis (1999).
"If somebody tells you you're a lottery pick, you have to go," Wilcox said last month. His status rose throughout the regular season and particularly in the postseason. He spent a week at his North Carolina home after the Final Four contemplating his decision before returning to school and finally leaving campus yesterday.
Wilcox, his mother and other family members abruptly packed up his dorm contents Sunday night and were traveling back to North Carolina yesterday. According to the Diamondback, Maryland's school newspaper, there was a red Lincoln Navigator with North Carolina dealer tags in front of the dorm and Wilcox arrived in a new white Mercedes.
The departure means the Terps have lost four starters and 68 percent of the scoring from the title team. Point guard Steve Blake will be the only starter back and is also the leading returning scorer at 8.0 per game. Tahj Holden, a top reserve last season, is the heir apparent to start at power forward. Holden is one of four rising seniors with experience who will be asked to mesh with five recruits.
Wilcox became known for his spectacular dunks and his vicious blocks, but he also was developing an all-around game in his second college season. He was named third-team All-ACC after averaging 12.0 points and 7.1 rebounds last season as he became a more physical player and showed nice touch on a jump-hook near the basket. Wilcox's defense improved dramatically this past season, and he played the role of stopper against top players like Duke's Mike Dunleavy and Gooden.
"His development as a basketball player is not over," said Williams, who learned of Wilcox's decision late Sunday. "He has tremendous physical talent. He's a great jumper. But not just a jumper, he has great timing. He needs to work on his game the next three or four years and not be complacent."
Wilcox averaged 3.6 points and just more than eight minutes in his freshman season before claiming the starting power forward slot last season. He served notice with a 19-point, 11-rebound performance in a win over then-No.2 Illinois on Nov.27. The explosive big man had his best game by posting a career-high 23 points along with 11 rebounds in leading the Terps to a blowout over then-top-ranked Duke on Feb.17.
But it was the NCAA tournament particularly the Final Four where he made an indelible mark and went from being a marginal lottery pick into the top 10. In the national semifinal game against Kansas, Wilcox had 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots and intimidated Gooden with several early blocks. The 19-year old had 10 points and seven rebounds in the championship game win over Indiana, while largely being responsible for holding Big Ten Player of the Year Jeffries to eight points.
"I told Chris when we first started the process that there was no bad decision," Williams said. "This is the way the system is now. He always did everything we asked. He left school in good academic standing. I really am happy for Chris."

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