- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The Maryland Terrapins knew they would have three holes to fill in the starting lineup after seniors Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Byron Mouton completed their collegiate careers. Now they have a fourth.
Sophomore Chris Wilcox's early departure for the NBA leaves Maryland with only one returning starter and no player who scored in double figures from the team that won the school's first national championship.
Point guard Steve Blake will be the only starter back next season, though he will have plenty of familiar faces around him. The Terps probably won't be a serious threat to repeat as national champions without Wilcox; they lose 68 percent of the scoring off last season's team, and Blake is the highest scorer returning at 8.0 points. But Maryland still will have the talent to make its 10th consecutive NCAA tournament and be a Top 25 team capable of winning a wide-open ACC. The top three reserves all seniors will return, and the team's ultimate fate will be determined by the progress of perhaps the best recruiting class at Maryland since Gary Williams became coach in 1990.
"Our challenge this year was to be as good as everyone expected us to be," said Williams, whose club set a program-record for wins with a 32-4 record. "Our challenge next year may be to be better than people expect. We have four guys coming back with good experience and five new guys that will provide the nucleus for years to come."
Drew Nicholas averaged more than 20 minutes a game last season and hit some of the team's biggest shots. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard has been groomed to start in Dixon's spot for three seasons. Power forward Tahj Holden and center Ryan Randle will be asked to expand their roles with the departure of Baxter and Wilcox.
While the four seniors will provide a solid core, there are no other seasoned players. Seldom-used reserves point guard Andre Collins, swingman Calvin McCall and small forward Mike Grinnon are the only other returnees. That group will be pushed by the five newcomers, including junior college All-American Jamar Smith and Travis Garrison, a McDonald's All-American from DeMatha High School.
Smith, a 6-8 forward from Allegany (Md.) College, could start right away, with several freshmen thrust into top reserve roles. Smith is the third Allegany player to come to Maryland in five years, following in the footsteps of Steve Francis and Randle. Smith averaged 17.9 points and 13.0 rebounds while leading Allegany to a 32-4 record and the Maryland junior college title.
"He can play inside or outside" Allegany coach Bob Kirk said after Smith signed with the Terps earlier this month. "He can do the things that [former Maryland player] Terence Morris did but is much more intense."
The Terps' recruiting class is rated among the nation's best. In addition to the 6-9 Garrison, the other incoming freshmen are point guard John Gilchrist, shooting guard Chris McCray and 6-7 forward Nik Caner-Medley. It appears Garrison and Gilchrist will be asked to contribute right away. Gilchrist, who averaged 25 points and 6.6 assists for Salem (Va.) High last season, is regarded as one of the top five recruits at his position.
Maryland does lose four starters, but it would be a stretch to say it is decimated. A comparison could be made between next year's Terps team and last season's Arizona team, which lost four starters including three who left early for the NBA after being the national runner-up the season before. The Wildcats were left with starting point guard Jason Gardner, several dependable reserves and a strong freshman class. Arizona finished 24-10 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament before losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

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