- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

The Maryland Terrapins may increase the roles of their freshmen and three-guard scheme when they return from the season's longest break against Maryland-Baltimore County tonight.
The No.24 Terps are 12-0 against the Retrievers, winning the last six by an average of 20 points, so coach Gary Williams can still experiment before facing Georgia Tech in Sunday's ACC opener. The Terps continue to refine their eight-man rotation after nine days off during exams.
"You can't just play people to get them experience if they're going to hurt you when they're out there in big games," Williams said. "You can get away with it against teams that aren't as good as you are. You have to be careful because two minutes can lose the game for you. If they run off 8-0 it's tough to make up against a good team."
The newcomers are starting to figure more prominently for the Terps (4-3), whose senior leadership was lacking in losing to three ranked teams. Freshman forward Nik Caner-Medley has started three straight games while guard John Gilchrist emerged as a leading substitute against Florida on Dec.14. Junior college transfer Jamar Smith is also expected to play more after averaging only 10.3 minutes. Overall, the incoming group has handled early-season pressure well.
"They walked into a year when people are getting ready to play us," Williams said. "They need to have that 'sneaking up on people' situation. Everybody's going after us from day one. They've handled it pretty well."
Caner-Medley's potential has been offset by inconsistency that has limited him to 16.7 minutes per game. His high-energy play and nose for loose balls needs to be more consistent.
"For Nik, it's a finding out process of how teams play. There's no taking off plays," Williams said. "Nik came from a situation where he might not have played against the greatest basketball talent. You're not used to having somebody in your face all the time."
Indeed, Williams is seeking more intensity from seniors whose roles are increasing from last season. Williams said the returnees' vocal influence something sometimes needed during tight games doesn't match the departed four starters.
"A lot of times it comes down to who gets the loose ball and second shot, not who runs the best offense or plays the best defense. It's who makes the hustle plays," Williams said. "Last year, Byron Mouton made those plays. You miss Byron because he could do those things. He had the ability to always get the ball when we had to get the ball. His emotional approach to the game was great. You can pick a team up a bit when you see someone excited."
Certainly, Gilchrist provided a quick lift in the 69-64 loss to Florida. The scowling Gilchrist was a second-half spark when he scored 10 points.
"The first time John walked on the court, he had that body language that you're not going to take the ball away from him. He was not going to back up. I was impressed with that," Williams said. "That was a national television game and a ranked team. It would have been easy to be nervous."
The Terps seemingly flowed better with the three-guard lineup that sent ballhandler Steve Blake to shooting guard and gave guard Drew Nicholas more scoring chances. Gilchrist worked the ball underneath to center Ryan Randle for three straight baskets that forced Florida's defense to temporarily sag underneath to provide Nicholas and Blake easier looks. However, Williams isn't ready to play the three-guard scheme extensively because the frontcourt isn't dominating.
"You can put all three on the court, but we have to see if that's our best situation or stay bigger at [small forward]," Williams said. "We haven't been a great rebounding team yet and going smaller doesn't help things."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide