- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

Maryland reserve center Ryan Randle spends most of the time on the bench and could be overlooked with stars like Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Randle further fills the low-key role with a passive off-court demeanor that has earned him the nickname "Sleepy."
Don't be fooled by the droopy eyes, soft voice and lazy walk. It is just a well-crafted bluff from the wily Texan, who quickly transforms from Rip Van Winkle to Arnold Schwarzenegger with a special talent for rebounding when Gary Williams directs him to the scorer's table.
"He's surprised a lot of people how he's come in really quickly and had such a big impact," said Baxter, who remembers Randle showing up on campus in September out of shape and overweight. "He comes in with a lot of intensity [for] rebounding, scoring in the paint."
Randle, a junior, has muscled his way into the rotation for the Terps (22-3), who can establish the best 26-game record in program history today with a victory against No. 20 Wake Forest (18-9, 8-5 ACC) at Cole Field House. Maryland is 12-1 in the conference for the first time and in line for its first outright ACC regular-season title since 1980. The Terps have won nine straight and lead Duke (12-2) by a half-game. The Terrapins are ranked second in the country.
Randle, a junior college transfer who played at Allegany (Md.) last season, averages 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds impressive numbers considering that he plays less than 10 minutes a game.
It is in games like Wednesday's victory at Clemson that Randle shows his value. The Terps were off to a slow start in the aftermath of last Sunday's emotional victory over Duke, and were getting beaten on the boards. Randle replaced Baxter with the Tigers leading 29-23 with under five minutes left in the first half.
The surprisingly mobile and quick center scored five of Maryland's next seven points with his power game. He displayed soft hands by scoring a layup off a darting assist from Steve Blake. Later he picked up a loose ball rebound in traffic and powered in a layup to cut the deficit to four and give Maryland momentum going into intermission.
It was a typical Randle performance that gets lost in the box score: five points, five rebounds and two steals in 11 minutes. The points and steals were a bonus for Randle, who understands his clearly defined role.
"It's rebounding," said Randle, who gets nearly half his boards on the offensive end. "The ball is like gold everybody wants the ball. You just have to react and do things certain ways. … It just comes natural. I like banging against these guys. Some people don't like physical contact, but I like it."
Randle got his share of collisions last fall during pickup games against Baxter, Chris Wilcox and Tahj Holden. The newcomer has lost some 15 pounds through conditioning and dieting since arriving in College Park and being schooled in scrimmages. Some wondered if he would give the Terps depth in the frontcourt, where there was a void after starting forward Terence Morris and reserve center Mike Mardesich finished their eligibility in last season's Final Four.
When Baxter sat out a Jan.3 game against Norfolk State with a sprained ankle, Randle displayed his pivot prowess with 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in 25 minutes. He cemented his role with a seven-point, six-rebound showing over 13 minutes against N.C. State three weeks ago.
"The younger players had to prove that they could play in key situations," coach Gary Williams said. "Ryan Randle has. He came in [against N.C. State] when we were in some foul trouble and just did a great job of maintaining what we had but also being aggressive. He got open a couple times, made a couple great catches on the interior and scored."
So Randle is opening eyes at Maryland although it looks like he has trouble opening his own.
"He had that nickname [Sleepy] at Allegany," said that school's coach, Bob Kirk. "I thought he was too heavy when he got here, too, but he's just learned how to play hard. He has matured totally, and from what I've seen, he runs the court better. His work habits have really improved."
Note
Wake Forest's second-leading scorer, Josh Howard (14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds), has missed three of the last four games with a high ankle sprain, and is considered questionable today.


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