- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

ATLANTA During layup drills yesterday, one Maryland player drove the lane, double-clutched in the air and finished with a reverse jam to the delight of those in the Georgia Dome.

Which Terp was it? Chris Wilcox? Byron Mouton? Juan Dixon?

Nope, Earl Badu.

The largely forgotten senior is the Terps' only walk-on. While his classmates shine on the court and are fixtures on "SportsCenter," Badu enjoys the best seat in the house watching Maryland reach new heights.

"It's been a great experience to be part of four of the best Maryland teams since I've been here," said Badu, a 6-foot guard from Baltimore. "I played with Steve Francis, Obinna Ekezie and Laron Profit. Now to be part of two Final Four teams … This is a great joy."

Badu didn't come to College Park with the intention of playing ball but went out for the team at the urging of Juan Dixon. Badu was a crowd favorite at Cole Field House because his appearance sent the same message as Red Auerbach's victory cigar did for the old Boston Celtics. The faithful would cheer, "We want Earl" when Maryland's victory was secure.

The son of immigrants from Ghana, Badu got into 12 games this season and scored two baskets in four attempts. In Maryland's 30-point rout of Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament at MCI Center, he played two minutes and showed some razzle-dazzle dribbling.

Badu is finishing his degree with a double major in government and politics, and art studio.

"He's applied to law school," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He said he wants to represent all the guys that play here. Each player on the team has a role. Earl can be the guy I yell at in practice. Players know most of the time I'm kidding. He's always been positive, and he's a pretty good basketball player."

Experience counts

In most cases, the advantages of postseason experience in any sport are dismissed by participants, who often say that once the ball is in play, everybody's equal. Not so Kansas' Drew Gooden, who did not hesitate to say yesterday what Maryland's trip to last year's Final Four means.

"I think that's a huge advantage they have," Gooden said. "They've been here, they've been in this atmosphere before. They were up 20 points on Duke last year I watched that game at home. I thought they were on their way to win and they lost. I think they're hungry. It's hard to go back-to-back to Final Fours like that. They're hungry, and they've got their eyes on the prize."

Dad will be there

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson has guided the Sooners to their best season in more than a decade while his father has suffered a serious medical condition.

John "Ned" Sampson, 72, underwent emergency surgery last week to relieve a blood clot in his brain; he is recovering, and is expected to attend the Sooners' semifinal game tonight.

Ankle biters

Left ankles are a concern for two players in the tournament.

Kansas' Kirk Hinrich, who sustained a sprain in the first-round game against Holy Cross, wore a small brace on the ankle during yesterday's practice but is near 100 percent. He started and played 31 minutes against Oregon, recording 14 points and nine rebounds.

Indiana point guard Tom Coverdale's ankle is in much worse shape. Coverdale continues to receive treatment on the ankle he badly sprained last Saturday against Kent State. He walked on it yesterday but did not practice.

JUCO power

Oklahoma has seven players on its roster who have transferred from other schools five from junior colleges, including starters Quannas White, Ebi Ere and Aaron McGhee. On the surface, it seems coach Kelvin Sampson was just stocking the team with older, talented players.

"Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention," Sampson said. "I almost get offended when people ask me about the junior college kids. Some of the questions, the way they ask them, it almost is like there's something wrong with them. … As long as they're great kids, I can deal with it."


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