- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

INSIDE THE TERPS

No Juan Juan Dixon will be missed, and not just because he took his 20.4 points and outstanding defense to the NBA. Maryland lost its heartbeat in the All-American and Final Four MVP. Senior guards Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas will be charged with taking over games, making clutch shots and providing leadership. Dixon's determination was contagious for the Terps. It is time for this senior backcourt to become the go-to guys whom youngsters will follow.

Blake effect The point guard can dazzle with his dribbling and no-look dishes and can shut down the nation's top guards. However, the emotional senior can disappear into a funk and seem confused. It's puzzling why he struggled so much in the NCAA tournament around some rare moments of brilliance. There were whispers he was distracted while considering his NBA options. The only returning starter has started 105 career games and is Maryland's all-time leading assist man. He needs to call his own offensive number since the Terps lost their top four scorers. Blake, who averaged 8.0 points last season, can create his own shot off the dribble, penetrate and drain the deep ball.

Super frosh Nik Caner-Medley is a high-flying rebounder who likes to bang, and is difficult to cover with his unorthodox left-handed ways. The Maine product could step in immediately at small forward. John Gilchrist is a physical, flashy point guard, who may be the most confident player on the squad. Travis Garrison is a powerful power forward. Chris McCray is a natural-born scorer. The four freshmen will be the cornerstones of the future but need to be contributors for a successful present.

Mr. Smith is Mr. X JUCO transfer Jamar Smith can be distant one minute and make a spectacular above-the-rim putback the next. The latest product from Allegany (Md.) Junior College which delivered the Terps Steve Francis and Ryan Randle has been described as a lower-flying Chris Wilcox who plays better defense. Smith, who averaged 17.9 points and 12.8 rebounds last season, could be Maryland's X-factor. Smith needs to be consistent as well and not just occasionally spectacular.

New house, old rules? Cole Field House was as creaky as it was a legendary house of success for the Terps, who went 54-5 over their last four years (and 15-0 last season) in the venerable venue. The plush $125million Comcast Center has a court that's easier on the knees than the sanded-down Cole floor that had no give. Can Comcast be as homey as rowdy Cole? No. Can it be an intimidating homecourt? Absolutely. But it will take a while for players and 17,900 fans to learn its nuances and adjust.


KEYS TO WINNING

1. 'Sleepy' time

Ryan 'Sleepy' Randle is a sculpted 255-pounder who is nimble around the glass and has added a sweet baby hook to his arsenal. The droopy-eyed center takes over for two-time NCAA tournament regional MVP and inside force Lonny Baxter. Randle is used to playing about 10 hell-bent minutes before collapsing on the bench. He will have to pace himself for 30 minutes. Tahj Holden must make a similar adjustment at power forward.


2. Backcourt out front

Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas should be one of the nation's best guard duos. Nicholas needs to transform from being Maryland's versatile sixth man to its leading scorer. The long-armed senior already has a lethal outside game but needs to penetrate and draw fouls like the guy who used to play the spot. He learned from the best as a three-year understudy to Juan Dixon. Blake needs to score more and be patient with new players.


3. Tapping reserves

Four seasoned seniors give Maryland a nice base, but its next most experienced player is seldom-used senior Calvin McCall. McCall could provide some help, but the five-man incoming class will decide if the Terps are gassed or juiced at the end of tight games. Small forward Nik Caner-Medley will get thrown in the fire immediately, and McDonald's All-American Travis Garrison and JUCO transfer Jamar Smith will see time on the front line. John Gilchrist will be the backcourt's relief. There could be some ugly performances in November, but it's all about being ready in March.


Roster

Position/Player Year Height Weight The skinny

G Steve Blake Sr. 6-3 172 Passing wiz adds scoring duties.

G Andre Collins So. 5-9 160 Relentless, challenging for time.

F Nik Caner-Medley Fr. 6-8 220 Crafty lefty, athletic rebounder.

F/C Travis Garrison Fr. 6-9 234 DeMatha pedigree, ready to bang.

G John Gilchrist Fr. 6-3 190 Physical PG with wicked handle.

F Mike Grinnon So. 6-6 198 Utility man with smooth stroke.

F Darien Henry So. 6-6 202 Walk-on pushes in practice.

F/C Tahj Holden Sr. 6-10 270 Nimble big man with range.

G Calvin McCall Sr. 6-3 210 Strong, serviceable substitute.

G Chris McCray Fr. 6-4 166 Shooter will fill it up at some point.

G Drew Nicholas Sr. 6-3 165 Juan's understudy is scoring machine.

F/C Ryan Randle Sr. 6-9 255 Great footwork, key man in middle.

F/C Jamar Smith Jr. 6-9 239 Highlight reel; needs consistency.


SCHEDULE

Date Opponent Time Television

Nov. 24 Miami (Ohio) 5 p.m. ESPN2

Nov. 27 The Citadel 8 p.m. Comcast

Nov. 30 Duquesne 8 p.m. Raycom

Dec. 3 Indiana -1 9 p.m. ESPN

Dec. 7 Notre Dame -2 3:30 p.m. Comcast

Dec. 8 GW or Texas 1/3:30 p.m. Comcast

Dec. 14 Florida 2 p.m. CBS

Dec. 23 UMBC 8 p.m. Comcast

Dec. 29 Georgia Tech 5:30 p.m. FOX Sports Net

Jan. 4 Wagner 1 p.m. Raycom

Jan. 8 Hampton 8 p.m. Raycom

Jan. 11 Florida State 1:30 p.m. Raycom

Jan. 15 at Wake Forest 9 p.m. Raycom

Jan. 18 Duke 1:30 p.m. ABC

Jan. 22 at North Carolina 7 p.m. ESPN

Jan. 25 at Clemson 4 p.m. Raycom

Jan. 30 NC State 9 p.m. Raycom

Feb. 2 Loyola (Md.) 1 p.m. Raycom

Feb. 6 Virginia 9 p.m. ESPN2

Feb. 9 at Georgia Tech 1 p.m. CBS

Feb. 12 at Florida State 9 p.m. Raycom

Feb. 16 Wake Forest 8 p.m. FOX Sports Net

Feb. 19 at Duke 9 p.m. ESPN

Feb. 22 North Carolina 2 p.m. Raycom

Feb. 25 Clemson 7 p.m. RSN

March 2 at NC State 8 p.m. FOX Sports Net

March 9 at Virginia 8 p.m. FOX Sports Net

March 13-16 ACC tournament - 3 TBA Raycom-ESPN


1 - ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Indianapolis

2 - BB &T Classic at MCI Center

3 - at Greensboro, N.C.


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