- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2002

Tahj Holden was mobbed before he got through the Comcast Center doors last night for Midnight Madness. Maryland's power forward was surrounded by autograph seekers before he could enter the $125million new home of the Terrapins.

Security guards asked the 6-foot-10 senior if he could move away and not block the entrance, and the big man asked the fans to separate.

"I felt like a semi-Moses," Holden said of the treatment the Terps have been receiving lately. "I can't part the seas, but I can part the crowd."

The madness began early last night in College Park as thousands filled the building to get a feel for the arena that will replace Cole Field House after 47 seasons. Fans cheered while watching a replay of Maryland's national title game win over Indiana on four screens on the overhanging scoreboard.

The crowd and anticipation grew steadily before the champions and coach Gary Williams were introduced. Later, fans watched a scrimmage by the squad that will attempt to defend the program's first national title.

"It's nice to be here to open the building," said point guard Steve Blake, the lone returning starter from last season. "Cole Field House was great, but it's nice to be part of something new. It's going to be fun."

Maryland (32-4 last season) will have time to get accustomed to its new home before it unveils the championship banner and opens the season Nov.24 against Miami of Ohio. Seniors Drew Nicholas, Ryan Randle and Holden will step into starting spots after constituting one of the nation's best benches last season. It will be difficult task to match last year's accomplishments. Current NBA players Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter led the Terps to their second consecutive Final Four.

Maryland will have its first full practice at 10 a.m. today in the 17,950-seat facility, which has a second deck to give it an intimate feel.

"I just can't get over how big and modern it is," Holden said of the facility filled with red seats. "It still resembles Cole, but the sky boxes kind of give it away. It's just a big, modern building. It has that winning feeling."


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