- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

The reserves on Maryland's basketball team are becoming known as the "Catalysts," and small wonder. After all, they have sparked plenty of victories.

Forwards Calvin McCall and Jamar Smith and guard John Gilchrist have become the second wave for the No. 13 Terrapins (19-7, 11-4), who will end their regular season tomorrow night at Virginia (14-14, 5-10). The subs not only have maintained margins while the starters are resting but often have improved leads or trimmed deficits.

"If you can catch teams a little tired when reserves come in and they can play at a [high] level, all of a sudden they might not just keep you where you were but expand the lead a little bit," Terps coach Gary Williams said.

The three key subs have become indispensable in recent weeks. Gilchrist put Maryland ahead with 1:23 remaining in a 68-65 victory over N.C. State on March 2 after Smith scored seven second-half points. Smith scored eight points during an early 21-2 run en route to a 91-52 victory over Clemson on Feb. 25.

Smith and Gilchrist thwarted North Carolina's comeback attempt Jan. 22 with six straight points that helped turn a dwindling six-point lead into a 81-66 victory. And Maryland overcame a 27-26 deficit at Clemson when McCall scored five straight points en route to a 52-47 win Jan. 25.

"It's not about who does it," guard Drew Nicholas said. "It's just about getting it done right now. This is what we really need because come tournament time other teams will make somebody else try to beat you."

The Terps need to go eight to 10 players deep during March Madness, especially when trying to create mismatches. Gilchrist and McCall provide aggressive man coverage, and Smith has become an impact rebounder.

"The deeper teams are the ones that usually last," Gilchrist said. "You don't have to worry about people getting tired, because it's not a letdown when [reserves] come into the game."

Gilchrist averages 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while often being asked to cover the opposing ballhandler or give point guard Steve Blake a breather. Sometimes, the Terps even use a three-guard lineup to utilize Gilchrist's energy.

The freshman delivered a career-high 11 points and nine rebounds against North Carolina on Feb. 22 and created a key turnover and basket late against N.C. State. His typical first-year mistakes seem to have faded in recent weeks.

"You can't use [inexperience] as a reason not to play well when you've played 26 games," Williams said. "Being a freshman doesn't mean anything now. It's how you play."

McCall has been likened to utilityman Byron Mouton last year. The senior is the locker room leader and started 12 games before becoming the sixth man against Florida State on Feb. 12.

McCall still played at least 19 minutes in five of six games while averaging 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and is often playing at game's end. It is a fitting end to the former football player's dedication to basketball after switching last year. Williams often cites McCall as the team's most improved player.

"I know people were saying, 'This guy [stinks],' but I had confidence in myself," McCall said. "[Teammates] joke on me all the time. They say I'm the old guy. It feels like I've been here forever."

McCall wants to coach high school basketball and football in Florida after graduating in May. Williams believes McCall's heady play will benefit him.

"Calvin really sees the game," Williams said. "He sees things more from a coaching standpoint."

Smith has steadily progressed following two years at Maryland's Allegany Community College. Perhaps the Terps' most athletic big man with an impressive vertical leap, Smith was hampered early by his unfamiliarity with the system. However, he's averaging 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 13.8 minutes, with 13 points against Clemson.

"Jamar was thinking too much before," Williams said. "It's very difficult trying to learn on the job. That's what he's doing. As a junior, you only have two years and have to be force fed. He's gradually played well as the season's worn on."

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