- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nik Caner-Medley needed little time this season to choose between being a prolific scorer or a single part on a balanced team.

It might not always have been such an easy decision for the Maryland senior. A scorer throughout his career, Caner-Medley led the Terrapins in field goal attempts last season even as they sunk into a 19-13 abyss and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in a dozen years.

Impatience and inconsistency were hardly traits unique to Caner-Medley, though the lessons of the lost season have remained with him as the Terps (8-2) enter tonight’s game against Delaware State (2-8) at Comcast Center.

“From experience, winning is what makes you feel good,” Caner-Medley said. “Last year had a lot to do with that. It had a huge impact on the way I look at the game. If you score 20 points and at the end of the year your team is in the NIT, you don’t feel good about it. It’s as simple as that.”

The Terps have met Caner-Medley’s basic formula for contentedness so far, emerging as a team that doesn’t rely on a single player to provide an offensive spark. They also appear to be headed back to the NCAA tournament.

Yet on the surface, Caner-Medley’s statistics suggest a step back. His scoring has fallen since last season from 16 points a game to 11.8. He’s endured rough nights against Gonzaga and George Washington, struggles magnified because the Terps lost both games.

Despite the occasional hiccups, Caner-Medley has settled into a steady, though usually not flashy, role. And while he’s averaging nearly three fewer shots than a year ago, Caner-Medley has remained visible since Maryland returned from the Maui Invitational.

He’s also bolstered the Terps with his rebounding, grabbing seven boards against brawny Boston College on Dec.11 before a 17-point, nine-rebound performance Friday against American.

“His shot selection is better and he’s gotten more aggressive the past month or so,” coach Gary Williams said. “He seems to be attacking the glass, and for a guy like Nik who is 6-8, 240, there’s points to be gotten by playing like that. It’s really great for the team, but for Nik himself it’s just expanding his role as a player. He’s always had that capability for seven, eight rebounds and double-figure scoring, and it hasn’t always been there.”

Neither has Caner-Medley’s willingness to share the offense. But the development of Ekene Ibekwe and Travis Garrison as inside forces along with the continued presence of guard Chris McCray has given the Terps several options. Mike Jones and James Gist also provide scoring off the bench.

All of them can be utilized under the right circumstances to create a dangerous team. However, they were all there last season when the Terps self-destructed because of their often out-of-control play, a trait that has not resurfaced this year from Caner-Medley.

“If somebody sees me pass up a shot, it’s going to make them pass up a shot,” Caner-Medley said. “It’s contagious. Unselfish play is contagious, and one guy can throw that off if you have one guy taking shots out of the offense. Everybody on our team knows what the plays are, knows what the offense is, so you see if someone takes a shot that’s out of the offense.”

A commitment to sharing the offense probably will remain a theme for the Terps when they return to conference play in a little more than a week. It’s one Caner-Medley already has based much of his season on.

“The difference between scoring 12 points and 17 points, that may be a different matchup, that may be whatever plays we’re calling that game,” Caner-Medley said. “It’s one of those things where if you’re patient, scorers score. As long as you’re taking good shots and as long as you’re running the offense, that’s what coach wants.”

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