- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams yesterday confirmed that junior guard John Gilchrist’s possible departure to the NBA at season’s end has proved a disruption.

In a rare discussion of internal team problems, Williams conceded outside influences like Internet chat groups and entourage seekers have impacted Gilchrist’s play since he was named ACC tournament MVP last year.

“People put a lot of pressure on kids now,” said Williams, who admitted dissuading Gilchrist from turning pro after last season. “People outside the program [say], ‘You’re the MVP of the ACC. Maybe you should go in the draft.’ … Let’s face it: There’s a lot of money out there. The seed is planted [by outsiders saying], ‘What if you get hurt if you come back next year?’ Things like that. People know how to work that game. …

“There’s a lot of people that have things to say. A lot of chat rooms that have things to say. It’s hard when, as a coach, you’re one voice. Your staff is one voice, and there’s a thousand voices out there.”

Gilchrist and his teammates weren’t made available for comment. However, Gilchrist was clearly irked after playing just nine minutes and not starting because of academic problems in Tuesday’s 81-66 loss at Wake Forest. Williams said injuries limited Gilchrist, who scored just two points while playing poor defense. Gilchrist countered that he would have played better if he had had more time to loosen his sore back and wrist.

It wasn’t the first emotional moment this season for Gilchrist, who has been criticized by one national columnist for possessing first-round talent but second-round attitude. Gilchrist tossed a water bottle during one timeout and yelled so loudly at teammates during a loss to George Washington on Dec.4 that an opponent advised him to calm down.

Williams first admitted to the team’s chemistry problems during a radio show following Tuesday’s loss. However, the coach said he has held several conversations with Gilchrist over the past two days to get him ready to start today when Maryland (9-4) plays Temple (6-6) at Comcast Center in its final nonconference game.

“We’re trying to get John straightened out because he is a good player,” Williams said. “He was MVP of the ACC tournament, and I haven’t forgotten that. We just want John to play really well because when he does, that makes us a better basketball team.

“Our team was very young last year. We won the ACC tournament. It has to affect you a little bit in certain ways. Sometimes you want … the feeling of winning that [title], but sometimes you have to remember how you got there. We had to work very hard last year to get to that level. We’ve gone through some things now to let us get to that level.”

Maryland enters a three-game homestand today after road losses to No.3 North Carolina and No.4 Wake Forest. The Terps know a prolonged slump would jeopardize their chances of making the NCAA tournament.

“You lose two and even if they’re third and fourth in the country, it hurts your confidence a little bit,” Williams said. “We could have played really well and lost both of those games. Anybody could. At least we’re through that. We have the opportunity to turn it around.”

Williams downplayed talk of confronting the most adversity since he arrived in 1989 and soon faced NCAA sanctions stemming from recruiting violations by predecessor Bob Wade. Maryland since has reached 11 straight NCAA tournaments and won the national championship in 2002.

“There’s always adversity every season,” Williams said. “This just got a little public.”

Gilchrist would be the core of any Maryland resurgence. The Terps’ leading scorer (15.4 points) had at least 20 points in five straight games earlier in the season and was the team’s top rebounder after 10 games. Gilchrist and forward Nik Caner-Medley have converted a team-high 72 of 144 shots while alternating as offensive catalysts.

Williams would rather the Terps not rely so heavily on Gilchrist’s scoring, but he also said it would be “unfair” to move Gilchrist to shooting guard. Instead, Williams just wants a more rounded effort.

“John is a scorer playing the point guard position,” Williams said. “When you have a scorer’s mentality, you look at things one way as opposed to a point guard who doesn’t shoot as much. We need John to shoot the ball. He’s one of our scorers. That’s fine. The other point of being a point guard is playing the other team’s point guard because that’s usually the first line of defense. It establishes a defense. Then running the offense and getting everybody involved. It is the toughest position on the court.”

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