- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

Will Bowers’ stat line in Maryland’s exhibition opener on Saturday was plenty encouraging for a program that has waited two seasons for the 7-foot-1 center to develop.

What happened in his first few minutes on the floor was just as significant.

“I didn’t get winded when I was out there on the court, so that was good,” Bowers said. “Usually last year when I got out there, my first couple times up the court I’d be a little winded.”

Instead, he went on to score 13 points and add seven rebounds and four blocks against St. Francis Xavier, a glimmer of the potential a player so tall inevitably evokes.

While teammates and coach Gary Williams have gushed about Bowers’ conditioning this preseason — he’s added muscle since last year even though he slimmed from 265 pounds to 253 pounds — the junior appears ready for a more vital role as well as more playing time. His post moves appear more refined than in his first two seasons, perhaps a product of his summer stint at the Pete Newell Big Man Camp.

Bowers also seems more assertive and animated on the floor, byproducts of the confidence he claims to have found. He’ll look to continue building on Saturday’s effort when the Terrapins play host to defending Division II national champion Virginia Union tonight in their exhibition finale.

“He’s played enough in what he did this summer to know he’s good enough to be out there,” Williams said. “I think every player has to learn that at one point. You just have to say ‘Hey, I can play with these guys.’ I think Will has done that in his mind.”

Bowers’ first two seasons were anything but overwhelming. He had fewer points (16) than games played (19) as a freshman and did not appear in Maryland’s final seven games, including the Terps’ entire ACC tournament title run.

He showed improvement last season but virtually no consistency. On some days, Bowers would provide a spark, like when he grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots in Maryland’s upset victory at Duke. In too many other games, he would quickly become a nonfactor and play fewer than 10 minutes.

That led to criticism from fans who believed a player so big should be a greater factor, especially on a team that was sliding toward missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 seasons.

“I don’t think it’s unfair,” Bowers said. “I think it’s fair to look at someone my size [and think] that they should be able to go out and produce on the court, which is something I wasn’t doing my first two years.”

If Bowers’ summer development and improved conditioning translate into better play, it would answer questions about Maryland’s frontcourt. Travis Garrison, James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe join Bowers in the Terps’ frontcourt rotation, and the emergence of anyone in that group into a steady player at both ends of the floor would provide Maryland an inside anchor.

Bowers, one of two 7-footers in the league along with injured Virginia Tech center Robert Krabbendam, hopes to thrive in such a role this season.

“I just want to prove to everyone I can be consistent once games start, especially when the ACC season starts,” Bowers said. “I want to be consistent, especially defensively and conditioning-wise, and be someone everyone can count on game after game.”

Notes — Maryland announced the signings of Venezuelan 6-foot-5 combo guard Greivis Vasquez from Rockville’s Montrose Christian and 6-foot-6 forward Landon Milbourne of Roswell, Ga. The additions, who were expected to sign with Maryland, join point guard Eric Hayes of Dumfries, Va., and power forward Jerome Burney of Atlanta in the Terps’ recruiting class. Maryland announced the commitments of Hayes and Burney on Wednesday.

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