- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006


Maryland coach Gary Williams denied reports that juniors Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry will make themselves available for the NBA Draft without hiring agents.

Such a decision would leave them the option of returning to school at any time before the NBA’s June18 early entry withdrawal deadline. If Ibekwe and Strawberry did declare, they would be eligible to work out for NBA teams and receive evaluations from pro scouts.

“It’s complete speculation at this point,” Williams said. “There has been some discussions, but it is way too soon to speculate on something like that.”

The Californians were starters on a Maryland team that finished 19-13 and missed the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Manhattan bounced the Terrapins from the NIT in the first round last month.

Ibekwe averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds and emerged as the Terps’ most reliable inside presence. He endured an extended slump throughout January and did not score more than 15 points in a game after a 21-point outing Dec. 11 against Boston College.

Ibekwe, a 6-foot-9 forward, ranks seventh on Maryland’s career blocks list with 142.

The 6-foot-5 Strawberry, whose sophomore season was cut short by a torn knee ligament, was forced to play point guard as a junior despite having minimal experience at the position. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.0 assists but struggled at times running the offense.

Ibekwe and Strawberry would be the foundation of Maryland’s team next season if they return as expected. Fellow starters James Gist and Mike Jones also will be back, and freshman point guard Eric Hayes’ arrival is expected to permit Strawberry to slide back to the wing.

Patrick Stevens

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