COLLEGE PARK -- Talk about making up for lost time. After its first practice was delayed five days, the University of Maryland basketball team took to the floor at 12:01 a.m. yesterday and left for the day around 9 last night.
The Terrapins slept, ate and rested between the three sessions, which began with Midnight Madness before 2,500 at Cole Field House and ended with the second of two more serious, two-hour workouts last night.
"They played hard," Maryland coach Gary Williams said after the middle session. "They just did it. It's not something you had to stay on them about."
That was perhaps the most noticeable difference between this year and last, when Williams was going into his first season at his alma mater and there was a feeling-out process between the players and the new coach.
"It's much easier this year than last because last year we didn't know what to expect," said junior guard Walt Williams.
As first practices go, the Terps seemed a lot more cohesive than they did a year ago. Where they spent an inordinate amount of time last fall learning tasks as simple as catching the ball, yesterday was spent working on the half-court offense and the press.
It hardly seemed to matter that there were a lot of new faces -- eight to be exact -- and a lot of players adjusting to new roles. RTC Williams, who will share the backcourt with transfer Matt Roe, is the team's only returning starter.
"We got a few of the cobwebs out," said Roe, a senior who in three years at Syracuse became the school's all-time leading three-point shooter. "Playing pickup games is a little different than practice. You tend to relax after three or four games. With the coaches here, you're always working."
The Terps had been working out on their own longer than nearly every Division I-A team in the country because of a five-day penalty recently imposed by new athletic director Andy Geiger. The penalty was the result of Maryland coaches, including Williams, observing five such sessions before last season.
Now they will get ready for a Nov. 26 opener against Towson State, and a season in which Maryland will not be permitted to play in either the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament or postseason competition and are banned from making any live television appearances.
The sanctions are part of a three-year probation handed down by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for violations committed during the three-year tenure of former Maryland coach Bob Wade.
"You have to have a lot of pride in yourself," said Gary Williams. "You can't think about the outside factors, about not being able to play in the tournament. I don't want them to feel sorry for themselves."
The Terps are not likely to. Then again, after yesterday's practice marathon, they might be too tired to think about much but a good night's sleep.
NOTES: CBS and ESPN basketball commentator Bill Raftery, a friend of Williams' from his days coaching at Seton Hall, attended practice yesterday afternoon. He was on a trip to the area, where his daughter is a student at Georgetown.