COLLEGE PARK -- Vince Broadnax stayed after practice one night last month to watch a group of walk-ons try out for the University of Maryland basketball team.
"I knew a few of the guys, and I just wanted to see what they could do," Broadnax said yesterday.
Broadnax was in the same place two years ago, one of two walk-ons taken for a team depleted by transfers and academic casualties. Given a scholarship midway through last season, Broadnax is expected to start for the Terrapins this season.
It is a heartwarming story, a nearly 6-foot-4, 181-pound very small forward from Forestville who was overlooked by major-college coaches, then played a total of only 19 minutes as a walk-on two years ago.
"If the coaching change hadn't taken place, I don't know where I'd be," said Broadnax. "I just look at Coach [Gary] Williams at being more fair than Coach [Bob] Wade. Coach Wade was settled in his ways. Coach Williams was willing to take a chance."
The chance for Broadnax came early last season. Point guard Walt Williams, then starting at small forward, was struggling on the court and violated a team rule by showing up late for a team meal.
Broadnax was placed into the starting lineup.
"We weren't playing very well, but you kept noticing Vince," Gary Williams said yesterday.
What Gary Williams and his assistants noticed was the way Broadnax turned his limited size into an advantage, frustrating taller teammates in practices, as well as opponents.
It had been something senior center Cedric Lewis had found out about when Broadnax first joined the team and often was matched against either Lewis, 6-9, 220 pounds, or 6-8, 235-pound Tony Massenburg.
"It was sheer hell to play against him," said Lewis, who likely will start at center alongside Broadnax and sophomore Evers Burns in Maryland's frontcourt. "Coach [Wade] used to get mad at us because Vince kept getting rebounds."
Broadnax may have been Maryland's best defensive player last season and won the team's Mr. Hustle Award at the postseason banquet, but it is his offense that is bound to raise questions, considering the loss of leading scorers Jerrod Mustaf and Massenburg.
Always an efficient offensive player -- making more than half his shots (38 of 69) and having nearly twice as many assists as turnovers (47 to 25) last season -- Broadnax will have to be a more proficient scorer when the Terps begin their season Nov. 26 against Towson State.
Broadnax showed flashes of scoring potential in the Kenner League last summer at Georgetown University, averaging around 17 points a game. He said he spent the summer trying to improve his range on 15-foot jumpers.
NOTES: Maryland announced that it has received a national letter-of-intent from Geno Soto, a 6-7 forward from Puerto Rico who plays at Teaneck (N.J.) High School. The Terps are expecting to receive letters-of-intent from point guard Wayne Bristol of High Point High School in Beltsville and forward Johnnie Rhodes of Washington. Both players previously had made oral commitments to the school.