COLLEGE PARK -- At Maryland, where the seasons are merely the downtime between offseason crises, this past respite between basketball seasons has been longer than most for guards Matt Roe and Walt Williams.
Williams, the lanky 6-foot-8 junior point guard, spent most of his summer vacation trying to decide, in view of Maryland's two-year NCAA banishment from postseason play, if he wanted to come back and be the centerpiece of coach Gary Williams' offense.
Meanwhile, Roe, the 6-6 senior sharpshooter, sat out the last 12 months following his transfer from Syracuse. He had plenty of time to ponder whether he should stay at Maryland and where he'd fit in.
As you might expect, tonight's season opener against Towson State at Cole Field House (7:30, WBAL-AM 1090) couldn't come soon enough for both guards.
"It's been a long wait," Roe said. "I'm really excited to play with the scoreboard on and the referees and some crowd in here."
"I'm quite tired of talking about things other than basketball," Williams said. "It's really hard to see other teams playing and know that we can't play until [tonight]. We're very anxious as a team and we'll just be ready."
The long offseason, plus four weeks of playing intrasquad scrimmages, can intensify feelings of cabin fever. But while they've been cooped up at home, Roe and Williams have been getting to know each other on the court.
"I think they've done a good job of taking care of each other," said Gary Williams. "Walt gets Matt the ball when he's open and vice versa. They respect each other and that's the biggest thing, once you get that.
"Walt knows how hard Matt works and Matt knows what this means to Walt. So, it's a kind of a same feeling and that's really helped."
Williams and Roe have never worked together on the floor, and their on-court compatibility will be as crucial as any other aspect on this Maryland team. The Terps, who lost four starters from last year's 19-14 team, almost universally have been picked to occupy the basement of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"Over the weeks, Matt and I have become very familiar with each other's game," Walt Williams said. "I think every time I get the ball in my hands, I'm making sure that he's open. I'm always looking for him to get his shot and I think he does the same for me. It's not a hard adjustment at all, because virtually anywhere on the court, Matt Roe is dangerous."
"We're still learning about each other," Roe said, "but we both always have in the back of our minds that the three-pointer is more than two, obviously, so we're looking at that. We're both also looking to drive and draw one another's men and dish it out to the open guy."
In his sophomore and junior years at Syracuse, Roe worked with Sherman Douglas, who merely holds the NCAA's career record for assists, with 960. Ignoring the 10-inch difference in their heights, Roe can see similarities between Williams and Douglas.
"I don't think Walt is as quick as Sherman," he said, "but he's
deceptively quick. He's got a long first step and he's got a long body. He gets to the basket with one dribble from the top of the key.
"They're both competitive people. They both want to win really bad. Sherman would hate to lose pickup games and Walt's the same way. They both get everybody involved. They're winners."
With their height and shooting ability, Roe and Williams bring obvious advantages to their pairing in the backcourt, not the least of which is their experience in big games.
"They've got to be our leaders," Gary Williams said. "Whether they say anything or not, they're our leaders, because they're in that backcourt position where you can lead. They know that, too, there's some responsibility for both of them."
However, they are the only Maryland players to average more than 10 points a game for a Division I team. So they expect to see more than their share of junk defenses designed to shut them down and force the rest of the team to score.
"I think we have a lot of hidden talent," Walt William said. "We have a lot of good shooters here. I think Matt and I have to score for this team to be successful, but I think a lot of people on this team are capable of having a big scoring night."
"We're going to look to score," Roe said. "As part of our offense, Coach Williams has said he wants to involve the three-pointer more, but in order to get those shots, the inside game has got to come around, otherwise they're just going to suffocate the outside game. We realize that, and we're trying to get as many guys involved in the offense and hope it takes care of itself."
Tonight -- Towson State, 7:30
Nov. 28 -- Southern Cal, 7:30
Dec. 1 -- at West Virginia, 4
Dec. 3 -- vs. Boston Col. at Richmond, 9
Dec. 8 -- at Jacksonville, 7:30
Dec. 11 -- Cal-Irvine, 7:30
Dec. 22 -- Lafayette, 1
Dec. 27 -- Maryland vs. Rutgers at ECAC Holiday Tournament, 7
Dec. 29 -- Maryland vs. S. Carolina or BYU at ECAC Holiday Tournament, TBA
Jan. 2 -- at Wake Forest, 7:30
Jan. 5 -- Clemson, 1
Jan. 7 -- UMBC, 7:30