Williams' turnover ratio points to need for Terps to pull rank on field general

MILTON KENT

January 09, 1991|By MILTON KENT

WELCOME to another year of musings on the wild and wacky world that is college basketball.

This year, we feature a couple of additions to this space that are sure to amaze and astound, or at least cause one to ask, "What is that lunatic talking about?"

We begin with a new feature called "Million Dollar Questions."

This week's question: Is Walt Williams really a point guard?

The obvious answer is, "Of course he is, otherwise Maryland coach Gary Williams wouldn't be playing him there." That's not completely true.

Last season, Gary Williams moved the slender 6-foot-8 junior from small forward to the point to get him more involved in the team's offense, and the move paid immediate dividends. The Terps won the Chaminade Christmas Classic in Hawaii, and, save for a few missteps, played like a team that deserved to be in the NCAA tournament.

But a year after the shift, and without Tony Massenburg and Jerrod Mustaf to hold down the inside, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the move.

Clearly, Walt Williams is more comfortable at the point than he was at this time last year. But his ballhandling is still suspect and he doesn't always make the right decisions either on the fastbreak or in the halfcourt set.

His assist-to-turnover ratio, one of the most important indicators of the success of a floor general, is only 1.1 to 1: He has made 66 assists, but has turned the ball over a whopping 58 times in 12 games.

By contrast, North Carolina's King Rice, one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's more maligned point guards, is operating at a 2.4 to 1 ratio. Clearly, Rice has more weapons in the Tar Heels' offense to pass to than Williams, but he is also a more accomplished playmaker.

And it isn't as if there isn't another point guard candidate. Sophomore Kevin McLinton has been a heady performer since he was moved into the starting lineup seven games ago to help Williams bring the ball up.

At 6-3, McLinton is taller than most ACC point guards and at 200 pounds, he is certainly stronger, which gives him as many post-up opportunities as Williams.

Of course, the Terps are 8-4 with Williams running the offense, so what do we know?

* WHITHER HOLMES? Two years ago, as a sophomore, Maryland's Carla Holmes was a starting guard on a Final Four team, and was heralded by Sports Illustrated's Ralph Wiley as a member of one of the best backcourts he had ever seen, along with All-America Deanna Tate.

Now, Holmes, a preseason All-ACC pick by the league's coaches, is adrift, having been suspended by coach Chris Weller for the second straight year, again for unspecified reasons.

It appears to be a strange end to what once was a promising career. Holmes was one of only five juniors to score 1,000 points in Maryland history and was the conference's Rookie of the Year in 1987-88. She moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore on a team that went 29-3, losing to Tennessee in the national semifinals.

Holmes entered this season as the ACC's fourth-best three-point shooter of all time, connecting on 38 percent of her shots. She was averaging just 3.7 points and 19 minutes per game at the time of her suspension.

* FROM FLOOR TO CEILING: Most new coaches place their personal stamp on their program as soon as possible, and N.C. State's Les Robinson is no exception.

But Robinson's signature move was more visible than most. Robinson had the university pull up the Tartan synthetic surface at Reynolds Coliseum and replace it with the old wooden floor that had been in storage since the 1973-74 season.

Robinson, who played for State in the early 1960s, says that while tradition was an important factor in bringing back the hardwood, practicality was more important.

"We had two knee injuries at the Citadel [one of his previous coaching stops] and one of them was at South Carolina, where they have a Tartan floor," said Robinson.

"I've had not one complaint. The players, the referees and the opponents all like it better. Even the maintenance people like it better."

* FEARLESS PROGNOS-TICATOR: After last season's stunning success (choosing three of the Final Four participants), your Fearless Prognosticator decided to make the act a weekly one.

The first pick is made out of a need for revenge. Duke's Christian Laettner cost FP a shot at having all four teams in the national semis with a remarkably lucky shot at the buzzer to beat Connecticut. So to redeem himself, FP picks Maryland to pull the upset of the season Saturday, beating the Grant Hill-less Blue Devils at Cole Field House.

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