Minus flash, Smith brightens Terps' picture Forward adds range and finds control

November 30, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Garfield Smith often has played basketball the way he dressed. In fact, when he first came to Maryland, the only thing flashier than his game were his clothes.

These days, the senior forward is more under control and a bit more diverse, sartorially and athletically.

One thing Maryland fans have noticed in the team's first two games this season is Smith's ability to take -- and make -- the three-point shot. After attempting five last season (making two), he's made two of three this season.

"Last year, I really didn't have to shoot outside," Smith said earlier this week. "We had Walt [Williams] and Matt [Roe], and we didn't need another gun. We needed something else, and I gave us something else. This year, we need someone besides Walt to shoot outside."

But shooting long-range jumpers isn't all Smith has provided the Terrapins. Going into today's 1 p.m. game against American (1-1) at Cole Field House, Smith has given Maryland (2-0) a little bit of everything.

You want points? Smith scored 18 to lead the Terps in their 83-53, opening-night victory over Mount St. Mary's, then had 20 in a 115-60 victory Tuesday night over Maryland-Eastern Shore. He is second on the team behind Williams.

You want rebounds? Smith led Maryland with nine against the Hawks, giving him 14 for the season, one behind junior center Evers Burns. How about defense? Smith has seven steals, one behind Williams.

You want leadership? Though Williams and senior forward Vince Broadnax were selected as team captains, Smith is certainly someone the Maryland players look up to, as much for what he does off the court as for what he does on it.

"A lot of the guys on the team last year were mellow, and Garfield is very high-strung, so he blended in really well," said junior guard Kevin McLinton. "But any time you play in a system like Coach [Gary] Williams', you have to be disciplined, and Garfield has shown that he can play under control."

Typical of most junior-college players -- he went to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College for two years -- Smith struggled with consistency the first half of last season. And typical of most ex-New York players, Smith's game seemed centered on taking the ball right to the basket.

"Garfield had problems learning the offense, but, once he did, I think he did one of the best jobs of anyone new coming into the league last year," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "And he's taken it up a notch from there."

Not bad for a player who was labeled a risk coming out of high school. Not bad for a player who seemed to be overwhelmed by the ACC after one forgettable night at North Carolina last January.

In a 105-73 loss to the Tar Heels, Smith was intimidated early by Tar Heels forward George Lynch. Smith finished with no field goals and only one point in 18 minutes.

"That was very embarrassing," Smith said. "It was the most embarrassing game of my life. I promised that I'd never be embarrassed again like that."

And, to date, he hasn't been. He was, perhaps, Maryland's most consistent player the second half of last season and became one of its leaders when Walt Williams was sidelined for six weeks with a broken leg.

Smith made key free throws to secure back-to-back victories over North Carolina State and American, then scored a career-high 24 in a win at Virginia Tech. He finished the year averaging a shade under 11 points along with more than five rebounds a game.

"I'm as confident as anyone," said Smith, who made nearly 53 percent of his shots last year and is 16-for-25 from the field this season. "I feel I can do anything I want, whenever I want to.

Gary Williams said he is pleased with the effort Smith has made in trying to improve on the court and in the classroom. Smith worked as hard as any Maryland player last summer, adding 10 pounds to his 6-foot-6 body and about 15 feet on his jumper.

"He looked at his game and tried to figure where he needed work, so he got stronger and he now has an outside shot," said Williams.

Williams said he also is pleased at the maturity Smith has shown toward his pursuit of a degree in criminal justice. Williams wasn't aware that Smith was speaking Wednesday to a group of high school kids in Montgomery County. Smith said he eventually would like to go back to New York and work with kids in his Bronx neighborhood.

"That's great," said Williams. "A lot of people had the wrong impression of Garfield because of the problems he had in high school [he went to three schools]. Then there's the stigma of being a junior college player. If you had to pick a kid who was going to give you some trouble, it was Garfield. But he hasn't been trouble at all."

Except maybe for the competition.

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