Morning after not so kind to Terps freshmen Midnight fun yields to intense workout

November 02, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The big crowd was gone. So was Dick Vitale, who had provided his own bit of lunacy to an already frenetic event. By yesterday afternoon, Midnight Madness was merely a rousing memory.

Fewer than 12 hours after leaving a crowd of 10,000 at Cole Field House, the University of Maryland basketball team returned to the court. Along with it came the reality of a tough, three-hour practice, the first for this season.

"It was a lot more intense on each and every play," said point guard Duane Simpkins, one of five freshmen on this year's team. "In high school, we maybe had a few plays in practice where we got that intense. It was like a game situation."

Said freshman forward Exree Hipp: "It was kind of a big change. You have to keep your concentration, not let your focus slip. If you lose it a little bit, he might call on you. It's a learning process. I'm the student, and he's the teacher."

The teacher, uh, coach, is Gary Williams and he started working on the basics yesterday. Williams has three starters returning from last season's 14-15 team -- seniors Evers Burns, Kevin McLinton and Chris Kerwin -- but it's the freshman class that will make the biggest impact this season.

Led by guard Johnny Rhodes, the Maryland freshmen have been rated among the top six incoming classes in the country. It is easy to tell who they are: For the most part, they are quicker and more athletic than the upperclassmen, but also not quite as intense.

"Everything's new for five of the 13 players," said Williams, who will be looking to replace All-America guard Walt Williams, as well as forwards Vince Broadnax and Garfield Smith. "It's pretty tough. It's hard, but, at the same time, it's really interesting as a coach to get guys who are good players to learn a system."

Williams said he was pleased with the way things went yesterday: Though the freshmen (and some sophomores) didn't always know which plays to run and how to position themselves on the court, the mistakes came more from a lack of knowledge than a lack of effort.

With less time to prepare -- four weeks because NCAA rules pushed the start of practice from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1 -- Williams will implement only his basic offensive and defensive sets by the time the regular season begins Dec. 1 against UMBC.

"The key thing is to be good at what we have in by Dec. 1," said Williams.

Several questions need to be answered by then:

* Who will take over the scoring load left by Williams, the Atlantic Coast Conference's top scorer last season? Though many assumed it would be Rhodes, it probably will be a combination of players.

* Who will open the season at point guard? Though McLinton has played there for most of the past two seasons, Simpkins certainly will make a strong bid. McLinton has bulked up to 220 pounds, giving Williams the option of playing him at small forward as well.

* Who will be the first players off the bench? For the first time since he came to Maryland three years ago, Williams has the luxury of going with several different types of lineups. Of the freshmen who might come off the bench, look for Hipp and Nemanja Petrovic, 6 feet 10, 250 pounds, to play a lot.

* Who will get to 250 pounds first, Burns or Kerwin? Burns, whose weight had ballooned to 280 during the summer, is back down to a svelte 260. Kerwin, who played last season at a bony 205, is up to 240 with the help of an 8,000-calories-a-day diet and hours in the weight room this summer.

"You can't rest on what you did last year," said McLinton. "I don't think the competition we're going to get from the freshmen is bad. I think it's going to bring the best out of us."

The prospect of an interesting evening and season brought a boisterous crowd -- including prize recruit Keith Booth of Dunbar -- to Cole Field House on Saturday night. With the help of Vitale, who introduced the men's and women's teams after speaking at a fund-raising dinner, it launched what Williams hopes is a new Terps era.

One free of NCAA sanctions.

One filled with NCAA tournament appearances.

"I thought it was great," said Williams. "I really enjoyed it."

Said Hipp: "When I first came out and busted through the paper banner, I didn't realize there were so many people in the place. I thought, 'Wow, this is pretty exciting.' "

And different. Not only for the freshmen.

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