Terps' Kerwin is growing into position in the ACC Senior center gains strength, confidence

November 25, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- When Chris Kerwin came to the University of Maryland two years ago, he was neither physically nor emotionally ready for the experience. He was a bit overwhelmed by it all.

At 6 feet 10 and a frail-looking 205 pounds, Kerwin did not fit the image of a big-time college center. And the two years he had spent at Old Dominion did not prepare him for playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Cedric [Lewis] used to block my shots in practice every day," said Kerwin.

And Maryland coach Gary Williams yelled at Kerwin nearly as of ten. But the combination toughened him to the point, where, after sitting out a year in accordance with NCAA rules, Kerwin thought he was ready to play in the ACC last season.

Though he exhibited the ferocity Williams wanted, Kerwin lacked the muscle to stay with the league's biggest players on a nightly basis. It didn't matter to Kerwin if he was dunked on by North Carolina's Eric Montross or taken outside by Duke's Christian Laettner. He kept coming back.

"It got me up for the games a lot, knowing I was playing against great players," said Kerwin, who had some moments, including an 11-point, eight-rebound performance against Florida State. "Playing at that level got me in the mind-set of trying to compete at my highest level. I went out there and gave it my best shot."

What was missing Kerwin hopes he found over the summer. Through a combination of weight training with teammate Kurtis Shultz and weight gaining under a program devised by strength coach Frank Costello, Kerwin thinks he will contribute more to Maryland this season.

Though he has lost some of the 35 pounds he put on with the help of a 5,000-calorie-a-day, high-carbohydrate diet, Kerwin is trying to become a more formidable presence. He is not quite there, as evidenced by his seven points and seven rebounds in last night's 96-85 exhibition game victory over USA Verich Reps.

Still, Williams is happy with the progress Kerwin has made.

"He's much stronger this year, and he's gotten more comfortable in our offense," said Williams. "He still gets into situations where he's a little off-balance, but what he gives us far outweighs the negatives. He won't back off anyone."

Kerwin wants to be more a presence on the stat sheet as well. After averaging 4.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, Kerwin would like to more than double those numbers.

Those who recall the turnaround Lewis made as a senior believe there is hope for Kerwin. After three seasons of mostly sitting on the bench, Lewis became a solid, if unspectacular, offensive player and the most prolific single-season shot-blocker in ACC history.

"I've kept that in the back of my mind, what Ced did here as a senior," said Kerwin, who was often matched up against the 6-9 Lewis in practice. "Seeing what he accomplished, I definitely look to emulate him."

Though Kerwin doesn't have the quickness that Lewis had -- especially in his feet -- Williams thinks Kerwin's goals are reachable. Because of the play of Nemanja Petrovic, Kerwin won't have to play as many minutes and will be able to stay fresher at the end of games.

"He's brought everyone's game up," Kerwin said of the 6-10, 247-pound freshman. "It's definitely a lot more competitive than it was last year. I think he's helped both of us get better."

Kerwin sees how Lewis converted one good season into a pro basketball career -- the former Terrapin is playing in Turkey -- and sees some interesting possibilities. Working toward his degree in criminal justice, Kerwin also is thinking about a career in law enforcement.

For now, he would rather be more of an enforcer around the basket. Though Laettner has graduated, players such as Montross and Florida State's Rodney Dobard will be back to try to push Kerwin around. This year, Kerwin hopes they will feel it a little more when he pushes back.

* Freshman guard Johnny Rhodes put on an impressive show last night, scoring a game-high 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Evers Burns added 19 points and 17 rebounds. Freshman guard Duane Simpkins added 13 points and five assists of the bench. Maryland will open its season Tuesday against UMBC.

The Maryland's women team will play the Hungarian national team tonight at 7:30 at Cole Field House.

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