Tall tale: Terps come up short

January 10, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA — CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Evers Burns was a better football player than basketball player in high school. Chris Kerwin is so skinny, he lists a dietary supplement as his favorite food.

The two Maryland big men are senior leaders, hard workers, self-made players. But against top-notch ACC competition, they look as comfortable as two priests at a Madonna concert.

Take yesterday's 101-73 loss to No. 6 North Carolina, when, in an all-too-revealing first half, they were outscored 26-2 by their Tar Heels counterparts, Eric Montross and George Lynch.

That, uh, ended the drama.

There's no sense blaming Burns and Kerwin for the outcome, but after two resounding ACC defeats, it's obvious the Terps can't return to prominence until they recruit more talented front-line players.

If Burns and Kerwin couldn't match up against Georgia Tech's Malcolm Mackey and James Forrest, what could Gary Williams expect against a Carolina team with three 7-footers, none of whom is as ferocious a rebounder as Lynch, who's 6-8?

The answer is not much. Williams again expressed dismay with the Terps' tentative start, but the truth is Maryland was &r overmatched. In fairness, most teams will be against North Carolina and No. 10 Georgia Tech.

Burns finished with 14 points, but shot 1-for-6 in the first half coming off a 5-for-21 performance against Tech. Kerwin had more turnovers (three) than rebounds (two) in the first half, and no rebounds in the second.

"I've got to get in there and play stronger, and I didn't do that tonight," Kerwin said. "I don't know what else to say. They just killed us inside. I know I'm going to work my butt off not to let this happen again."

Chances are, it will. Maryland's next opponent is No. 23 Florida State, a team featuring Doug Edwards, 6-9, and Byron Wells, 6-10. Nearly every ACC team starts one dominant big man. Maryland's most gifted player is freshman forward Exree Hipp.

So, what's the solution?

Not 6-10, 235-pound freshman Nemanja Petrovic, who missed the previous two games with shin splints and played only four minutes yesterday. Petrovic wouldn't have made a difference against Montross (17 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks).

Maryland needs to get bigger, and it needs to get better. Kerwin is 6-10, but only 230 pounds. Burns is 6-8, but, for all his progress, he still isn't quick enough or skilled enough to make an impact against the best of the ACC.

Actually, the issue is not size, but athleticism.

"We'll have arrived here when we get where no one will have a better athlete at any position," Williams said. "In a year or two, no one will have better athletes than Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp at shooting guard and small forward. But there are still three other positions."

It will take time for Maryland to build to the point where it can redshirt a 7-1 freshman like North Carolina. But Joe Smith, an athletic, 6-9 center from Richmond, Va., arrives at Maryland next year. Keith Booth, the 6-6 All-America swingman from Dunbar High, might join him.

Smith would give the Terps a presence inside, and Booth could (( develop into a rugged version of Duke's Grant Hill. Mix in Rhodes, Hipp and point guard Duane Simpkins, and that's a formidable -- if undersized -- starting five.

"Joe Smith fits that mold -- he's agile, he's got good hands, he gets up in the air well," Williams said. "That's what Hipp and Rhodes give us, too. Maybe Mario Lucas can lift weights and get to that point."

Lucas, a 6-7, 215-pound freshman, is a nice-looking player, but, like his Maryland teammates yesterday, he was lost in the land of the giants. At one point, he eyed the basket with Montross lurking. "Look out, Mario, look out!" the Terps' John Walsh yelled.

Too late. Blocked shot.

North Carolina finished with 12 blocks -- six by backup center Kevin Salvadori -- and out-rebounded Maryland 50-30.

"They just keep bringing in 7-footers," Williams said. "A couple of those blocks, they didn't get up real high. They stretched, rather than reached, for the block. That's discouraging to our guys. But you can't get discouraged. You've got to be tough."

Toughness is one thing.

Talent is another.

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