Maryland freshman Patterson gets comfortable behind wheel

January 30, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Four years ago, Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski handed the keys to the team's offense to a precocious freshman point guard named Bobby Hurley and watched him drive the Blue Devils to two national championships.

So far, Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller hasn't offered freshman guard Lena Patterson the equivalent privilege. But, as the eighth-ranked Terps prepare to play host to North Carolina State tonight, Patterson, who watched Hurley practice briefly yesterday at Cole Field House, is getting more of an opportunity to take the car around the block now and then.

"It [the season] started off slowly, but I've worked hard in practice, and I'm starting to see improvements and get playing time. It's going well," Patterson said.

Indeed, Patterson, who is averaging 14.6 minutes, has seen her playing time nearly double in the past 10 days, from 16 minutes against Virginia to 26 minutes in a loss to North Carolina.

Last Monday, Patterson -- a first-team All-Met selection in the Washington area at Seabrook's Elizabeth Seton High last year -- got her first start in an Atlantic Coast Conference game and played 31 minutes in the Terps' 74-61 win over Florida State.

Patterson, who is averaging 2.5 points, didn't score, but she had five assists and seven rebounds to share team honors with backcourt mate Malissa Boles.

Just as important, by Weller's reckoning, Patterson played good defense in Maryland's 1-2-2 zone.

"You can see her defense just get better and better as we go along," Weller said. "She's getting out there and attacking because she's better equipped to do that."

Patterson, who was thought by many to have the inside shot at the starting point guard role in preseason, instead shared minutes with sophomore Karon Ferguson.

"I knew that college would be hard and a big change and a big adjustment," Patterson said. "I didn't think that I was going to come in right off the bat and start. It was something I had to deal with and get used to, because I came right in in high school and started as a freshman."

The culprit, according to Weller and Patterson, was the guard's conditioning, or relative lack of it, for the demands of the college game.

Once her conditioning improved, Patterson's minutes steadily increased. About the only area where Patterson could use some dramatic improvement is in her shooting.

Her field-goal percentage is 30 percent, hardly the stuff of championship point guards. But Weller believes that, as Patterson's defense improves, her confidence in her shot selection will, too, and thus will her percentage.

With play like that, Patterson might find herself driving the Maryland offense a lot more often.

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