Elliott signs on with Terps

April 22, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer Derek Toney contributed to this article.

COLLEGE PARK -- When Dunbar High School basketball star Norman Nolan chose Virginia over Maryland during the early signing period last fall, it left the Terrapins without a single player for next season's freshman class.

But as the Nolan door closed, it opened another to a Dunbar teammate considered just as promising.

That player, Rodney Elliott, yesterday signed a national letter of intent with Maryland. The 6-foot-8 1/2 , 200-pound forward became the second Poet in as many years to choose Maryland, following Keith Booth.

"They're a young team that's on the rise," said Elliott, who was selected to The Baltimore Sun All-Metro first team after averaging 12.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists last season. "They're going to be going to the NCAA tournament every year, and they're going to be in the national spotlight."

Elliott said that Booth's decision made it easier for him to sign with Maryland. Booth was the first Dunbar player in more than a decade to sign with the Terps, ending an acrimonious period that began when Ernie Graham left College Park without his degree in 1981.

"I think Keith did take a big step to making a bridge," said Elliott. "Maybe next year, other Baltimore players will follow us."

vTC Said Pete Pompey, Elliott's former coach at Dunbar: "I don't know if there's a wall being kicked down. A lot of universities have to improve in some things, and Maryland is one of them. What he decided was a commitment for the next four years."

Terps coach Gary Williams declined to comment until the end of the spring signing period, in accordance with NCAA rules that prohibit coaches from talking about a signed player more than one time.

Elliott, who plans to major in parks and recreation, said that Nolan's not going to Maryland wasn't a factor in his decision, saying the Terrapins didn't start recruiting him until after the early signing period.

He is expected to be used at power forward and small forward. His addition gives Williams more of the quality depth he lacked at times last season. It also increases Williams' flexibility in using Booth, center Joe Smith and small forward Exree Hipp.

"Keith Booth is a great player. Joe Smith's a great player. I think I can be an asset," Elliott said. "There's no problem with me not starting. I just want to come in and contribute."

Said Booth: "It's great that we're getting another Baltimore kid to come and be part of the Maryland basketball team. I think Rodney is going to show people that he can play at this level, because he's going to work hard and help us do a lot of things inside -- like rebounding."

The announcement by Elliott, which was made at the home of Renard Smith, his coach since age 12 at the Chick Webb Recreation Center in East Baltimore, ended speculation that he was wavering between Maryland and George Washington. The Colonials had made a strong pitch after sophomore center Yinka Dare decided to forgo the last two years of his eligibility and turn pro.

The speculation about George Washington -- where Elliott may have moved right into the starting lineup -- was fueled when Elliott had declined to give Williams a definite answer during a home visit more than two weeks ago.

"I had made up my mind about a week ago, but I wanted to talk with my mother and with Coach Pompey," said Elliott. "But after talking with them, I knew I was making the right decision."

Elliott said several factors went into his decision: the fact his family could come to Cole Field House to see him play; the team's style of play fitting his talents; also, his friendship with Booth, who is coming off a quietly spectacular freshman year.

"It's an excellent choice in terms of this is what he wants to do," said Pompey. "He had opportunities to go to other schools like Loyola, Towson State, UMBC, Xavier and some others, but Rodney decided not to sign early and see where his stock could go. We thought at that time that he was on his way up."

Elliott's stock rose dramatically after his junior year, when he played well at last summer's Nike All-Star camp, and continued to go up during his senior year at Dunbar, when many considered him to be a more consistent player than Nolan.

"He probably had a better overall year than Nolan, who struggled with the coaching change and his weight, and then never came back fully from a knee injury," said Bob Gibbons, a talent evaluator in Lenoir, N.C. "He can be a valuable addition for them."

NOTES: Williams has three scholarships available. . . . The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal reported that Antrum Shamon, a 6-1 point guard from Dixie Community College in St. George, Utah, has given the Terps an oral commitment. . . . Tim Wooden, a 6-10 power forward from Seminole (Okla.) Junior College, and Sarunas Jasikevicius, a 6-4 shooting guard from Lithuania, are considering signing with Maryland. Wooden has narrowed his choices to Maryland and Florida State. Jasikevicius, who played last season at a high school in Quarryville, Pa., has visited Maryland and will visit Pittsburgh this weekend.

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