Bristol reserves chapter in Maryland storybook

November 23, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- He came to the University of Maryland when the basketball program was about to bottom out, barely competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference while suffering through a nasty NCAA probation.

He will complete his eligibility after a season that began here Monday ends in the spring, probably sometime in March and possibly in April. By then, the Terrapins might have finished the storybook they began writing last season.

In a way, Wayne Bristol's college basketball career has mirrored Maryland's own roller coaster ride. And like the Terps, Bristol is hoping those days of struggle and inconsistency are behind him.

"As I look back now, it was just a maturing process," Bristol said of a career that never really took off, of a chance that didn't seem to come until recently. "I didn't agree with some of the things that happened, but at this point, the only thing I can do is work on what happens from now on."

Sitting on the balcony of the beachside hotel where Maryland is staying for this week's Maui Invitational, Bristol seems to be a lot calmer and a lot happier than at any time during his four years in College Park.

It's the result of Bristol's transformation, both on and off the court: from a student who paid the price for slacking off to one who hopes to graduate next summer; from a player who never quite fit a role to one who could be a major contributor.

"When you work hard, your chance will come," said Bristol, who recently was selected by his teammates as co-captain, along with fellow senior Kurtis Shultz of Randallstown. "Coach [Gary Williams] knew I wasn't going to quit. He started giving me the opportunity this year."

That opportunity was apparent Monday morning at the Lahaina Civic Center, where seventh-ranked Maryland opened its 1994-95 season with a 95-67 victory over Division II Chaminade. After junior forward Exree Hipp got off to a slow start, Williams inserted Bristol.

The 6-foot-1 senior responded with one of his best games in a Maryland uniform. Bristol played only 13 minutes, but he scored 12 points. He made four of five shots from the field, including both three-point attempts. He also had two steals, one assist and no turnovers.

In last night's win over Utah, Bristol had a block, a steal, two rebounds and seven points (3-for-4, including a key three-pointer) in 19 minutes.

"He's been our best shooter in the preseason," said Williams. "I think Wayne could have done this for us last year, but he couldn't practice because he wasn't eligible by university requirements even though he met the NCAA's. I think that really made it hard for him the whole year."

He has had his Terps moments, even before coming to Hawaii. There was the nine-points-in-nine-minutes flurry as a freshman in an ill-fated comeback at Louisville, and the eight points in an overtime loss that year against Florida State.

Bristol still thinks about the three-point shot he barely missed at the buzzer against the Seminoles. That he had the confidence to shoot it wasn't a surprise. Ernie Welch, his coach at High Point High in Beltsville, once said of Bristol, "Wayne never saw a shot he didn't like."

"I still think that shot should have gone in," said Bristol, smiling bittersweetly at the memory. "Walt [Williams] was triple-teamed, and I was open. So I shot it."

Though Bristol got off to a sluggish start last season after coming back from being ineligible -- out of shape, he didn't score his 12th point until his 10th game -- he nearly helped upset top-ranked North Carolina.

Coming in for a foul-plagued Johnny Rhodes, Bristol scored 15 points in 15 minutes, hitting six of eight shots.

"Wayne has always had the ability to score a lot of points quickly," said Williams. "He's really good at picking us up when we're flat.

"The thing about Wayne is that he'll always give you a good effort. He's always flying around the ball."

Bristol attributes his new attitude to a talk he had last summer with his mother, Zilla, and his grandmother, Agatha. Both are extremely religious women who encouraged Bristol to start reading the Bible.

"I was angry at everybody, including myself," said Bristol. "They saw what I was going through and how angry I was and they made me realize how fortunate I was. They made me see how people are crippled and homeless and it made my problems seem very small."

Earlier in his career, Bristol never gained the confidence of the Maryland coaching staff because of his erratic play. He wasn't careful enough with the ball to play point, and he didn't take smart enough shots to play off-guard.

That Walt Williams and Kevin McLinton were workhorses who seemed to go nearly the whole way every night didn't help.

"They played until they fouled out," said Bristol. "There wasn't much room for anybody else. I talked about leaving after my sophomore year and Coach said it was up to me, that I'd always have a scholarship here. But I thought I could help the team."

Though Maryland's guard situation has remained unchanged since last year, Bristol's has not.

He has stayed ahead of freshman Sarunas Jasikevicius since the start of practice and with Rhodes playing some point to spell Duane Simpkins, Bristol will get some time there, too.

"He's a big part of our team," said Simpkins.

Certainly bigger than he's ever been.

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