Stokes takes extra pains to get to Terrapins' point Highly regarded guard sees first action tonight

November 20, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Terrell Stokes battled a back ailment, a state of depression and the typical transition from high school to college life to get here.

Tonight, he makes his much-anticipated debut for Maryland in an 8 o'clock exhibition game against the Brisbane Bullets of Australia at Cole Field House.

Rated the nation's No. 1 pure point guard at Simon Gratz High in Philadelphia a year ago, Stokes missed four weeks of preseason practice with a nagging lower back problem that appears finally to have been alleviated.

Although he'll get only one- and two-minute bursts of action behind Duane Simpkins and Matt Kovarik in Maryland's final preseason tuneup, it will be a big step in the right direction.

"He's done a good job and he's only been practicing a week," coach Gary Williams said. "Conditioning-wise, he's going to get in much better shape."

Stokes first experienced back pain toward the end of his last high school season, he said, but it would go away with rest. When he got to Maryland, it didn't go away at all.

Stokes made it through only two practices before the problem worsened. It ultimately was diagnosed as spinal dylosis, a condition that results in a tightening of the muscles in his lower left back.

He received epidural shots to relieve the pain and now does 45 minutes of therapy before practice. While he was adjusting to college life, he also had to learn how to cope with his physical pain.

"I prayed every day about it," Stokes said. "I was in a state of depression. You have ups and downs in life. This time I was able to handle it and find a solution."

Stokes may have missed practice time, but he didn't squander it. He watched and learned. When he finally participated in an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, he was in control of the offense and appeared comfortable running plays.

"When we recruited him, we knew he knew the game," Williams said. "He knew how to play as a point guard. You're not teaching Terrell a position. What he's got to learn in a hurry is our plays, our defense, what we expect out of him. But he's working at it; he's really trying."

Stokes said the mental part comes naturally.

"I have a feel of the game because I've been playing a long time," he said. "When I wasn't practicing, I was picking it up in my mind. I've been doing this all my life."

NOTES: Brisbane is led by Baltimore native Leroy Loggins, a 6-foot-8, 175-pound swingman who scored 26 points against Clemson, 19 against Duke and 15 in a 74-64 upset of Virginia two weeks ago. . . . Guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, who missed Maryland's 97-80 win over Court Authority with a sprained ankle, will play tonight.

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