Williams seeking intensity infusion Maryland coach asks seniors to step up

Hipp says he's starter

January 17, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams quoted from Rudyard Kipling yesterday as he closed ranks around Maryland's beleaguered basketball team.

"Kipling said the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack," the Terps coach said. "That's a good analogy of teams."

Backed into a corner of self-doubt and despair, the Terps will try to reinvent themselves tonight in a nonconference game against Delaware State at Cole Field House.

In a series of soul-searching meetings with his players Monday, Williams called for increased intensity, better shot selection, a tougher attitude and a renewed sense of urgency from his seniors.

That includes Exree Hipp.

Just three days after he was banished to the far end of Maryland's bench, Hipp said he'll resurface as a rejuvenated starter.

"I'm starting against Delaware," Hipp said before practice. "Now I've got to go out and do my job. I've got nothing to worry about in the back of my mind anymore."

The latest leg of Hipp's curious odyssey unfolded after he got a career-low nine minutes of playing time in Saturday's abysmal 77-64 loss at Wake Forest.

Hipp lost his starting job against Wake because of a season-long slump. But he didn't get into the game until the final 13 minutes, a situation Williams attributed yesterday to Hipp's missing a practice last week. Hipp, who lives off campus, got his car stuck in a ditch Wednesday and was unable to contact Williams.

"The reason he didn't get in until the second half was because he missed practice," Williams said. "It was mixed-up communications."

On Monday, Williams met privately with Hipp and collectively with the team's seniors for several hours. Out of those sessions came Hipp's apparent reinstatement to the starting lineup.

"He told me what was on his mind, and I told him was what on my mind," Hipp said. "I think we came to a pretty good agreement. We went out and had a great practice yesterday."

The dialogue worked wonders for Hipp's flagging confidence level, too.

"Right now I feel like I got a big monkey off my back," he said. "I feel relieved, like I can breathe again.

"I was practically in tears in there talking. There was just a lot of frustration. I'm a very emotional person. [Afterward] it was like all the pressure was off my shoulders and now I can go play basketball like I know I'm capable of playing."

Williams took a wait-and-see attitude on the talks -- both with Hipp and the team. He threatened a shake-up after the Wake Forest loss, but appears to have regrouped with his senior crew. He declined to name his starting lineup for tonight, however.

"Ex is going to play depending on how he plays in practice and how he plays in games," Williams said. "I thought he played pretty well [Monday], but that's one day."

In essence, Williams said the Terps (6-6) need to work harder and make an attitude adjustment if they are to turn around a three-game losing streak. He placed much of the responsibility for that on his seniors.

"It's up to the seniors to put an urgency into the team a lot of times," Williams said. "They have to be the ones who understand how crucial each game can be, where one game can keep you out of the NCAA [tournament] or keep you from winning the league championship. So we're trying to put the urgency back into the team."

Williams suggested the seniors' work ethic may have been undermined by the Sweet 16 success the Terps enjoyed each of the past two seasons, when Joe Smith was the team's focal point.

"Last year we had five guys in double figures," he said. "We all were willing to really work hard. I don't think we've all worked as hard this year as we did last year.

"Last year we were a very confident team with a player like Joe with us. This year we wanted to think we were confident because we were ranked. [But] we needed somebody to take over and step up and say we've got to work our butt off to get as good as last year."

Williams said that part of the reason it didn't happen is that the Terps lack a vocal leader.

"We don't have a loud guy, a guy who's very aggressive verbally on the team," he said.

Duane Simpkins, a senior co-captain with junior Keith Booth, said he tried to lead by example.

"You're based on everything as a group," Simpkins said. "I'd voiced my frustration with Coach sometimes. I try to do my best, be on time for everything and work as hard as I possibly can. If one or two guys don't do certain things . . ."

In good grace again, Hipp believes the Terps can re-create their success by turning up their defensive intensity.

"We're going to try to change a little defensive strategy at the beginning of the game," he said. "We're going to try to get our tempo back to fast. If we do that, I think we'll be OK."

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