Stokes steers Terps into risky territory Fearlessness praised, but steadiness needed

February 13, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland coach Gary Williams said earlier this season that he liked the fearlessness Terrell Stokes showed on the court, and that the sophomore point guard wasn't afraid to take risks to help win games for the Terrapins.

But going into tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference matchup with Florida State (13-7, 4-7) at Cole Field House, the question concerning Stokes is this: Are the risks he takes a bit too high, especially with Maryland (18-5, 7-4) having lost three of its past four ACC games?

"His value to our team is his ability to run the offense, penetrate to the basket and play good defense, both in the half-court and in transition," Williams said yesterday before practice. "People are overly critical of Terrell at times because he doesn't score a lot, but he's not asked to do that in our offense."

Stokes isn't the only player responsible for Maryland's recent stumble -- fellow sophomore Obinna Ekezie has fouled out of all three defeats -- but Stokes has to shoulder some of the blame because of the position he plays.

"The point guard is the toughest position on the floor," said Stokes. "You have to know what the other four guys on your team and the five guys on the other team are doing. I think I'm a pretty good point guard, but I have a lot of things to learn. This is a learning process."

In that regard, Stokes is much like his roommate, fellow sophomore Laron Profit. Stokes will go from making a great pass to a sloppy one, from playing tenaciously on defense to tentatively. He also has a tendency to get caught up in his one-on-one battle against the other team's point guard, both in terms of actions and words.

No greater example of that came the last time the Terrapins played the Seminoles. In a Jan. 29 game won by Florida State, 74-70, Stokes helped Maryland erase a 13-point, second-half deficit by getting the ball inside to Keith Booth. The senior forward had scored on several consecutive possessions to tie the score at 65 with 1: 40 to play.

But Florida State point guard Kerry Thompson hit a 23-footer to put the Seminoles ahead by three, and instead of going inside to Booth again, Stokes missed on an out-of-control drive down the lane. Those plays were the culmination of some communication between the two point guards in the second half.

"He said stuff like, 'We're No. 5 in the country,' and I said, 'Well, you'll be 12 or 13 after tonight,' " Thompson recalled this week with a laugh. "Then he said, 'Well, you're not going to beat us like you did Carolina.' And I said to him, 'Well, you're not going to come back on us like you did against Carolina.' It was all in fun."

Asked about the decision he made to drive instead of dish the ball to Booth, Stokes said, "I saw the lane and I probably took a tough shot. Just because I'm talking to somebody doesn't take away from my game."

Or does it?

"It's a process of maturing," said Williams. "If the other guy goes down and does something, it's against us, it's not just against Terrell. Terrell wants to show he's just as good as the other guy. All we want him to do is be steady."

Both Thompson and Florida State coach Pat Kennedy said they were impressed with Stokes.

"He's a very good player," said Thompson, who also hit the game-winner in Florida State's 64-62 win at home over Georgia Tech on Sunday. "He definitely put a lot of defensive pressure on me. I think he's a key to their team."

Said Kennedy: "From what I can see, he appears to be very steady. He plays great defense and he looks like the classic point guard because he looks to pass before shooting. I think he's done a great job."

But Stokes knows he can do better. Though he had seven assists and two turnovers in Saturday's 80-68 loss at Clemson, Stokes got burned by Terrell McIntyre for 21 points, 16 in the second half and nine in a 10-0 run that broke open the game shortly after halftime.

And though Williams wants Stokes to look for the open man before he looks for the open shot, he is a respectable three-point shooter (24-for-63). Where Stokes needs to improve is in his decision-making once he penetrates, since he still gets caught in the air with nowhere to go and no one to feed.

"The last couple of games I stopped being aggressive," said Stokes, whose right foot is still a bit sore after spraining it in the closing seconds at Clemson. "I need to penetrate more. I like to get other guys involved because at times they can't seem to find a way to get themselves involved. That's what a good point guard will do."

But that's not what Stokes has done lately.

Stokes by the numbers

A look at Terrell Stokes' overall statistics for the season, plus a breakdown of his numbers in the Terps' ACC wins and losses:

.. .. .. .. ..G .. Pts ..Ast ..TO ..FG-FGA ..3P-3PA ..FT-FTA

Overall .. ..23 ...8.9 ..4.6 .3.3 ..65-152 ...24-63 ...50-80

ACC wins .. ..7 ...9.3 ..3.3 .2.7 ...18-40 .. .3-16 ...18-30

ACC losses ...4 ...5.2 ..2.7 .2.3 ...12-32 .. .4-11 .. ..5-7

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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