Year to remember, incident to forget Maryland: It's been a season of highs and lows for senior Sonia Chase. She's putting up career numbers, but also has suffered a broken nose from an altercation with a teammate.

December 28, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The scar is visible. Not in the way a surgeon leaves his signature on a player's knee, but in the way Sonia Chase talks about what happened in the locker room two months ago and what could happen in a courtroom next month.

The discomfort is obvious. Not in the pain that has long since left her nose, but in the way she talks about the relationship with the teammate who allegedly broke it and the others caught in the middle, including coaches and school officials.

This could have easily been the worst season of Sonia Chase's career at the University of Maryland.

But it is turning out to be the best.

Two months after a long-standing feud with teammate Kalisa Davis turned violent, and a little more than one week before Davis is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on charges of assault, Chase is on the verge of stardom.

In 10 games for the Terps (7-3), Chase's versatility is evident in her statistics. She's third on the team in scoring (15.7) and rebounds (6.1), second in assists (4.0) and tied for first in steals (3.3).

"She's been a true warrior," Maryland coach Chris Weller said recently of the 5-foot-11 senior from Baltimore. "She's been a tremendous leader on the court. Defensively, she has played against the other team's top scorer. Offensively, she's played every position. She's been our Keith Booth."

It is that analogy that brings a smile to Chase's face. A star at McDonogh, Chase was both friend and fan of the former Maryland All-American, whose jersey number hangs almost directly over where Chase is sitting one afternoon earlier this month at Cole Field House.

"Keith Booth was definitely a true all-around player," Chase said. "He worked so hard at what he achieved. I take that as a definite compliment and can use it as a motivating force to even become better than I am already."

Working from outside in

Chase has a number of motivating factors working for her these days. Seeing Booth get picked by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA draft was certainly one, as was watching the successful debut of the Women's NBA last summer.

It brought her back to campus last summer to work on her one weakness. Like Booth, it was her outside shot. Three days a week she made the drive down I-95 and shot jumper after jumper.

"I think that's definitely been a good addition to my game," Chase said. "My defense has gotten me to where I am today, but I wasn't really considered an offensive threat. Now I've worked into that role where I'm being called an all-around player.

"At the next level, most of the players you find can shoot. The difference is definitely in the intensity of the defense. That's one of my strengths. But if I want to get there [to the pros], I had to be able to shoot the ball."

Chase recalls hitting a three-point shot in a Dec. 7 victory over Penn State -- a game in which Chase took over the point after Tiffany Brown went down with an injury -- when she took a pass and never flinched. She fired it up, never realizing she was behind the line.

"I just got the ball from Kalisa and shot," she said. "Last year I probably wouldn't have shot it."

Fighting words

Last year, those watching would have barely noticed who had passed the ball to Chase. But that was before Davis, a senior from Glassboro, N.J., allegedly attacked Chase in the team's dressing room Oct. 26, after the two had a verbal confrontation in a local mall earlier in the day.

According to court records, Chase had placed her coat on bench and later moved items belonging to Davis that had been placed on top of it. When told that Chase or another person had moved her belongings, Davis made a threatening remark.

"Someone is going to get beat up tonight," Davis said, according to the police report.

The attack took place a few hours later when Davis allegedly struck Chase several times.

"It's definitely been a trying experience," said Chase, who was forced to wear a protective device to cover the nose during the early part of the season. "It's also been a learning experience. At first, it was very frustrating because I was very emotional. As time has gone on, we've tried to go on with life."

Davis was suspended by the athletic department for three weeks of practice and the first three regular-season games and was ordered to undergo counseling.

In helping athletic department officials come up with a penalty, Weller said she considered what was going on in Davis' life at the time of the incident, specifically the death of a grandmother and aunt the day before it happened.

"That doesn't justify what she did," Weller said. "We were trying to show some compassion for Kalisa without condoning or even understanding what she did. At the same time, we wanted to show tremendous compassion for Sonia for what she was going through. The team wanted to show support for both players."

Chase said she and Davis have never really gotten along since they came to Maryland more than three years ago, but wouldn't specify the kind of relationship they had.

Moving on

Asked about the status of their relationship now, Chase shrugged. "All we need to do is be on the court and represent the University of Maryland in the best way we know how," she said.

Davis declined to be interviewed for this article, citing the upcoming court case.

While Weller said that the team has put the incident behind it, it will likely be dredged up at the worst time possible. A preliminary hearing in Prince George's County District Court in Hyattsville is scheduled for Jan. 6, the week the Terrapins play key road games at Virginia and Clemson.

If found guilty, Davis faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500. Though that seems unlikely, there also is a possibility of Chase filing a civil suit against Davis.

"When I talked it over with parents and my godmother, I decided to concentrate on myself and my well-being," Chase said. "The team has definitely put it behind them. By law, they have to. I'm hoping it won't be a distraction."

Pub Date: 12/28/97

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