Times appear to be getting better for third-year UMBC men's basketball coach Tom Sullivan.
Sullivan was in a joking mood this week even though his extremely young Retrievers squandered leads in the last five minutes to lose their first two Big South Conference games to preseason favorites UNC-Asheville and Radford by identical -Z scores of 71-68.
When Sullivan was asked what it meant for his team to lose those close games, he said with a laugh, "I guess it means we need better coaching at the end."
Seriously, Sullivan can afford to be in a lot better mood these days because UMBC (6-7, 1-2 in the Big South) has remained more competitive in its losses as well as winning more games than it has in any of the past two seasons, when his team went 5-22 both years.
"Two years ago, we were out of games against the top teams after five minutes, and last year we could only hang with the good teams for a half," Sullivan said. "Now we have the ability to compete with the toughest teams in the conference. It's still a game-to-game situation, but I think we're starting to play up to our potential more and our young players are starting to understand the requirement of defense at this level.
"I believe if a player knows he can stop his man defensively, he can play with a lot more confidence in all phases of the game."
Four freshmen and a sophomore have started every game this season, with freshmen accounting for 75 percent of UMBC's points.
Freshmen Rich Giddens (13.5 ppg), Kennedy Okafor (12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and Terence Ward (11.3 ppg) have emerged as the scoring leaders. Giddens also leads in total assists (31) and steals (22) through 12 games.
Schaefer earns scholarship
Loyola senior forward Greg Schaefer was a walk-on who never gave up and had to win over two coaches to earn a basketball scholarship for the final semester of his final season.
Schaefer walked on as a freshman in former coach Brian Ellerbe's first season at Loyola and never made much of an impression. All Schaefer earned from Ellerbe was a total of 26 minutes of playing time in 12 games over his freshman and sophomore years.
That prompted the 6-foot-4 graduate of St. Anthony's High in Smithtown, N.Y., to sit out his junior season in what turned out to be Ellerbe's final year at Loyola.
When Dino Gaudio was named coach April 16, Schaefer decided to give the game another shot.
It paid off this week when Gaudio awarded Schaefer a scholarship for his clutch performances off the bench in the first half of the season.
Schaefer's latest heroics came last Sunday in a 61-57 victory over Manhattan in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game. He hit three of four free throws in the final seconds of that game, making him 7-for-8 this season in crucial situations in three games -- all Loyola wins -- at the foul line.
Schaefer has started four games this season and is shooting 73.7 percent from the field (14-for-19).
"Greg's hard work and production have given us a big lift," said Gaudio. "He's really helped us win some games and has been a pleasant surprise."
UMBC adds women's golf
This fall, UMBC will become the second Division I school in the state to field a women's golf team.
NTC UMBC joins Mount St. Mary's as the only state Division I schools competing in women's golf. The Mount is in its second season.
The Retrievers will compete in the Northeast Conference, which will hold its first championship tournament in the fall. Men's coach Pat Kotten also will coach the women's team, giving the school a total of 21 varsity sports.
The Walden Golf Club in Crofton and the Howard County Golf Club at Timbers of Troy in Ellicott City will serve as home courses for the Retrievers.
Wilson making NCAA trip
Western Maryland sophomore Kerry Wilson is headed to the NCAA Division III indoor track championships for a second straight year. Wilson qualified for the Division III women's indoors in the long jump with a first-place leap of 18 feet, 4 1/4 inches in a quadrangular meet at Navy.
Former Sparrows Point High standout Will Marshall is expected to become Western Maryland College's men's basketball career scoring leader in the next four weeks.
He entered this week needing 194 points to break the career mark of 1,564, which was set by Art Press from 1948-52.
The Green Terror women's basketball career scoring record should also fall by early or mid-February, with Katie Haley needing 220 points to surpass the mark of 1,577, which was set by Cindy Boyer from 1983-87.
Pub Date: 1/17/98