For a guy who took a long time to arrive as a big-time college basketball player, Rodney Elliott sure is enjoying a lengthy farewell tour.
A senior forward who is Maryland's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, Elliott concluded the Cole Field House portion of his career with a win over Georgia Tech last Saturday. When the Terps end the regular season today against No. 24 Temple at the Baltimore Arena, Elliott can be the hero in his hometown.
Elliott is still called by the nickname of his adolescence, "Noodle," but at 6 feet 8, 221 pounds, he bears little resemblance to the skinny kid who was cut from the Dunbar High JV as a freshman and had to scratch for minutes when he first landed in College Park.
A first-year starter, Elliott is averaging 14.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 6.7 rebounds. His emergence as a do-it-all performer was a major factor in Maryland (17-9, 10-6) claiming third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It's been a tremendous four years, especially this one," Elliott said. "It's wonderful to get an opportunity to end up the season back home. My family and friends have known about this one for a long time, and my mom's phone has been ringing off the hook. She's more worried about it than I am."
Elliott's focus has been intense recently. He struggled during the Terps' only losing streak in 1998, totaling 21 points and seven rebounds in losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest. But in the Terps' last two games -- victories over Georgia Tech and Virginia -- he carried new resolve into the lane and came away with nine rebounds in both games.
In ACC games, he's never had more.
After the Terps calmly made up a six-point halftime deficit at Virginia on Tuesday, Elliott took offense to a reference to their "cool" demeanor.
"I'm not going to mention any particular games, but when we were cool in the past, it hurt us," Elliott said. "We've had a good, solid season, and I don't want any more slip-ups. Once tournament play starts, I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page."
Elliott nearly stole the spotlight from former Dunbar and Maryland teammate Keith Booth in the Terps' annual appearance at the Arena last year. In a 103-73 rout of Penn, he made his first nine shots, went 10-for-11 from the field and established a career scoring high, 22 points, that he matched twice this season.
Temple will not be nearly as accommodating as that other team from the City of Brotherly Love. The Owls, like Maryland, want to lock up a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Terps were beaten in the first round of the NCAAs the last two years, and coach Gary Williams considers this an excellent dry run for the postseason because of the challenges the Owls offer.
Temple coach John Chaney has built his empire around a match-up zone that has confounded opponents. The Owls are 7-0 in February, when they've allowed just 51 points per game. Temple (19-6, 12-3 in Atlantic 10 Conference) walks the ball up floor and funnels the shots to a select few players.
"It's a great opponent, because we haven't seen a team that plays like this for a while," Williams said. "It's a court that we only play on once a year. There's a different feel there, different sight lines, and that will help us in getting ready for the ACC tournament."
The Terps will have five days off before their ACC quarterfinal game next Friday against the No. 6 seed at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum. Temple, meanwhile, will have about 22 hours rest before it plays Massachusetts in a game that will determine first place in the East Division of the Atlantic 10.
That 12: 30 p.m. game will be played at the Apollo, the 10,224-seat arena that Temple opened Dec. 9. In 12 games there, the Owls have made 37.8 percent of their field-goal attempts, and they've hit 43.5 percent in 13 games on the road. Their win streak includes road conquests of three ranked teams -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island and George Washington.
"I wish we played all of our games on the road," junior guard Rasheed Brokenborough said after last Sunday's win at GW.
Brokenborough (12.1 ppg) and sophomore center Lamont Barnes (14.1 ppg) are the only Owls averaging in double figures.
Temple's campaign began in agony: Marvin Webster Jr. died last Aug. 14, two days after he suffered a heart attack in Greensboro. He sat out last season as an academic non-qualifier, and figured to be a reserve this season. His father led Morgan State to the NCAA Division II title in 1974 and played some memorable games at the Arena.
NOTES: The game has been sold out since Feb. 10 Williams said that no arrangements for another game at the Arena have been finalized, but said "I'd like to play there again next year." Junior forward Laron Profit (16.0 ppg) continues to lead Maryland in scoring. The Terps are 0-1 against the A-10 this season, as they lost to George Washington Dec. 8. Mark Karcher, who was The Sun's Player of the Year in 1996-97 for St. Frances, was an academic non-qualifier for Temple and is sitting out this season.
Terps at Arena
Opponent: No. 24 Temple
When: 1 p.m. today
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
Records: Maryland 17-9; Temple 19-6
Tickets: Sold out
Filling it up
Today will mark the sixth straight season Maryland will play at the Baltimore Arena, and its fifth sellout there.
Season Opponent, Outcome, Attendance
1996-97 Pennsylvania, W, 103-73, 13,368
1995-96 Towson State, W, 70-67, 5,057
1994-95 Massachusetts, L, 85-74, 13,332
1993-94 Towson State, W, 109-71, 12,581
1992-93 Oklahoma, W, 89-78, 12,313
Pub Date: 2/28/98