Terrapins beef up backcourt Williams' focus now on forward, center

September 24, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Drew Nicholas capped a whirlwind courtship by Maryland, announcing yesterday that he would give a national letter of intent to the Terps when the early signing period begins in November.

A 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Hempstead, N.Y., he hadn't been mentioned as a target of the Terps by recruiting analysts.

But he performed well for the Long Island Panthers in the Charlie Weber Adidas Invitational in College Park last weekend -- and jumped at the chance to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference when Maryland staff made a visit to his home Monday night.

Nicholas isn't a regular on national lists of the top 50 or 100 prospects. He was contemplating visits to Providence, St. John's and George Washington, but also to mid-major programs Hofstra and Richmond.

Nicholas needs to add muscle to his 165-pound frame, but Maryland likes his shooting stroke just fine. Last winter he averaged around 17 points for Long Island Lutheran, which reached the championship game of the New York State Federation tournament, drawing the state's public, private and parochial champions.

"He'll put on weight when his body is ready, but Drew has tremendous stamina," said Ron Hall, the coach at Long Island Lutheran.

Maryland already has an oral commitment from a point guard at Oak Hill Academy (Va.), Steve Blake. The Nicholas announcement means that its backcourt recruiting is probably complete and that the Terps are no longer in the running for Wisconsin prospect Reece Gaines.

Interest in the 6-5 Gaines, of Madison West High, increased when Maryland lost wing guard Roger Mason of Wheaton's Good Counsel High to Virginia. Gaines, who could play either guard position, had scheduled an official visit to Maryland next weekend, but yesterday his father said that would most likely be canceled.

Clyde Gaines, Reece's father, starred at Lake Clifton High in the mid-1970s before a collegiate career at Wisconsin.

Maryland is on such solid footing that it could have a top five ranking when the national polls come out in November, but long-term considerations prompt this major recruiting campaign by coach Gary Williams and his staff.

The Terps' 13-man roster for 1998-99 will include five seniors, most notably wing forward Laron Profit, center Obinna Ekezie and point guard Terrell Stokes. If junior college transfer Steve Francis is as good as advertised and seeks early entry to the NBA after one season at Maryland, Williams would have just seven players returning for 1999-2000.

The Terps could double their number of commitments before the early signing period begins, as they remain among the front-runners for New Jersey power forward Tahj Holden and North Carolina center George Leach.

Besides Maryland, Holden has scheduled visits to Clemson, South Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia. Holden, 6-10 and 225 pounds, has played for the Central Jersey Hawks, a premier AAU team that came to last weekend's invitational.

"Maryland will always be one of his top choices," said Fred Klatsky, the coach of the Central Jersey Hawks. "He really likes the staff at Maryland, he likes [freshman] Danny Miller and he likes the new guard [Blake] they've got coming in. He's not happy playing with a team that doesn't have a great record."

Leach will visit Indiana and South Carolina as well as Maryland next month. Tuesday he crossed Florida State off his list. Kentucky had shown interest, but this week the defending NCAA champions received commitments from other big men.

"He was 6-8, 175 when he got here two years ago," said David Davis, Leach's coach at Olympic High in Charlotte. "He's 6-10, 215 now, and he's got a tremendous upside."

Maryland is among the schools making the trek this month to Juneau, Alaska, for a home visit with Carlos Boozer, a power forward who is considered one of the nation's top prospects. UCLA is the front-runner for Boozer.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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