Terps have to quickly put 'show time' behind them Work cut out for team, but conditioning praised

October 16, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- After the minicams are turned off and the kids with red and white paint on their chests go back to their dorms, Maryland must get down to business.

Midnight Madness takes over Cole Field House for the fifth straight year tonight, when the Terps unveil their most highly touted team in decades. If Laron Profit and company aren't geared up for a serious month of boot camp, they won't be ready for what could be the most demanding stretch any college basketball team will face this season.

Coach Gary Williams feels his team is ready for whatever he throws at them, thanks to what he's seen from veteran starters Profit, Obinna Ekezie and Terrell Stokes since Labor Day.

"One of the things I look at during preseason conditioning is your seniors," Williams said. "They've already done it three times, and they might be bored, but I haven't seen that. They let everyone know in the preseason: 'This is when you get in shape, so when we get to practice we can get right into basketball.' We don't have any time to waste."

L Maryland will embark in late November on a rigorous stretch.

The Terps meet the host team Thanksgiving Day in the Puerto Rico Shootout, where the draw is set up for them to play UCLA in the semis, then either defending NCAA champion Kentucky or Xavier.

It's Maryland's turn to get the early Atlantic Coast Conference game at home, and the Dec. 3 opponent is Wake Forest, which swept the Terps last season.

Three days later, Maryland's semifinal fare in the BB&T Classic at the MCI Center is Stanford, which has everyone back from a Final Four team and is the preseason No. 1 in at least one national publication.

That week ends with the Terps' first game at Kentucky in four decades.

Exam week concludes with one more test, Princeton and its deliberate brand of torture at the Baltimore Arena on Dec. 19.

There is the potential for six nonconference games against high-profile opponents, with none of them at Cole. A loss or two wouldn't hurt their profile, but if the Terps struggle early, they could spend the ACC season playing catch-up in the race for a high NCAA seeding.

Williams must mesh four newcomers with the three seniors and two key reserves from a team that reached the Sweet 16. NCAA rules allow coaches to work with three players at a time in the preseason, for no more than two hours per week, but those combinations haven't gotten any full-court work.

Junior college transfer Steve Francis is expected to get the wing spot opposite Profit, and sophomore Terence Morris will most likely be the new starter at power forward, but Williams said his options are as flexible as his roster.

And how does all that talent make sure it's ready when the games get serious in November?

"We kill each other in practice," Profit said. "Midnight Madness is for the fans. When we show up 11: 30 Saturday morning for our first workout, Gary Williams isn't going to want to hear anything about that."

NOTES: Midnight Madness will start at 9: 30 p.m. Walt Williams, Tony Massenburg and Keith Booth are expected for an alumni game at 10: 05 p.m. The Maryland men's and women's teams will be introduced near midnight.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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