Williams' attention shifts to rebuilding

Six of 12 gone, but coach sees Terps' glass half-full

April 01, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- With Steve Francis departing for the NBA as expected, Maryland will be minus half of the 12 scholarship players it used this season, but coach Gary Williams expects to make a run at a seventh straight bid in the NCAA tournament in 2000.

"Despite what some say," Williams said, "we'll be good next year."

With the departure of Francis and five seniors, including starters Obinna Ekezie, Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes, Maryland currently has just six scholarship players in the program. The Terps signed three players last fall, and Williams could get as many as two more when the spring signing period begins April 7.

"I'd like to add one more," Williams said. "If we can get two of the right players, fine, but I'm not just going to give them [scholarships] to somebody who may be a player. It has to be somebody who can really help us."

Williams left yesterday afternoon for Madison, Wis., where he was supposed to visit the home of Reece Gaines, a 6-foot-5 guard who can play the point and the wing. The Maryland coach then was headed to an all-star game in Michigan, where DerMarr Johnson, Parade's national Player of the Year, will be one of the participants.

Johnson is still trying for a standardized test score that would make him eligible to play as a freshman.

As things stand now, Maryland likely will start incoming freshman Steve Blake at the point next season.

"We'll be young in the backcourt," Williams acknowledged. "Losing Steve [Francis] and Terrell [Stokes], that's a lot of minutes to make up for. Juan Dixon got some good experience, Danny Miller can play either wing and you can slide Terence Morris between the three or four spots."

Williams disputed Internet reports that said Miller, a 6-8 freshman, was considering a transfer. He also said that he had spoken to Morris and his mother, and that the 6-9 All-ACC first-team selection said he would stay in school.

Rumors surfaced in February that Morris might test the NBA waters.

"It's ridiculous, what's been said about Danny Miller," Williams said. "Danny Miller is the happiest guy playing basketball here at the University of Maryland you could ever find. He's going to have a great career here.

"Terence Morris has told me, and I've talked to his mom, that he's not ready yet to think about going."

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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