Warley lets game speak for itself

Quiet junior forward roars on the court, helps to revive Terps' program

NCAA Women's Tournament

March 16, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland women's basketball team is in the NCAA tournament, so one of the Terps' best players, Deedee Warley, is beaming this week.

Under normal circumstances, expressiveness is limited to the court when it comes to the 6-foot-2 junior power forward and third-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection from Fort Washington. She's not going to wax eloquent when she's in a state of joy, and if hurt moves her to tears, a pillow might be the only witness.

"Off the court, Deedee's a fairly quiet person, but on the court, Deedee is loud. Her game shows her personality and her character," said Terps co-captain Marche Strickland.

So Warley would be the last one to talk about what might motivate her tomorrow night when Maryland (17-11) meets Colorado State (24-6) in a first-round game in Storrs, Conn.

She would be unlikely to suggest the game is a tribute to her father, Walter, who died in a car accident when she was 15 years old. It's simply not her style.

But she'll admit that his memory and her presence in College Park - where she's been a force on the court since coming to campus as a freshman in 1998 - are linked. .

"He always wanted me to come here anyway," she said.

After she gave up on T-ball and decided to learn basketball, it was Walter Warley who took her to Cole Field House to see Chris Weller's teams when they were among the best in the nation.

"He always took me to the Maryland games. That was the only college team that we really knew," she said.

Deedee's mother, Cheryl Warley, remembers her daughter saying, "Daddy, we're going to play for Maryland."

Of course, by the time Deedee became a high school senior at St. John's High School in Washington, plenty had changed.

She was still recovering from the loss of her father, which was followed shortly thereafter by her mother's decision to remove her from Elizabeth Seton High School after an unspecified disagreement with that school's coach, and to send her to St. John's.

"I didn't know what to do," Warley said. "I already had one thing on my mind, then came another. That was just more stress."

She said she went into something of a shell at that point but managed to concentrate on continuing a basketball tradition inspired by her uncle, Benjamin Warley, whose professional career included a stint with the Baltimore Bullets in the mid-1960s.

She said it took about two years to perfect her steeply arcing turnaround jumper, which is her signature. Around 1997, Warley attracted a scholarship offer from Maryland, where discord - a player revolt and scraps among players - had replaced the glory of three Final Four appearances.

Still, Warley said, "I liked the campus in general, I liked the teammates and I thought I could give them a boost." The memories of the past also worked their magic, making her a reluctant visitor to other campuses.

"She kept telling me, `Why are you making me go on all of these campus visits - I want to go to Maryland,' " said Cheryl Warley, recalling up-and-coming programs like Virginia Tech and St. Joseph's falling by the wayside.

The boost that Warley spoke of came more slowly than she had any reason to suspect. Both she and Strickland revealed the skill necessary to become viable players in the ACC. But as a team, the Terps lost their first nine games in 1998-99 on the way to a 6-21 season, the worst in school history.

"I wasn't expecting anything like that," Warley said. "But we've been taking little steps to get to the big steps."

Last season, Maryland went on the road to beat ACC champ Duke, and the team, after a two-year hiatus, returned to the postseason in the Women's NIT.

Just as the team progressed, so did Warley, who was as impatient as she was precocious when she began at Maryland. This season, Warley posted eight double doubles and averaged 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.

"She's getting a lot better about being smarter in what she does offensively. She's starting to anticipate more on defense so that she doesn't get herself behind the play," Weller said.

"She's starting to play within herself and make better decisions. That's something that comes with experience, and she's going to get a whole lot better."

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