New kid on UM's block

Terps: Ryan Randle, a junior forward-center from Allegany College, is a newcomer to the Maryland basketball team who is hoping to fit into the rotation.

October 04, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Ryan Randle has a clear idea of the fight that awaits him.

As one of the newcomers who have joined the Maryland men's basketball team, Randle figures he will have to fight for playing time, what with experienced frontcourt players such as Lonny Baxter, Tahj Holden and Chris Wilcox back after the Terps tasted the first Final Four trip in school history last spring.

Then there is the challenge of adjusting to the game played at Atlantic Coast Conference speed. Randle, a junior forward-center from Allegany College, has had quite an introduction to the weight training and conditioning required to give him a chance at success.

"I can see myself fitting in here. I'm going to make it fit," said Randle, 6 feet 9 and 245 pounds. "It doesn't matter where the coach wants me to play [power forward or center]. I don't really care about minutes. If I'm in the game for a minute, I'm going to try my hardest to play my best for that one minute."

The work in progress appears to be progressing nicely.

"I think being able to see guys like Lonny and Chris and Juan [Dixon] working in the weight room has given Ryan an idea of what it's going to take," said Kurtis Shultz, the Terps' strength and conditioning coach, who said Randle was behind the veterans earlier.

"He had really weak shoulders when he got here, but he's made huge strides. I'd say all of his weight [lifting] numbers have jumped 50 to 60 percent since the summer. The days the rest of us don't sprint, Ryan is sprinting. Coach [Gary] Williams told him he'd better be in shape, or he's not going to play."

How Randle fits into Maryland's rotation shapes up as one of the more intriguing pieces of the Terps' 2001-02 puzzle. Maryland lost three-year starter Terence Morris and backups Mike Mardesich and LaRon Cephas after taking Williams to his first Final Four.

Randle could end up backing up Baxter at center, sharing time at power forward behind either Holden or Wilcox or possibly playing a little small forward in a pinch. He has the skills that could make it work.

At Allegany, the school that sent Steve Francis to Maryland and eventually to the Houston Rockets, Randle made his mark as a super sub with enough low-post moves, rebounding and shot-blocking strength to handle the big men and enough ball-handling and shooting ability to work effectively away from the basket.

Coach Bob Kirk, who guided Allegany to a 32-3 record and the national junior college title game last season, has said Randle is the most skilled player he has coached besides Francis. Randle averaged 18 points and seven rebounds and shot nearly 60 percent last season.

Said Williams: "[Randle] can shoot the ball, he can pass and put it on the floor a little bit. We do have some good inside players, but if we want to go big and play three guys at a time, Ryan certainly is talented enough to help us in that situation. It helps because he's more advanced and he's played in some big games."

A native of Duncanville, Texas, located about 10 minutes outside Dallas, Randle originally was a football player who learned to love basketball as he got older. A six-inch growth spurt in high school moved him toward the sport.

"Football was in our blood. That's Texas," said Randle. "People pressured us to play football in high school, but the round rock was for me. Basketball is a fun sport. You don't have guys trying to hurt each other. I like to entertain people indoors, instead of outside in the cold and rain."

Randle already is entertaining his new teammates, who have taken note of his casual demeanor and nicknamed him "Sleepy." Wilcox said he loves Randle's inside game, but in some of the team's preseason pickup games, has noticed Randle's effort falls short of 100 percent.

Baxter said he sensed a significant change in Randle late in the summer. When he and Dixon departed for a three-week trip that ended with their helping the United States win a bronze medal at the World University Games in China, Randle was a bit flabby. Not anymore.

"Me and Juan noticed the same thing when we got back. [Randle] slimmed down a lot," Baxter said. "He's agile, he's got some good moves. He moves well. He reminds me of myself when I first came to Maryland."

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