Terps given rousing sendoff at Cole's Midnight Madness

Williams: `We want to ride wave of the football team'

College Basketball

October 14, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins' men's basketball team had its first official practice of the 2001-2002 season at empty Cole Field House yesterday at noon, 12 hours after kicking off the year with a raucous Midnight Madness celebration before a packed arena.

"I'm a little nervous, to tell you the truth. I'm getting chills just standing here," said freshman forward Mike Grinnon, minutes before the Terps took the floor for a 20-minute scrimmage just after midnight. "This is awesome."

The school announced that the standing-room-only crowd represented the largest attendance in the history of the Midnight Madness event.

The students who filled Cole Field House - home court to Maryland for the last time this season - were still soaking in Thursday night's 20-17, overtime victory by the nationally ranked, undefeated football team at Georgia Tech. They also celebrated the basketball team's first trip to the Final Four last March.

The festivities included an alumni game, a pyrotechnic and laser show and the official introduction of this year's team, led by seniors Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter. Dixon drew one of the loudest applauses, along with sophomore forward/center Chris Wilcox, who got the crowd roaring with a thunderous dunk. Dixon smiled after missing his three-point attempt.

Maryland coach Gary Williams told the cheering crowd, "We want to ride the wave of the football team and really get it going early this year. This is the last year in Cole Field House. We don't want to lose a game here this year. Last year, we really wanted to get to the Final Four. This year, we want to win the national championship."

Former Terps forward LaRon Cephas, a backup who graduated after helping Maryland reach the Final Four, addressed the crowd for about 30 minutes before the practice, when this year's returning players were presented with framed jerseys.

"It feels good to come back and feel the energy the crowd is giving out," said Cephas, who plans to travel to Ireland this week and sign a professional contract. "I'll be part of this family forever."

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