Nicholas may play as 3rd guard

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Holden, Wilcox battle for power forward job

coach likes new fitness

College Basketball

October 28, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Two years ago, he made his mark as a backup shooting guard who possessed one of the best three-point shots on the team. Last year, he made an unorthodox switch to point guard, because the team needed help for Steve Blake.

As for the coming season with Maryland, junior Drew Nicholas could find himself collecting additional playing time as part of a three-guard alignment coach Gary Williams is considering. That essentially would make Nicholas one of the backups to small forward Byron Mouton.

"I'm probably going to be called on to play a little of all three positions," Nicholas said. "I might sub for Byron a little bit, and even play for Steve sometimes. I'm probably most comfortable playing the two [shooting guard]. Whenever I can get some minutes and provide a little spark off the bench, I don't mind doing that."

Nicholas, who played in all 71 games at Maryland over the past two seasons, proved to be one of the team's most valuable backups throughout the NCAA tournament last season, when the Terps earned their first trip to the Final Four.

He was third on the team in three-point field goals (34) and assists (86) and averaged 6.6 points and 16.6 minutes. And his flexibility this season could be crucial on a squad that might not be quite as deep as last year's 10-man rotation.

Not that playing at the small forward/third guard spot would be new to the 6-foot-3 Nicholas. He played there at times as a freshman behind Danny Miller, who transferred to Notre Dame last spring after completing his junior year at Maryland.

Power forward puzzle

The most intriguing preseason battle is between sophomore Chris Wilcox and junior Tahj Holden over the starting job at power forward. That slot was vacated by Terence Morris, now with the Houston Rockets.

Then again, because of the versatility of each player - Holden and Wilcox could play small forward or center - Williams foresees a similar amount of playing time for each.

The wild card is newcomer Ryan Randle. The junior from Allegany College has been impressive with his low-post play and is developing nicely into Baxter's primary backup.

"I know I can rotate Lonny [Baxter], Tahj and Chris, and we'll see where Ryan fits into that rotation," Williams said. "[Randle] has got great hands. He had one turnover in the opening scrimmage. He works until he drops. He's in much better shape than he was on Oct. 13 [the first day of practice]. I think he can really help us."

Fit to be playing

Williams said one glaring difference in the early going this fall is the improved conditioning of the team.

At 255 pounds, Baxter, a 6-8 senior center, is in the best shape of his life. The 6-5 Mouton is a stout 220 pounds. Wilcox, a forward/center, has added 20 pounds of bulk and better conditioning to his 6-9 frame. Even the 6-9 Randle and 5-9 point guard Andre Collins are catching up quickly.

"I didn't like the way we practiced last year going into [the] Maui [Invitational]," said Williams, recalling Maryland's stagnant 1-2 showing in Hawaii to open the season. "We're practicing well this year."

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