East Regional notebook

High-flying Wilcox shows his stuff

Terp gets crowd going with spectacular dunks

NCAA Tournament

March 22, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht and Paul McMullen | Gary Lambrecht and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Chris Wilcox can't explain how he flies through the air, how he hovers above the rim, how he creates some of those electrifying dunks that are the trademarks of his game.

"It's great to get people to say, `Dang, what did he just do?' Sometimes I really don't know what I just did," said Wilcox, the 6-foot-10 sophomore power forward who leads Maryland in highlight-reel material.

Wilcox, who is mulling over a decision to leave Maryland early and enter the June NBA draft, was at it again during yesterday's informal shoot-around at the Carrier Dome, where the Terps resume their pursuit of another Final Four trip in tonight's East Regional semifinals against Kentucky.

He entertained the crowd with an assortment of slams, including one in which he jumped over a Maryland ballboy and finished with a one-handed jam.

"I remember seeing a picture of [Wilcox] in the paper taking off at rim level. I see that every day in practice," said Tahj Holden, Wilcox's 6-10 backup. "Sometimes he puts the ball between his legs and makes the dunk look easy. You don't see many guys dunking it with power like that."

Added point guard Steve Blake: "There are times in practice where he doesn't even get a running start. He's just standing in the lane, and the ball goes up. When you see him go from a standing position, get above the rim and throw it down, that's pretty impressive."

Wilcox snapped out of a recent slump by scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds against Wisconsin on Sunday. Given his tendency to perform well in high-profile games this year, and given the fact that NBA scouts are all over the NCAA this time of the year, Wilcox could be saving something special for tonight.

A trip to Charm City

Cozumel is nice, if you've got the cash.

Daytona Beach remains a classic road trip.

There are dozens of traditional locations where college students burn off steam during spring break, but you'll never guess where the Connecticut men's basketball team went.

Would you believe Baltimore's Inner Harbor?

"We were off school this week," said Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, who recruited Baltimore heavily when he was at Northeastern. "The NCAA said we couldn't go south before we came here, so we drove north after we left Washington. We stayed in a hotel at the Inner Harbor, went to the aquarium one day. We saw dolphins, some guys who can really jump."

After beating North Carolina State in a second-round game at MCI Center on Sunday, the Huskies took a bus to Baltimore on Monday and checked in to the Marriott near Camden Yards. They practiced at Morgan State's Hill Field House on Tuesday and Wednesday, then jetted to Syracuse on Wednesday night.

The Huskies said they had a good time in Baltimore, despite the rain that broke the region's drought.

"It was a good time, just what we needed," said Scott Hazelton, a redshirt freshman forward who was recruited by Maryland in 1999. "A few people recognized us, but the Inner Harbor wasn't that crowded. It beat being on campus, and it was away from the spotlight."

Mid-major blues

The Missouri Valley Conference went 2-0 in the first round of the tournament. Creighton lost to Illinois in the second round, but Southern Illinois survived, and Salukis coach Bruce Weber said there are more quality teams where they came from.

"Butler, Ball State and Bowling Green should all be here," said Weber, whose team was one of the last at-large selections to the field.

Weber discussed the woes of scheduling for the mid-major conferences, but Southern Illinois lured Indiana to Carbondale on Dec. 1, and the Salukis' 72-60 victory surely popped up on the NCAA selection committee's radar.

Southern Illinois went 16-14 last season, but Weber presented some stiff challenges to his players.

"One was to win a conference championship, another was to not only make it to the NCAA tournament, but to make it into the Sweet 16," leading scorer Kent Williams said. "I thought it was a little far-fetched, but as the year went on and we won more and more games, the goals started becoming more realistic."

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