Court time down, but spirits stay up for Terps' McCall

Ex-quarterback focuses on team's goal of title

Notebook

Final Four

March 30, 2002|By Paul McMullen, Ken Murray and Christian Ewell | Paul McMullen, Ken Murray and Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- He averaged more playing time two seasons ago, when he walked on from the football team and was used by Gary Williams to light a fire under Danny Miller. Calvin McCall hasn't played more than seven minutes in a game in 2001-02 and Maryland will welcome a top recruiting class, but McCall hopes to have a bigger role in next season's rotation.

"It's tough getting minutes with Juan [Dixon] out there," McCall said yesterday. "Right now, I'm just thinking about winning a national championship. I'll talk with Coach Williams in the off-season, and ask what I need to do to get more playing time. I've got a pull-up jumper. I can post up, play strong and physical. I've got confidence in my game, because I go against some of the best players in the nation in practice every day.

"I check Juan a lot. You have to have quick feet to do that."

McCall came to Maryland in 1998 on a football scholarship, redshirted, and started nine games at quarterback in 1999, when he was the nation's No. 2 freshman passer behind Virginia Tech's Michael Vick. He then joined the basketball team and didn't return to football after leading the Terps in passing in a 2000 season that was shortened by injuries.

Yes, he missed a magical run to the Orange Bowl, but he has been to two Final Fours.,

Emotional Mouton

Senior forward Byron Mouton laughs when the Terps are criticized for being too unemotional. The team's most demonstrative player, Mouton said Maryland is a wild bunch compared to the group he joined two years ago.

"Terence [Morris] played and showed no emotion, but he was a leader by great example," Mouton said of the Houston Rockets rookie forward. "We've come a long way. Lonny [Baxter] is pumping his fist and clapping his hands. [Steve] Blake gets fired up. We've got great chemistry."

Knight debris

Two years after the departure of Bob Knight as coach, Indiana is still dealing with the fallout. It did not go unnoticed when three former Hoosiers, all of whom followed Knight to Texas Tech, said they would root for Oklahoma in tonight's national semifinal.

The three are Steve Downing, who played at Indiana from 1971 to '73 and is an associate athletic director at Tech; Tom Geyer, a former player and assistant who is on Knight's staff now; and Pat Knight, the coach's son.

Indiana senior guard Dane Fife admitted yesterday that the news took him aback.

"I was a bit surprised at what they said because I thought we had a great relationship," Fife said. "But they have their issues with Indiana, and at the same time, I understand that.",

Growing as a coach

Indiana coach Mike Davis says he has learned not to take Knight-related incidents personally in Bloomington, Ind.

"I think it was very difficult for me because I've never been a head coach before," he said of replacing Knight. "I've never really been criticized before. I think sometimes I took it personal.

"But I realized it wasn't about me, it was just about whoever was the head coach of Indiana. ... I'm growing every day as a coach. I realize now that no matter what happened, it's not about me."

No. 5 seed success

The last No. 5 seed to reach the championship game was Florida two years ago, when it beat eighth-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals and then lost the title game to Michigan State. Wisconsin also made the Final Four that season as a No. 8 seed.

Fifth-seeded Indiana is the lowest surviving seed this year.

Said Davis: "One [seed], one and two, five -- you definitely have to pick five to be the underdogs."

Hoosier homecoming

For two Hoosiers, this Final Four is a homecoming. Sophomore guard A.J. Moye played for Westlake High in Atlanta, and junior forward Jeff Newton played at Mays High.

"Growing up and coming out of Mays High, no one thinks that anyone will be able to make a jump to this level, and so it is a dream come true," Newton said.

Said Moye: "It is special to be here in the Final Four, and it is also extremely special that it is in my hometown, but we want to win and that would make it even more special."

Long journeys

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson's father, Ned, flew here Wednesday from San Jose, Calif., where he'd been hospitalized since last Tuesday evening with a subdural hematoma that required surgery.

Kelvin Sampson said he didn't know if his father, who was his high school coach in Pembroke, N.C., would be able to attend the game, though he knew that he would like to.

"The trip took a lot out of him," Sampson said. "He's tuckered out. He's really tired. This is something he's still recovering from."

Yesterday, Sampson visited his father, who had to undergo a second operation earlier this week before taking the cross-country flight.

"But being at this game is really important to him," he said. "If at all possible, he'll be at the game. I'm hoping he will be."

During the news conferences, Sampson talked about his experiences working with his father, who also sold encyclopedias and life insurance and worked in tobacco markets.

"It's just the way it was," he said. "All those tobacco markets, warehouses, had tin roofs. I just remember how hot it was and how thick the dust was. You better do a good job or somebody's getting ready to holler at you."

Overzealous

Hard work pays in the Oklahoma basketball program. Sometimes it helps you sit out the Final Four.

During a conditioning drill early in the season, Oklahoma forward Johnnie Gilbert overdid it while performing pull-ups. Gilbert, who had started in five of the team's first six games, hurt his shoulder, arm and hip, and has been out of the lineup since December.

Sampson brought it to Gilbert's attention that he could sit out the rest of the season as a redshirt. That's what he's doing, and he hopes he doesn't regret it.

"I'm just hoping I made the right decision," Gilbert said. Asked if he hoped to make it back, he said, "I still hope -- if Coach needs me, I'll forfeit a year to win a national title."

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