Versatile Nicholas back to original spot

Changing roles as needed, senior is happy playing as shooting guard again

ACC notebook

January 17, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The career of Maryland senior shooting guard Drew Nicholas has, in a sense, come full circle.

When he entered Maryland, Nicholas was considered a three-point shooting specialist. As a sophomore, Nicholas became the main backup to point guard Steve Blake. A year ago, he expanded his game to include more emphasis on defense and rebounding as the Terps' third guard or small forward.

On his last go-round, the 6-foot-4 Nicholas is back home at shooting guard, where Juan Dixon resided for the previous three seasons. Now, a large percentage of plays are run for Nicholas, who has added more dribble penetration to his game as a senior, is getting to the foul line more than ever, and still has not lost that sweet shooting form.

Nicholas overcame an early-season slump by getting off to a torrid start in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Although he cooled off in Wednesday's 81-72 loss at Wake Forest by missing 11 of 15 shots to finish with a season-low nine points, he remains the Terps' leading scorer. Nicholas had averaged 26 points in previous ACC victories over Georgia Tech and Florida State.

"Coming in, a lot of people labeled me as a shooter, but my role has changed each year," said Nicholas, who entered the Wake Forest game leading the ACC with 18.6 points per game. Only three players in the league had been to the free-throw line more often than Nicholas (70 attempts), who has made 87 percent of his foul shots.

"Guys are looking to get me the ball a little bit. Steve and I are real comfortable playing together, and he knows how to get me the ball. I'm not putting pressure on myself to go out and score X amount of points. I'm just playing basketball."

Said Maryland coach Gary Williams: "Anytime you score like Drew, you're going to have pressure on you. To his credit, he's changed his game a little bit. He's getting to the line quite a bit, as opposed to the last couple of years. Anytime you're a shooter who also can put the ball on the floor, you're that much tougher to defend."

Graduation rates targeted

The latest ideas being advanced by the NCAA to address lagging graduation rates has drawn a skeptical reaction from the league's basketball coaches, who see the proposals targeted mainly at their sport.

At its annual convention this week in Anaheim, Calif., the NCAA considered an array of penalties designed to spur improved graduation rates. The range of punishment being discussed includes the forfeiting of scholarships, the loss of NCAA tournament bids regardless of record or ranking, and subtracting revenue shares of the recent, 11-year, $6 billion basketball contract.

Coaches like Wake Forest's Skip Prosser and North Carolina State's Herb Sendek said they understand the need to hold schools accountable. But first and foremost, they want clarification as to how the NCAA would calculate graduation rates in their sport.

For example, how should a school be penalized after a player or players leave school early to enter the NBA? Or how should a school be punished if a player transfers and takes a glittering grade point average with him?

"It's like measuring things with an 11-and-a-half-inch ruler. Everything is skewed because of your measuring stick," Prosser said. "You'd better fix the measuring stick before using it to smack schools across the hand. [The NCAA] needs to fix the device for measuring [graduation rates]."

Said Sendek: "Everybody admits without much argument that the numbers we use to apply toward graduation rates are inherently flawed."

Rolling with the punches

Before taking his Virginia team into Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, when it lost to top-ranked and unbeaten Duke, Cavaliers coach Pete Gillen marveled at Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski's ability to thrive in the face of mass player defections.

Duke lost three underclassmen - Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy - to early entry into the NBA. That has not slowed the Blue Devils, who won a national title in 2001, just two years after losing Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery to the pro ranks.

"It's like a Fortune 500 company. They've got everything," Gillen said of Duke. "For them to lose those three great players - three unbelievable players on one college team - and to still be No. 1 in the country, that's mind-boggling. I'm speechless, and I could talk to a stop sign."

Clemson's Carolina blues

Poor Clemson. Poor Larry Shyatt. On Tuesday, the Tigers had an excellent chance to counter 48 years of futility in Chapel Hill. Clemson was on the verge of winning for the first time ever at North Carolina. But after losing its last lead with 3:33 left, the Tigers (10-2, 0-2) had to swallow a 68-66 defeat.

That made the Tigers 0-49 on Carolina's home court. It also made Shyatt's hold on his Clemson future more tenuous.

Shyatt's contract runs through the 2004-2005 season, but he might be collecting a $180,000 buyout this spring if things don't turn around in a hurry. As he gets into the heart of his fifth year at Clemson, Shyatt sports an ACC record of 15-51, including 2-31 on the road and 1-4 in ACC tournament games.

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