Terps to size up big men in last tuneup

Roanoke's NBA prospects to give young front line more of a test tonight

College Basketball

November 18, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins passed their first test against an under-manned, undersized exhibition opponent. Tonight, the Terps get to confront something closer to a real team.

In their final tuneup at Comcast Center before opening the season Saturday against visiting American University, the Terps will deal with size, quickness and numbers. The Roanoke Dazzle is a member of the National Basketball Development League, the NBA's minor league.

Roanoke, which is preparing for its NBDL season opener next week, carries 12 players on its roster and features five who stand at least 6 feet 10 and a pair of guards who toiled at Virginia in 6-3 Curtis Staples (Class of '98) and 6-5 Adam Hall ('02).

Maryland beat the EA Sports All-Stars six days ago, 84-70, by wearing down a team consisting of eight players, none of whom exceeded 6-8. That will change tonight, and that pleases Terps coach Gary Williams.

"We played against a quick team. We've got to see how we play against a team with size," Williams said. "Can we score inside against a big team? We don't know yet what our strengths are."

So many questions are left to be answered about Maryland, which starts four sophomores and a second-year senior and brings five freshmen and two juniors off the bench.

Against EA Sports, the Terps used their defensive pressure to generate 17 turnovers and numerous easy baskets. They ran their fast break crisply. They were unselfish enough to produce 22 assists, and big enough to whip EA Sports soundly on the boards.

Maryland also missed 10 of 24 free throws, had problems dealing with a 2-3 zone defense, turned the ball over 19 times and lost its edge late in the first half after building a 16-point advantage.

The Terps regained control after taking a slim, 42-39 lead into the intermission.

"We're pretty good when we score and set up our press. Running our offense, rebounding, transition defense, there's a lot of things [to work on]," said sophomore point guard John Gilchrist, who had 16 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals in 35 productive minutes last week.

Maryland figures to have a good stable of guards, led by Gilchrist and 6-5 sophomore Chris McCray, who had 13 points and six rebounds last week.

Junior backup point guard Andre Collins had two points, four assists and four rebounds in 12 minutes. Freshmen D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones, each 6-5, figure to grab integral roles in a three-guard alignment the Terps will lean on at times.

Interior production, which was a problem for much of last season, is high on Williams' watch list.

Sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley and senior forward/center Jamar Smith averaged 5.9 points a year ago, good enough to lead all returning players in scoring. Both were effective against EA Sports, especially Caner-Medley, who scored inside and outside during a 20-point, seven-rebound night. Smith scored 14 points, made only two free throws, but did get to the line eight times.

Neither of them is a true, back-to-the-basket post player, and neither is promising 6-9 freshman forward Ekene Ibekwe or 6-8 sophomore forward Travis Garrison, who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds last week.

That leaves freshman centers Hassan Fofana (6-10) and Will Bowers (7-1) to man the blocks. Fofana played for five minutes last week. Bowers hit a short jumper early, but did not have a rebound during his 13-minute night. Look for each player to get a longer look tonight.

"It doesn't always have to come from your post players," Williams said, "but you have to be able to score inside."

Next for Terps

Matchup: NBDL Roanoke vs. Maryland (exhibition)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ WBAL (1090 AM)

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