In following heart, Gilchrist pays big for charging Terps

Parents wanted guard, who was flawless late, to play for N.C. State

College Basketball

March 14, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Three years after John Gilchrist disobeyed his parents, he honored his mother.

The sophomore point guard relished the giddy aftermath of Maryland's historic comeback win over N.C. State yesterday afternoon, which revolved around his perfect second-half shooting, 23 points worth.

Before Gilchrist received the official endorsement collegians crave - a personal pat on the back from Dick Vitale - he readied for an ESPN interview and waved LaRita Gilchrist into the picture. Afterward, Gilchrist hugged his mom and whispered in her ear.

"I love my mother to death. She [is] the most special person in my life," Gilchrist said. "She's been with me since birth. Anytime you have a good moment, you can't hog it for yourself."

Fact is, his parents, John and LaRita, wanted Gilchrist to play for the Wolfpack. But when Gilchrist was at Salem (Va.) High and it was time to choose, the Terps were coming off of their first Final Four and Herb Sendek was in hot water in Raleigh.

"For my parents, it was a done deal, I was going there [to N.C. State]," Gilchrist said of what he called his first decision as a man. "I just had a feeling in my heart since I went to the Maryland basketball camp and won MVP when I was 10 years old. Coach [Gary] Williams gave me a trophy, looked me in the eye and said thanks."

Williams couldn't resist the opening.

"Don't tell John this, but we give every kid a trophy," Williams said. "No, he got the MVP, I remember that. John was a little guy, but he handled the ball."

Gilchrist has been one of the biggest players in America this weekend, as he has put his stamp on the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Friday, his free throw was the winning point against Wake Forest. Yesterday, he put up a career high 30, notched other game-highs with seven assists and four steals, and engaged in a mano a mano duel with Julius Hodge, the Wolfpack's first-team All-ACC guard.

Gilchrist did not miss a shot in the second half, when he emulated two former Terp stars. He exploded like Steve Francis with the ball, and he moved like Juan Dixon without it. He crammed four three-pointers into a seven-minute span, one a bank from the left wing. The last was the most spectacular, as Gilchrist took the ball into the right corner, froze Hodge with a dribble between his legs, then extended Maryland's lead to 75-70 with 5:52 left.

Hodge responded with a drive, but so did the Terps, as N.C. State never had another shot at the lead. Gilchrist got one more bucket, when Chris McCray drew the defense and dumped him the ball under the basket, with Hodge nowhere to be found. Gilchrist took 10 shots in the half and made them all, going 4-for-4 outside the arc, 5-for-5 inside it and making his lone free-throw attempt. That came during the initial stages of the comeback. After it, N.C. State just couldn't keep up with him.

"They didn't have any guards who could counter him," Nik Caner-Medley said. "There are a lot of great guard combinations in this league, but I don't count N.C. State among them."

To be fair, the Wolfpack played again without the injured Scooter Sherrill, and Hodge did outscore Gilchrist. But Maryland fans didn't want to hear that, since this tournament's lore starts with an epic 1974 final in which N.C. State bested a landmark Maryland team in overtime when only the champion advanced to the NCAAs.

As Gilchrist recounted his college decision to the Tobacco Road media in the Terps' locker room, he mentioned that he didn't want go "any place that's slower than Virginia Beach," where he grew up.

Too fast for Wake Forest on Friday and N.C. State yesterday, Gilchrist will have to maintain that delirious pace if Maryland expects to match Duke's perimeter weapons in today's championship game.

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