Terps striving for answers to many questions before fall

Caner-Medley on the spot playing at small forward

Maryland notebook

College Basketball

April 02, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - By next fall, the Maryland Terrapins could be shaping up as one of the deeper teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with interesting battles developing at numerous positions.

Will talented Mike Jones improve his defense and ball-handling enough as a sophomore to force his way past junior-to-be Chris McCray and become the starting shooting guard? Will Hassan Fofana and Will Bowers function as a dependable, two-headed monster at center as sophomores?

Will Travis Garrison, one of the more improved Terps since January, tighten his grip on the power forward spot as a junior? Will Ekene Ibekwe, who will be a sophomore, use his athleticism to take a large chunk of Garrison's minutes?

The biggest question mark looms at small forward, where Nik Caner-Medley did not finish his sophomore year in a way that suggests he is the man of the future at that position.

At 6 feet 8, 233 pounds, Caner-Medley struggled while trying to guard some of the Atlantic Coast Conference's quicker small forwards. His offensive game and rebounding also tailed off, and he tended to force shots in traffic and commit turnovers.

Maryland coach Gary Williams has hinted that the 6-9 Ibekwe could develop quickly into a solid small forward, if he refines his perimeter shot and sharpens his ball-handling.

And the development of 6-5 D.J. Strawberry - Williams likes his quickness and commitment to defense - could lead him to spend more time on the wing as a sophomore, especially if he improves his jump shot and if the Terps sign Allegany College point guard Sterling Ledbetter this month. Ledbetter could step in as one of the backups to John Gilchrist, freeing up Strawberry to play more on the wing.

"The problem with the three [small forward] is that most teams have their best athletes there. It's tough," said Williams, who added that Caner-Medley could spend more time at power forward. "Nik needs to pass more. Then, he'll get more open shots. Defenses were geared to stopping him more this year. Nik really has a bright future, but he knows he has to work on some things. We'll know more in October."

Caner-Medley averaged 30.7 minutes and finished third on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (4.7 rpg). He also shot more three-pointers (115) than anyone else, but he made only 31.3 percent of his attempts, while committing the third-highest number of turnovers (69).

Gilchrist staying put

Gilchrist became the first Terps point guard to lead Maryland in scoring and assists since John Lucas 30 years ago. In the process, the 6-3 sophomore lifted Maryland to its first ACC tournament title in 20 years by earning the Most Valuable Player award.

That's when the rumors started. That's when Gilchrist started hearing that he was considering declaring his intentions to enter the NBA draft in June.

Gilchrist flatly rejected the notion that he plans to play anywhere but Maryland next year.

"Anyone who's close to me knows I haven't thought anything about [the NBA draft this year]. I don't know where this stuff gets started," Gilchrist said. "I've got so much to do to get better. I love Maryland. I love college. We've got such a good chance to be a great team next year. That's the only thing I'm thinking about."

Et cetera

Maryland will get an early look at its 2004-2005 edition this summer, when the Terps travel to Italy to play four or five exhibition games over a 13-day trip that begins Aug. 17. The schedule will be finalized this spring and figures to include some professional opponents, possibly even one in Switzerland. Among Maryland's destinations will be Rome, Florence and Venice.

Next season's BB&T Classic tournament at MCI Center in December will include Providence and Michigan State, which will join Maryland and George Washington.

The Terps will open the 2005-2006 season in the Maui Invitational, as part of a loaded field that will include Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan State, Kansas, DePaul and Arkansas.

The Terps entered the ACC tournament shooting 60.9 percent from the foul line, which put them among the bottom 10 of the 326 teams in Division I. Over its last five games, Maryland averaged 33.4 free-throw attempts and shot 72.5 percent.

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