In uneven season, Gilchrist could use another big finish

A repeat of Terp's ACC tourney heroics might boost his NBA stock.

College Basketball

March 10, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The most enduring moment from last year's whirlwind weekend in Greensboro, N.C., came after Maryland point guard John Gilchrist had completed one final dominant performance, after the Terrapins had outlasted top-seeded Duke to give coach Gary Williams his first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship.

Gilchrist jumped into teammate Chris McCray's arms and the two embraced, a smile stretching across Gilchrist's face. ESPN has used the scene in commercials to hype the network's championship week coverage, yet another reminder of how much things have changed both for Gilchrist and the Terps.

Maryland needs a win today over Clemson in an ACC tournament first-round game at MCI Center to bolster its NCAA tournament chances. Gilchrist, in what may be his last ACC tournament, needs a solid follow-up to his 2003-04 tournament Most Valuable Player performance to salvage what has been a long and, at times, painful season for the point guard.

"This season has had its great moments, and it's had its down moments," said Gilchrist, a junior who is averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds. "That's just what it is when you're [in] one of the key roles for the team. You take more responsibility and take more of the load. You kind of put it on yourself. If you lose, all you can think about is, `What could I have done more?' "

Gilchrist hasn't stated that he'll forgo his last year of eligibility and enter the NBA draft, saying only that he'll discuss the matter with his family after the season. However, several university sources said they would be extremely surprised if Gilchrist decided to return to College Park.

Bill Cochrane, Gilchrist's high school coach at Salem High in Virginia Beach, Va., said Gilchrist told him on more than one occasion in the past that "he would like to take care of his parents and help them live a more comfortable life."

Williams talked Gilchrist out of going to the NBA after last season. Asked if he'd welcome Gilchrist back for his senior season, Williams said: "Sure. If he wants to come back."

But Williams isn't sure how it will play out.

"It all depends," he said. "I don't always know how different pro teams look at him. You hear some things, but you don't know how true it is. There is so much done with individual workouts now, too, where teams don't put as much stock in the play during the college season as they do when they bring them in [for pre-draft workouts]."

That might be good news for Gilchrist, whose draft status has apparently dropped throughout this season as a result of an erratic year. Gilchrist outplayed Duke's Daniel Ewing and Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack - two All-ACC performers - but struggled with unheralded guards like Vernon Hamilton (Clemson) and Engin Atsur (N.C. State).

At one point earlier in the year, nbadraft.net's mock draft had Gilchrist as a top 10 pick. He is now projected to go 26th in the 30-team first round.

According to a recent ESPN Insider report, which listed Gilchrist as the 10th best point guard in the nation, "a disastrous midseason slump ... has sent his stock plummeting. He's still on the first-round bubble, but given the beating he's taken this year, it might be wise to return for his senior season."

The slide could prove costly to Gilchrist. Last year, Xavier guard Lionel Chalmers was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 33rd overall pick in the second round. He signed a one-year deal for approximately $385,000. Meanwhile, Indiana drafted David Harrison out of Colorado with the 29th pick - the last in the first round - and signed him to a three-year deal for approximately $2.1 million. First-round draft picks get guaranteed three-year deals; second-round picks do not.

Scouts like Gilchrist's size (6 feet 3, 201 pounds), strength and toughness. His shooting consistency and ability to use both hands are said to need improvement, but the biggest question about Gilchrist remains his attitude and his leadership ability.

"He's a very creative player who can score and distribute, but I think there's people who wonder about the attitude," said Chris Monter, the editor and publisher of Monter Draft News and College Basketball News.

Monter said the point guard class will likely be very deep, probably making a Gilchrist a second-round pick.

Williams and his point guard have had several disagreements this season, about how Gilchrist runs the offense, his commitment to defense and his on-court demeanor. At times, it has appeared that Gilchrist has gotten Williams' message. In both games against Duke, Gilchrist did whatever his team needed and was the on-floor leader that Williams demands.

But just last Saturday in the Terps' loss to Virginia Tech, Williams yanked Gilchrist in the last minute of the game because he was sulking after a missed shot instead of joining his teammates at the other end of the court.

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