Unfulfilled, Gilchrist may be inspired to stay

From MVP to fallen star, junior says, `I have a lot of obligations due' to Terps

ACC Tournament

March 11, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - As John Gilchrist sat on the Maryland bench in the closing minutes of yesterday's 84-72 loss to Clemson in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at MCI Center, the junior point guard tried to wipe away a steady stream of tears.

Gilchrist's tears weren't from the pain in his left ankle, which he rolled late in the first half and caused him to miss much of the second half, but from a season of pained performances by the Terrapins that continued with a third straight loss to the Tigers.

"When you go down, you kind of feel that you didn't fulfill your obligations to the team," said Gilchrist, who played only 19 minutes, scoring four points on 1-for-7 shooting, with three turnovers and two assists.

"I blame myself for a lot of the little issues that happened to me this year because injuries happen when you're not playing as hard as you can. I feel that's when I let my team down."

Though he wouldn't give a definite answer, Gilchrist hinted that his disappointing performance this season might be reason enough for him to return to College Park for his senior year.

Asked whether his performance this season will affect his decision about his final year of eligibility, Gilchrist said: "It's definitely going to affect my decision. This year, I feel that in a lot of ways, I disappointed this team.

"A lot of things that I've done came as a distraction, involving the media coverage about the rumors that got out. I haven't really thought about it so much as it's been put out there. It's been a learning experience, and I feel like I have a lot of obligations due to this team."

A year after being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for leading Maryland to the ACC tournament championship in Greensboro, N.C., Gil- christ might have been the league's most vexing player this season.

Yesterday's injury was only the latest for Gilchrist, who was already playing with a banged-up right wrist.

The ankle injury occurred in the final minute of the opening half as Gilchrist stopped his drive to the basket and tried to pull the ball out, slipping on the plastic tournament logo affixed to the court. During halftime, the ankle tightened up and after trying to play, Gilchrist was quickly taken out.

"I've never been a quitter, and that's what winning's all about," Gilchrist said. "You've just got to go out there and just leave it out there. ... I didn't want to take the coward way out."

As Clemson began to pull away, Gilchrist attempted to play again, but he was severely hampered by the injured ankle. He relinquished his duties to junior point guard Sterling Ledbetter and, toward the end, junior shooting guard Chris McCray.

"He tried to play and couldn't play," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of Gilchrist. "He sprained his ankle, but good teams overcome injuries."

Nor did Gilchrist want to use his injury - and the bruised knee that kept freshman James Gist from playing yesterday - as a reason for Maryland's latest defeat.

"You're going to get injuries," Gilchrist said. "You can't make excuses. Excuses never work."

The stark contrast between last season's surprising run of upsets deep in the heart of enemy territory and this season's quick and quiet exit as the hometown favorite was not lost on Gilchrist.

"We've learned that the season is a snowball effect, and when you let a lot of little things happen and you go downhill, the ball is going downhill," Gilchrist said. "When you go uphill, you build on it. We kind of fell on the way here."

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