Tall order for Terps

Williams ready for more height

Maryland Men's Basketball

March 23, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Maryland's season had just ended, and Gary Williams was discussing his team's size - or rather the lack of it.

The coach was specifically reflecting on how Memphis, which knocked the Terps out of the NCAA tournament in the second round with an 89-70 win Saturday, seemed to play at a different level. Literally.

"You go into a game, you talk about boxing out, but you know when a guy makes a play 2 feet over the rim, that's what they can do," Williams said.

"We don't play up there this year. We probably will next year a little, but right now, we don't play there," he said.

Ultimately, this was the story of Maryland's season: Bigger teams simply occupied different air space.

Williams could sometimes mask his team's lack of a center or true power forward. He asked his players to trap and press and clog the lane. On offense, he hoped they would use their quickness to penetrate and kick the ball out or draw fouls.

Sometimes it worked.

Former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom marveled as he watched Maryland's relatively small frontcourt players warming up before the Terps beat the Demon Deacons in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Atlanta. Asked about Maryland's success, Odom remarked that Williams must be doing it "with mirrors."

Maryland (21-14) beat Michigan State and North Carolina during the regular season. The upset of Wake Forest likely secured an NCAA tournament berth.

"Coming into this season, people didn't think we could play in the ACC, and we held our own," senior Dave Neal said.

"The ultimate goal for any team is making it back to the NCAA tournament, and we achieved that goal. Coach Williams said it best: At the end of the year, there's only one team that's happy, and that's the national champion."

Williams has often suggested this season that help is on the way. His comments about two recruits who have committed to Maryland - forward Jordan Williams of Torrington, Conn., and forward James Padgett of Brooklyn, N.Y. - have raised Maryland fans' expectations. Jordan Williams, who shattered a backboard during one of his high school team's road games this season, says he is almost 6 feet 10. Padgett is 6-9. They are the players Williams meant when he talked after the loss to Memphis about playing "up there."

But there is a lot of uncertainty about next season. Maryland doesn't know whether it will get highly touted Lance Stephenson, a 6-5 guard from Padgett's high school in Brooklyn who visited campus during the season.

Nor does it know whether junior Greivis Vasquez, the team's leading scorer - he had a memorable triple double in the win over North Carolina - will return. Vasquez has said he might enter the NBA draft.

After the loss to Memphis, Vasquez answered every question from the media about his play, the season and his inflammatory comment the day before that the Tigers would have had a losing record in the ACC.

But Vasquez wasn't talking about his plans.

"I don't know who is going to be here next year," junior guard Eric Hayes said. "We could be a great team next year if we all just stay together."

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