Season unexpectedly over, Terps' attention turns to next year

Maryland will look for last season's newcomers to improve, await Jordan Williams' decision on returning

March 14, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

On Sunday night, Jordan Williams retreated to his room to watch the National Invitation Tournament selection show.

The Maryland center wasn't tuning in to find out whether the Terps (19-14) would be invited — he figured that was a lock — but to learn whom the team would be playing and when.

"I fully expected us to be a top seed in that tournament," the sophomore said. "For us not to be in was crazy."

It was a jarring end to the season for Maryland — the sort of ending that makes players and coaches yearn for the next season to swiftly arrive so they can write a new ending.

"We could be a really good team next season," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was as stunned as his players that the Terps did not make the 32-team NIT field. "Our guys are going to be a year older."

Maryland missed the NIT field partly because the tournament had a relatively high number of teams (14) that qualified automatically after winning their regular-season conferences but losing league tournaments. The Terps hurt themselves by not breaking through against top teams during the season and by dropping their last three regular-season games.

While few around the program would have predicted that the team would be shut out of postseason play for the first time since 1993, Gary Williams knew it would be a different sort of season than the previous one. In 2009-10, the Terps tied eventual national champion Duke atop the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference standings and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The team lost more than half its scoring from that season with the graduations of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. "It's not just the points you lose. It's the experience," the coach said.

The Terps spent much of the season finding their identity. Maryland went through eight starting lineups, and the team — which had six newcomers — lacked the command of the previous season at the end of closely contested games.

Along the way, Maryland found a new scorer in freshman guard Terrell Stoglin, who had at least 20 points in four regular-season games and was named to the All-ACC freshman team. Guard Pe'Shon Howard had a solid freshman season.

Jordan Williams made All-ACC, averaging 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.

The Terps know they must find frontcourt help for Williams if he opts to return to school rather than forgo his junior season for the NBA. "It's kind of too soon for me," the sophomore responded Monday when asked whether he had made a decision about next season.

Williams led the ACC in rebounding. But top teams such as Duke and North Carolina hurt the Terps on the offensive boards with waves of big bodies. The Blue Devils — whose rotation includes 6-foot-11 Ryan Kelly and Miles and Mason Plumlee, who are both 6-10 — had 16 offensive rebounds in Duke's 87-71 victory Friday night in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.

Maryland believes that 6-10 Berend Weijs, who played just 5.2 minutes per game and averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds, will bulk up and contribute on the boards. "You could tell he was starting to bother Jordan [Williams] in practice," Gary Williams said. "The only thing that held him back was his strength."

Said Jordan Williams: "Berend is a great shot-blocker. He had really good post moves. With a couple more pounds, he could really help."

Maryland also expects a larger role for Mychal Parker, the freshman swingman who began to get more playing time at the end of the regular season.

The big questions about next season are how much Maryland's young players will improve and whether Jordan Williams will be around to see their development.

On Monday, Williams was still talking like a Terp. "We definitely have a bright future," he said.

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