Terps' Williams accepts blame for McCray's dismissal

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams
on Tuesday accepted responsibility for allowing leading scorer
Chris McCray to become academically ineligible, but expressed hope
that the senior -- and the Terrapins (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) -- could cope with
the adversity created by the "one-time situation."

The school announced Monday that McCray would miss the rest of
the season for failing to adhere to NCAA academic standards. The
suspension begins Wednesday, when Maryland (13-4) faces Georgia
Tech on the road.

"This is the first time in 28 years as a head coach I've lost a
player halfway through the season," Williams said. "It's
something that I personally take responsibility for. I feel bad
about it. My job now is to make sure that Chris does a good job in
school this semester and is successful with whatever he wants to do
after school is out."

McCray was averaging 15.2 points per game during his second year
as the Terrapins' co-captain. Williams said his staff was aware
that McCray was struggling in school, but couldn't do enough to
keep him eligible.

"No one feels worse than Chris about this situation, but you
beat yourself up as a coach thinking there's some way this can be
avoided, because I'm not used to this," Williams said. "It's
something we certainly will continue to look at, and see if there
are ways we can improve what we do."

Williams always meets the media on the day before a game, and in
most cases only a handful of reporters show up. On Tuesday, a
half-dozen cameras and a room full of reporters were present, and
very few questions pertained to Georgia Tech's defense or the fact
that Williams is one victory shy of tying Lefty Driesell as the
school's career win leader.

Now in his 17th season at Maryland, Williams won a national
championship in 2002 and captured the Atlantic Coast Conference
title in 2004. But the Terrapins failed to gain entry to the NCAA
Tournament a year ago, and this season has been a struggle.

Williams suspended Travis Garrison for one game after the senior
forward was charged with second-degree assault and a fourth-degree
sex offense for allegedly grabbing and hitting a woman in a bar on
Oct. 27.

Then, on Tuesday, Williams was forced to speak for the first
time about a player being placed on academic probation in the
middle of the season.

"You don't expect it from a senior. Having been here for 3½
years, you know how the system works. But at the same time, it can
happen," Williams said. "I look at this as a one-time situation.
We have a lot of things in place that help our student-athletes ...
but we also have to have people that are willing to do their part,
too. This is a two-way street."

Led by McCray, the Terrapins appeared poised to get back into
the NCAA Tournament after having their run of 11 consecutive
appearances ended in 2004-05.

Mike Jones will start for McCray, and reserves Parrish Brown and
Sterling Ledbetter can also expect to see plenty of time at
shooting guard. Others, such as Nik Caner-Medley and D.J.
Strawberry, will have to contribute even more.