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 Tuesday, November 2
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

LOCATION: College Park, MD
CONFERENCE: Atlantic Coast (ACC)
LAST SEASON: 28-6 (.823)
NICKNAME: Terrapins
COLORS: Red & Black
HOMECOURT: Cole Field House (14,500)
COACH: Gary Williams (Maryland '68)
record at school 192-118 (10 years)
career record 399-246 (21 years)
ASSISTANTS: Billy Hahn (Maryland '75)
Dave Dickerson (Maryland '90)
Jimmy Patsos (Catholic University '89)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 26-17-21-22-28
RPI (last 5 years) 10-35-23-9-4
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA Sweet 16.

ESPN.com Clubhouse

Flip through the Maryland media/recruiting guide, and you never come across a section chronicling the Terrapins' trips to the Final Four. That's because they've never been.

It is the great, glaring gap in a program which, over the years, has been the ACC's most successful non-North Carolina-based team.

The Terps had the team to make it last year, but St. John's ruined their attempt in the South Regional semifinals in Knoxville. It's a story you have read before: a team with good scouting watches how North Carolina dismantles the Terrapins with a down-tempo, halfcourt game in the ACC Tournament and then mimics it to perfection in the NCAAs.

The Terps who are exciting to watch with their aggressive, pressing style are great in the long haul, but can almost always be taken out of their game in a single-elimination tournament. Last year, Gary Williams' team was probably the best team in the country in November and December, winning games over UCLA, Stanford, DePaul and Princeton, plus the championship of the Puerto Rico Shoot-Out.

But when the record-setting season ended (the 28 overall victories and 13 ACC wins were both the most in school history), it was another bitter end, with losses to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals and St. John's in the NCAAs. The Red Storm was embarrassingly good at stopping the Terps, holding them scoreless for a 10-minute stretch and building as much as a 26-point lead. Maryland came back, but not far enough, and its dream season came up short once again.

This year, Gary Williams enters his 11th season with the unenviable job of replacing four starters, including sensational guard Steve Francis a one-year wonder who blew in from junior college, earned first-team All-Conference honors, then blew out for the NBA draft. Also gone are starters Laron Profit, Terrell Stokes and Obinna Ekezie, plus reserve Brian Watkins, one of the most successful classes to ever go through four years at Maryland.

Blue Ribbon Analysis

As good as the Terps were last year, reaching No. 2 in the polls, they played their best basketball early in the season, then faltered when it counted. The reason for that, of course, is that Williams' fullcourt, pressing style doesn't always translate into postseason success.

It's fun to watch, it packs the gym and it gets a lot of attention, but, as the Terps are so acutely aware, it doesn't get you into the Final Four. Tournament zones have driven the Terps nuts, as both North Carolina and St. John's proved in the '99 postseason. They simply took care of the basketball and controlled the rebounds, and soon thereafter Maryland was packing its bags for home.

So now that Williams is going through a transition, replacing four quality starters, he should consider some further rebuilding. Let his young players run and gun, just like they did last year. But somewhere along the way, maybe he can teach Blake, the purest of point guards, to slow things down now and again and run a halfcourt offense.

Sure the Terps have been to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but in Williams' 10 years at Maryland, the Terps are 0-4 in the Sweet 16. The up-tempo style simply doesn't guarantee NCAA success.

"We won a lot of games with them playing for us, with two Sweet 16s and four straight NCAAs," Williams said. "They were very durable. It makes it a lot easier when you have that kind of experience. When our young guys came along, they had pretty good role models."

These seniors weren't always reliable, but teamed with Francis and budding superstar Terence Morris, the group helped take Maryland to a No. 2 national ranking early last season. But wouldn't you know it? Maryland was at its peak when another ACC program was even better.

In 1974, a dominant Terp club was overshadowed by a North Carolina State team that eventually broke UCLA's hold on the national championship. Last year, Duke's powerhouse was better than the Terps, becoming the first team in ACC history to win all 16 conference games.

What's a program to do to get out of the shadows?

That question won't be answered this season, when the ACC will be without a dominating team for the first time in three years. Besides, this year the Terps will be devoted to reloading.

"This will probably be as young a team as I have ever coached at Maryland in the 10 years I've been here," Williams said. "With Steve Francis leaving early and the three seniors that played quite a bit for us the last three years all leaving, that certainly makes us a young team.

"The good thing is that with the pressure defense we play, where you might use eight or nine guys, we have some experience [returning]."

The most experience comes from the team's best player, junior power forward Terence Morris. After spending a quiet freshman season, Morris was spectacular as a sophomore, a steady force inside and out, and a perfect complement to Francis' explosive play.

When Ekezie's season ended in February because of a ruptured Achilles tendon, Lonny Baxter stepped in and showed that Morris will have capable inside help this year. At 6-8, 260 pounds, the burly sophomore is hardly the prototypical college center. But he is agile for his size, which is a necessity in Williams' offense. If the Terps get any production out of 7-0 junior Mike Mardesich or junior Laron Cephas, then they will have a formidable frontline.

But if they are to make a school-record seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Maryland will also have to get early production from one of the youngest backcourts in the country. Freshman Steve Blake from Miami will be handed the responsibility of running the Terps' up-tempo offense, with help on the wings from sophomore forward Danny Miller and sophomore shooting guard Juan Dixon, a no-conscience gunner who showed promise last year.

Besides Blake, the Terps have a recruiting class that includes forward Tahj Holden and guard Drew Nicholas, neither of whom will be asked to contribute right away. But Williams wants them to learn this season, so they will be ready for next year when Morris might be gone to the NBA.

"The cupboard is not bare," Williams said. "But we are reloading a little bit. It's one of those things where, in college basketball now, you are going to go through times when you can't time your classes the way you used to in terms of who is there and who is leaving. We are going to be young this year, but I still think we can be a good team, especially as the year goes on."

Williams is insistent that the Terps will be good this year, but he clearly has one eye focused on next, since he has already committed to three players with his four available scholarships. He brought in 6-6, 218-pound wing guard Byron Mouton, who transferred from Tulane after his sophomore season. Mouton, who led the Green Wave in scoring his first two years at 15.3 and 11.4 ppg, respectively, will sit out this season under NCAA rules, then have two years of eligibility remaining.

Williams also has a verbal commitment from 7-4 center Matt Slaninka, a high school project that most analysts say has all the coordination of a one-legged giraffe. He has apparently lost out on highly-publicized guard Tamir Goodman, the so-called "Jewish Jordan," who withdrew a "verbal" to the Terps in September.

But those are questions for next season. For now, Williams has to concentrate on rebuilding his team and getting it back to the NCAA Tournament. The Terps won't have any trouble being challenged early on. They again have a challenging schedule, which includes an appearance in the Preseason NIT as well as early games against Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky.

"[Playing a hard schedule] has helped us the last couple of years," Williams said. "We can get better because of those games. I think what happens sometimes is that you get a false sense of security when you are beating teams by 25 points. I don't think you're getting tested and I don't think you are getting better. This year we might lose some of them, but we will get better because of those games."

(6-10, 205 lbs., JR, PF, #44, 15.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.0 tpg, 1.5 spg, 2.3 bpg, 29.4 minutes, .551 FG, .355 3PT, .825 FT, Thomas Johnson HS/Frederick, Md.)

Whether he likes it or not, Morris is set to become one of college basketball's premier players. Don't get us wrong, Morris loves basketball. He just doesn't care for all the attention that comes with it.

Tough luck, Terence.

As one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Award and a preseason All-America, Morris is going to be getting plenty of attention this year. The only returning member of the ACC's first-team has already been dissected, poked and prodded this summer, getting himself ready for the media blitz.

He slipped into his star role quietly, content to let Francis have the headlines. Morris did all of his performing on the court, where he was second to Francis in scoring while also leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots. He became a strong inside finisher after growing two inches following his freshman year. Morris even spent a one-year apprenticeship on the bench, playing behind All-ACC performer Rodney Elliott.

Truth be told, the shy Morris just wasn't used to the big-time college basketball scene when he arrived on campus. He never played in the big AAU tournaments or attended the summer basketball camps. Little wonder he averaged only 7.4 ppg and 3.4 rpg his first time around.

"I would say I am shy in talking, but not so shy on the court," Morris said. "I just leave all the other stuff to everybody else."

Williams has already told his young star, who could have joined Francis in leaving early for the NBA but decided not to, that he has to get over being so reserved. The young Terps are going to need some guidance, and they will look to Morris to be a leader, both internally and externally.

"When Steve decided to leave, it became fairly obvious that Terence was going to get a lot of the attention on our team for this next season," Williams said. "I just told Terence, it's part of the process. You were able to hide as a freshman. He got some attention last year, but Steve got most of it.

"Now, as a junior, it's Terence's turn. That's part of what you earn if you want to be a good player in college basketball. You have to accept that. I think it's a great opportunity for Terence to mature as a person and a player."

Morris' game matured last year, particularly in the early part of the season when Maryland was at its best. He faded some at the end of the year, as his lithe body grew weary of the pounding it was taking. He made just 38.9 percent of his field goals over the last seven games. That included a 5-for-13 performance against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals and a 3-for-10 performance in the NCAA Tournament loss to St. John's. Both teams pushed him outside and took away the best part of his game.

So he still needs to work on some things, including his ballhandling and fighting off double-teams, which he will see plenty of this year. He needs to be a little more aggressive inside, so he can get to the foul line more often. He is one of the best free-throw shooters in the conference.

"He's getting stronger," Williams said. "The shooting, the running, that's all there. Now, it's just a matter of being able to take the pounding a little better. Last year he got pushed around against some of the teams we had to play. I don't think that is going to happen this year."

The only thing that might hamper Morris early this season is recovering from a broken foot he suffered in a pick-up game in April. He had surgery to repair the broken bone and was out of action for nearly six weeks, but he is expected to be completely recovered by the time practice begins.

(6-3, 152 lbs., SO, SG, #5, 7.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.5 tpg, 1.5 spg, 14.9 minutes, .443PT, .371 3PT, .830 FT, Calvert Hall HS/Baltimore, Md.)

At his size, Dixon may be better suited to coming off the bench than ever being a starter. He's just so skinny, you wonder if he can survive one minute on the court during an ACC game, let alone 25.

But Dixon proved his worth as a shooter last year, finishing second behind Francis for the most three-point baskets on the team (36). He hit more than 37 percent of his three-point attempts, which would have put him among the league leaders if he had attempted a few more shots.

He also proved he could shoot at the foul line, finishing with the second-best free throw shooting percentage for a freshman in school history. Defensively, Dixon had 50 steals on a team that led the league by a wide margin.

Williams likes Dixon's game, even though the wiry guard went through a shooting and scoring slump when he was only 2-for-19 from three-point range. He also went eight games without hitting double figures.

"Juan is skinny, but he is tough," Williams said. "He can give it out a little bit, too. Juan wants to start. If he earns it, then he will be out there. It's nice having a shooter on the court so teams can't slough off of him. He can help open up other things for other guys."

With three of the team's top four scorers gone, Dixon will be counted on to provide outside scoring, just like Profit did last year.

"We were very good last year, something like fourth in the country in scoring," Williams said. "We lose a lot of that offense and we need to have some people out there who can put the ball in the basket. Juan is one of those guys."

(6-8, 250 lbs., SO, C, #35, 6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.7 spg, 14.5 minutes, .599 FG, .573 FT, Hargrave Military Academy, Va./Silver Spring, Md.)

As hard as it is to believe when looking at him, Baxter is actually more athletic and mobile than Ekezie ever was, which is why Baxter became the Terps' starting center one game before Ekezie was lost for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Baxter then started 10 of the Terps' final 11 games at center, which is not his natural position. He took to it well, averaging nearly nine points and five rebounds per game, both significantly higher than his season averages. He also led the Terps in field goal percentage, aided greatly by a 10-for-10 performance against North Texas.

"He is a guy who probably surprised me more than anybody else last year," Williams said. "He is one of those wide bodies who goes against what you think he can do. He is very quick at his size. He can play a couple of positions. He is not just a back-to-the basket kind of player, which is what he had to be last year."

Baxter was forced into being a center because Mike Mardesich had a disappointing sophomore campaign. If Mardesich can be more productive, Williams may try to play Mardesich, Baxter and Morris together at times on the front line, which would be one of the most formidable frontcourts in the ACC, if not the country.

Especially if Baxter plays at the 260 pounds Williams projects.

(6-8, 205 lbs., SO, SF, # 15, 4.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 tpg, 1.0 spg, 14.3 minutes, .482 FG, .333 3PT, .532 FT, Rancocas Valley HS/Mt. Holly, N.J.)

Though it took a while for Miller to get into the scoring groove, he was an important part of the Terp offense during the last month of the season. He played more after Ekezie went down, averaging more than 20 minutes in the Terps' five postseason games.

He only hit double figures in scoring four times, but two of those were in ACC Tournament games. His shooting improved nearly 10 percentage points over the last 10 games of the season. Still, Williams had higher expectations for Miller, a high-profile recruit ranked among the Top 15 high school players in the country two years ago.

The former McDonald's All-America will have to step into the starting lineup this year, replacing Profit at small forward. He has grown nearly two inches since he arrived on campus, so his 6-8 frame should be an imposing threat at one of the wing positions.

"He is important for us," Williams said. "He gives us a different look. He's a good leaper and can do some things offensively to score. He is a very tough guy, one [who] doesn't back off from anybody."

That's all well and good, but Miller needs to step in and be productive on a team that is lacking in returning offense.

(6-3, 175 lbs., FR, PG, FR, # 25, 8.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, Oak Hill Academy, Va./ Miami Lakes, Fla)

There is little question that Blake is a winner. Go ask the three high school teams he led to championship seasons.

The main question about Blake, the second best point guard recruit in the nation last year according to analyst Bob Gibbons, is whether he can step in immediately and lead the Terrapin offense the way Francis did last year.

"It's a matter of competing against the level of players he will play every night in the ACC," Williams said. "Can he do that? That's what he has to prove."

Francis was mature beyond his years, leading two junior college teams to undefeated seasons. Blake hasn't exactly led a sheltered life. He has competed at the highest level of basketball competition, both in high school and internationally, as a member of the 1998 World Junior Championship qualifying tournament.

He's been successful just about everywhere he's been. As a high school sophomore, he helped Miami Killian HS to a 33-3 record and the semifinals of the state 6A tournament. As a junior, he helped Miami Senior HS to a 36-1 record and the state 6A championship. As a senior, he helped Oak Hill (Va.) Academy to a perfect 31-0 record, as the team was named high school national champion by USA Today, ESPN and the Associated Press.

"You give him the ball and everyone on the court seems to know that he's the point guard, the guy in charge, the floor general," said Louis Wilson, his coach in the 1999 Capital Classic All-Star Game. "He makes everyone around him better. If a teammate is open, he will find a way to get him the basketball."

Blake is not the explosive player Francis was. He didn't even average in double figures last year. But that's not a bad thing on a team that has Morris, as well as gunners like Dixon and Miller.

"Steve has always been a point guard," Williams said. "He looks at the game a bit differently than someone who is just becoming a point guard. Hopefully, he can make the transition very quickly and be able to handle the pressure of the ACC and some of the other teams we are going to play."

(7-0, 255 lbs., JR, C, #33, 2.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 12.1 minutes, .350 FG, .429 FT, Worcester Academy/Boston, Mass.)

After a promising freshman season, Mardesich took several steps backward last season, unable to produce the way Williams wanted.

"I think Mike will be the first guy who will tell you that he was disappointed with the way he played," Williams said. "I told Mike when we met after the season that he has to put his sophomore year behind him and just concentrate on the next two years."

His scoring went down nearly two points per game, while his playing time diminished by nearly five minutes per game from his redshirt freshman year (when he showed surprising development during the ACC season). Few players in the league can match his size or defensive intensity when he is playing his best game. Williams just wants him to use that size to his advantage.

"He should be a force inside for us in the league," the Maryland coach said. "That's what we are focused on: How to get him playing well again and get him in a good frame of mind. Mike had some things happen to him off the court that were not his fault, and I think it affected the way he played."

Williams wouldn't elaborate, but added that all those problems were now behind Mardesich.

"I am certainly going into the season with the idea that he is going to be a very important player for us," Williams said.

He better be. Morris and Baxter could use the help inside.

(6-7, 223 lbs., JR, F, #21, 1.4 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 2.8 minutes, .444 FG, .600 3PT, .500 FT, The Sanford School/Wilmington, Del.)

Cephas pondered leaving the program in the off-season, understandably upset that he had been relegated to end-of-the-bench status with the three Terp walk-ons. After playing in 21 games as a redshirt freshman, Cephas thought he would play a bigger role as a sophomore.

Instead, off-season knee surgery hampered his development. Cephas actually played fewer minutes than walk-on guard Norman Fields and only two more than walk-on guard Matt Hahn.

Williams said Cephas has to prove that his is fully recovered from his knee surgery to earn more playing time this year. He wasn't completely well until about midway through last season, and scored a season-high seven points in a 94-48 blowout of N.C. State.

The knee repair was actually the second surgery in Cephas' Maryland career, after undergoing a hernia operation at the beginning of his redshirt freshman year. He should be at full strength this season

However, Cephas was not regarded that highly in recruiting circles and has been considered a project ever since he arrived in College Park. If he contributes this year, it will be as a reserve behind Morris, Miller and Holden.

(6-3, 165 lbs., F, G, #12, 24.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 3.7 spg, .570 FG, .470 3PT, Long Island Lutheran HS/Hempstead, N.J.)

The other half of Williams' backcourt recruiting efforts, Nicholas is regarded as a good open shooter with a reliable three-point shot. He is athletic enough to be a good complement to Blake, although the two probably won't spend that much time on the court at the same time.

Nicholas will be more of a role player in his freshman season, if he gets that much action at all, as sophomores Juan Dixon and Danny Miller play on the wing. He should be able to provide depth in the backcourt, however, since Williams has few other choices there.

"We felt we were losing some offense in losing our guards, and we felt we had to bring in some guys who could put the ball in basket," Williams said. "I think that will be Drew's role next year. You don't like to put that kind of pressure on your freshmen, but that's what Drew does really well."

Nicholas, a member of the Class A All-State team, hit 75 three-pointers in his senior season, including seven in his final high school game.

"He's probably the most consistent player I have ever had in big games," said his high school coach, Ronn Hall. "The phrase 'complete player' comes to mind, and I'd have to say he's the best."

(6-9, 235 lbs., F, PF, #45, 14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, Red Bank Regional HS/Little Silver, N.J.)

Going into his senior year, Holden was a Top 50 recruit who was thought to be a mobile big man. However, his stock slowly descended as he put on 25 pounds and insisted on playing more of a perimeter position in high school.

"You don't find many guys who are his size that can shoot the 'three,'" said Steve Johnson, Holden's high school coach. "He's very difficult to defend, and can also put the ball on the floor and blow past you."

At 6-9, Holden simply cannot be a perimeter player in the ACC. Go ask North Carolina's Vasco Evtimov, who never liked playing inside and ended up leaving the school after two turbulent years. Holden, like Evtimov, was known for his passing skills in high school.

What Williams wants to do is allow Holden to use his perimeter skills to become a stronger, more physical inside player.

"I guess the knock on Tahj is that he hasn't been real physical," Williams said. "But he hasn't had to be. His skill has allowed him to really do well as a high school player [at] that size. I like Tahj in terms of what his future is in basketball.

"He has mastered some things coming into college that very few people his size can do, like passing and shooting the ball. We'll see where that takes him. As he gets stronger, I think he will be really effective for us."

Williams would like to see Holden spend the year playing behind Morris. Perhaps by next season, if Morris is no longer around, the lanky forward will be ready to be a productive inside player. The coach wouldn't mind a bit, however, if Holden spends two years playing behind Morris.

(6-0, 162 lbs., SR, G, #20, 0.7 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 3.5 minutes, .750 FG, .444 FT, Atholoton HS/Columbia, Md.)

As the only senior on the squad, Hahn will need to be a calming influence on a team with seven freshmen and sophomores. However, Hahn has won three varsity letters by being nothing more than a practice player, who is rewarded with some trash time at the end of the game.

Of course, when he gets in, its usually good luck for the Terps, who have a 26-2 record in games in which Hahn appears. Last year, he played in 14 games, scoring a total of 10 points.

Hahn is the son of Maryland assistant coach Billy Hahn, himself a reserve player on some of the best teams in Maryland history.

(6-0, 167 lbs., SO, G, #4, zero appearances, St. Frances Academy/Baltimore, Md.)

Badu joined the team last year after an on-campus tryout, but he never got into a game. After only getting to practice for the first half of the season, he was allowed to travel with the team when the ACC season began.

Badu, who averaged 18.0 ppg as a high school junior, knows his only job with the Terps is to provide resistance during practice. He wasn't on the team as a freshman, but he has three years of eligibility remaining.

Who knows? Perhaps before he graduates, he will actually see action.


(6-6, 215 lbs., JR, G-F, 11.4 ppg, .384 FG, .365 3PT, Tulane & Rayne HS/Rayne, La.)

Mouton is a no-conscience gunner who led the Green Wave in scoring during both seasons he played for the New Orleans school. There is little doubt he can score, as his 31.7 ppg as a high school senior indicates. He drew recruiting attention from Maryland, N.C. State, LSU and Kentucky before finally settling on Tulane.

The question is whether he will fit into Maryland's full-court style of offense and whether his disappointing sophomore campaign was the product of a poor attitude. Mouton's scoring dropped off nearly four points per game from his debut campaign, and his shooting was below 40 percent as the Green Wave suffered through a losing season.

Whatever the explanation, the Terps will have to wait a year until Mouton becomes eligible under NCAA transfer rules. He will sit out this season, filling in as the 10th scholarship practice player and, Williams hopes, finding a way to fit into Maryland's system.

(6-3, SG, 17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.0 tpg, 2.8 spg, 30.4 minutes, .523PT, .388 3PT, .790 FT)

Francis' Maryland career was as spectacular as it was short. With the NBA in a lockout, it seemed Francis was on SportsCenter every night during December, and the smooth-talking, sweet-shooting guard loved making an immediate impact on a Top Five program.

He loved taking his team to new heights, such as the No. 2 national ranking the Terps enjoyed early in the season. He loved everything about the game, until, of course, he was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the second pick of the NBA draft. He got that taken care of, though, with a trade in early September to the Houston Rockets.

Francis, who his team in scoring and the ACC in steals with 95, had one of the great one-year careers in the history of the ACC, right up there with Georgia Tech's Stephon Marbury and North Carolina's Bob McAdoo. He was named first-team All-ACC and second-team All-America.

Francis, a hometown product who spent two years at two different junior colleges, had the skills the NBA loves quick hands, fast feet and the ability to score from anywhere on the court. He knew as early as December that he would not return for his final year of eligibility, so he tried to carry the Terps as far as they could go in his only season on campus.

"I think he made a good decision," Williams said. "You can't fault someone being in that situation doing what he did. We don't have many opportunities to ensure financial security for the rest of our lives. It didn't surprise me."

Unfortunately for the Terps, his career didn't include a trip to the Final Four. Still, he was a god-send to Terence Morris, the shy and reserved power forward, as well as the previously unstable backcourt of Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes. Francis' gifted athletic ability seemed to be a calming influence on all of them.

(6-0, PG, 4.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.2 tpg, 1.9 spg, 29.0 minutes, .421 FG, .408 3PT, .667 FT)

One of the biggest questions going into last season was how well Stokes, the Terps' starting point guard for three years, would react to having hot-shot recruit Steve Francis in the lineup. Stokes had been known for petulant behavior in his career, and had been disciplined by Williams on a couple of occasions for his attitude and lazy defense.

So it seemed only natural to think Stokes might not be totally accepting of Francis, a projected point guard who could have stolen his position. Yet that was never a problem, as Francis and Stokes shared responsibility for running the Terp offense and Profit played as a small forward. They were all in the starting lineup every game, except for when Francis sat out the first few minutes of Senior Day.

Yes, Stokes' scoring went down, but he was never much of an offensive threat anyway. The only time he averaged over five points a season was as a sophomore, scoring in double figures in just over two dozen of the 128 games he played for the Terps.

What improved, however, was Stokes' focus on the game. He became a better passer, setting the school record with 213 assists, leading the ACC with a 2.51-to-1.00 assist-to-turnover ratio and grabbing 65 steals.

He even became a better defender, the primary flaw in his game earlier in his career. Suddenly, point guards such as Ed Cota and Terrell McIntyre who had blown past him in previous years were being shut down.

Stokes never did give up his starting position, but he did give up the ball, setting up teammates Francis, Morris and Profit to score on one of the nation's most prolific offenses.

(6-5, SF, 14.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.5 tpg, 2.0 spg, 28.9 minutes, .503PT, .312 3PT, .676 FT)

While everyone worried about how point guard Terrell Stokes would handle the arrival of Steve Francis, it was Profit who got off to a slow, disappointing start to his senior season. Francis became an immediate star; Profit missed 17 of his first 18 three-point attempts and scored only 15 combined points in wins over UCLA, Stanford and Kentucky.

Maybe, as Maryland's top returning player, Profit was intimidated by Francis' presence or even Terence Morris' budding stardom. Whatever it was, he got over it, accepting his role as small forward graciously and eventually not worrying about who scored all the points.

Williams said it was a sign of maturity. Profit said it was a will to win.

"When you are young, you crave the attention," Profit said late last year. "You want to show everyone you can play. I'm past that. I've played on national TV for three years; people know I can play.

"What to know what I want? I want to win."

Profit, a prolific dunker who ended the regular-season with a career-high 32 points against Florida State, did plenty of that in his career as a key ingredient on four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams. Twice, he helped the Terps to the Sweet 16, but never any farther.

He made the necessary adjustments in his game last year to accommodate Francis, and still ended up on the ACC's third-team All-Conference squad. He was impressive enough in the off-season to be drafted in the NBA's second round.

(6-10, C, 12.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 2.2 tpg, 1.5 bpg, 25.6 minutes, .488 FG, .693 FT)

It is a little simplistic to think Maryland's chances of reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history were dealt a severe blow when Ekezie suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in mid-February. The truth is Ekezie had just been replaced in the starting lineup by Lonny Baxter, who energized the Terps as Morris suffered through a late-season slump.

Ekezie, still a basketball novice when he arrived at Maryland, matured into a decent, though unspectacular ACC center. He was a good post defender when he wasn't fouling his opponent, something he improved gradually during his career.

But by February of last season, Williams was looking for a way to rejuvenate his offense and he chose to insert Baxter into the lineup. Three days after Baxter made his first start, Ekezie ruptured his Achilles and did not return.

Ekezie's absence did hurt the Terps. He was a better free throw shooter than Baxter and his presence inside was sorely missed, especially in the season-ending loss to St. John's in the NCAA regional semifinal.

(6-9, F, 2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 6.5 minutes, .488 FG, .444 3PT, .500 FT)

Languishing on the end of the bench, Watkins didn't get much playing time until he was forced into the lineup following Ekezie's injury. He stepped in big in his first game as a regular sub, scoring seven points against N.C. State and taking up space in the middle with Baxter and Mike Mardesich.

However, after scoring 11 points in his first game after transferring to Maryland from Notre Dame, Watkins never reached double figures again the rest of his career.

(6-0, 1.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 3.5 minutes, .276 FG, .100 3PT, .778 FT)

Fields was selected from a pool of 300 players during the fall of 1995 to become a walk-on for the Terrapins. In four years, he appeared in 52 games, scoring as many as five points twice. Primarily, he was a practice player who helped prepare the Terps by mimicking the other team's top scorer.

Halfcourt game? Running up and down the court is fine when you have the athletes to do it, but Maryland is rebuilding this year. If Francis & Co. couldn't succeed in the NCAA Tournament with that style of play, can Williams seriously expect a lineup with a freshman and three sophomores to succeed?

Experience? The Terps will have one of the league's youngest starting lineups. Usually, it takes Williams' teams a year or so to get settled in before being successful.

Depth? The Terps are down to nine scholarship players for this season, which isn't nearly enough to practice Williams' up-tempo style. And, comes game-time, Williams will certainly wish he had more fresh bodies to throw out on the court, particularly if his young team can't keep up with the coach's frenetic pace.

Morris to the rescue! Not long ago, Joe Smith was carrying the Terps with good complementary help. Then came Keith Booth. Now it's Morris' turn to shoulder the burden in what may be his final year of college basketball. \

New blood! Blake is a winner who has run championship teams in the past. He should be able to step in immediately and get things going. The sophomore trio of Baxter, Miller and Dixon is also ready to show why they were part of one of the nation's top recruiting classes two years ago.

Williams' success! Gary Williams inherited a program about to go on probation and suffered through three horrible seasons. He has certainly turned things around and attracted some of the East Coast's best talent to a school those players previously avoided. He has to rebuild at his alma mater this year, but this coach has proven he is up to that challenge.

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