Appreciating Gary

Under appreciated; overachieving; a chip on the shoulder; overlooked; intense; champions. These descriptions fit both the Maryland basketball program and its coach, Gary Williams, who is entering his 15th year at his alma mater.

Appreciating Gary

Once struggling to scratch out victories, both the coach and the program now stand proudly among the elite of college basketball. After plunging into the abyss in the early 1990’s, neither Williams or Maryland basketball now need to take a back seat to any coach or program in the nation. As he watched reporters flock to new North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams at the ACC’s recent media day, he reminded those who visited him “I’m not the other Williams. I’ve won a National Championship.”

Gary Williams’ success has brought happiness, excitement, and pride to Maryland basketball fans and the school as a whole. It is time to recognize his accomplishments in a way that will honor him every time the Terrapins take the floor at Comcast Center. How does “Gary Williams Court” sound to you?

It would be easy to say that Williams deserves this consideration because he was the first coach to bring a National Championship to Maryland, or due to the way the rebuilt the program from the ashes of the late 1980’s. I believe it runs even deeper than that.

If anyone is the embodiment of what it means to be a part of the University of Maryland, it is Gary Williams. Like the coach, the school has worked very hard and fought negative perceptions to improve its standing. Like the school, the coach has had to overcome significant adversity to achieve his goals.

The school has recently achieved its highest national rankings ever, and the incoming freshman SAT scores are at an all-time high. Along with the new basketball arena, there are new facilities popping up all over the College Park campus. Oh yeah, the basketball team is also doing quite well.

Honoring Gary Williams by naming the basketball court would be an appropriate and long lasting way to remember the contributions he has made not only to basketball but also the University of Maryland. He is one of our own, and he’s done good.

Red-Black Scrimage

Close to 2,000 fans took time out from their tailgating Saturday morning to watch the Terps’ first serious basketball live action of the season. A score was kept, but it is totally irrelevant. What mattered is how the players responded to two weeks of Coach Williams’ teaching and how they were starting to come together as a unit.

The stars of the scrimmage were guards Chris McCray (14 points) and DJ Strawberry (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals). This backcourt tandem dominated the early part of play. McCray looked smooth and confident in both taking the ball to the hoop and stroking his jump shot. Strawberry was the most active player on the court, getting his hands on the ball in, it seemed, nearly every defensive set. Strawberry also was fearless in attacking the basket on offense.

Both point guards also stood out during the scrimmage. John Gilchrist mixed his trademark penetration with the ball and perimeter shots on his way to 20 points. He also added 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. He was matched up for most of the morning against Andre Collins. Giving the fans a glimpse of what most practices must be like, Collins more than held his own against the bigger, stronger Gilchrist. Collins’ 6 assists and 5 steals were indications of how well he ran the show on both ends of the floor.

Jamar Smith led all scorers with 24 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. Smith scored most of his points on offensive rebounds or moving well without the ball in a scramble situation after his team had cleared a full-court press. Smith did very little flashing in the low post, a situation Coach Williams addressed. “We’re in the process of learning that” he said. “That’s the hardest thing to do in basketball, get the ball inside.

Nik Caner-Medley and Travis Garrison also played well. Caner-Medley dropped in 23 points and lived up to the comment of radio analyst Chris Knocke who recently called him “a running jumping fool.” Garrison had a strong defensive effort, grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 2 shots.

Clearly the biggest disappointment of the day was Mike Jones. He never seemed to be comfortable with the flow of the game and appeared reluctant to shoot. At this early point of practice, McCray is clearly well ahead of Jones and a likely candidate to open the season in the starting lineup as the wing guard. The other starters should be Gilchrist at the point, Caner-Medley as small forward, Garrison at power forward, and Smith at center.

Afterwards, Coach Williams was clearly pleased with his team’s effort. “I liked that our intensity level was more consistent today. Our new players are learning how they have to go hard every play, every day. I like our guys. They are coming to practice every day ready to play.”

One area he clearly was not satisfied with was the Terps’ transition defense. “Our transition defense isn’t any good. A lot of high school players are taught not to foul, which translates into not playing defense. They need to learn it’s ok to foul sometimes.”

It was obvious to even the casual observer Saturday morning that Maryland’s roster is loaded with talent this season, and some of it is very raw. We will see the next steps in this team’s growth at their first exhibition contest on Wednesday, November 12 at Comcast Center. The Terps play the EA Sports All-Stars at 8:00 PM, and the game will be telecast on Comcast Sports Net.

Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at I’ll be here all season covering Terrapin basketball, along with the ACC in The CourtMaster column, and I’d love to hear from you.

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