Gary, Silver Spring: Maryland's senior basketball class has suffered another black eye with Chris McCray's dismissal. So far, that class has three arrests, one has left the program, and one was lost to poor academics. Since winning the national championship, Gary Williams' recruiting classes have been less than stellar. Has he lost his touch?
Heather A. Dinich: The Terp recruits are still a cut below those going to Duke and North Carolina. You make a valid point, and Gary has expressed his disappointment with this senior class. As to whether he's lost his touch, you've got to look back at the hype surrounding these guys when they were recruited. Garrison was a local All-American. If Gary hadn't gotten him, everyone probably would have been screaming. McCray was their leading scorer and best defender -- like you said, it was his off-court incidents that were his downfall, and sometimes character is the toughest thing to predict. Caner-Medley was the top player coming out of Maine, and a runner-up for McDonald's All-American. Gilchrist was obviously good enough to play pro overseas. Had that class remained in tact, who knows what this season would have been like.
Christopher, Fallston: Why does this set of Maryland basketball players not seem to give as much effort in games? Gary obviously always is putting it all on the floor. Take the Miami game; after all the effort put into getting back into the game and tying it up, they relaxed and sat back on two consecutive possessions and their 3-point shooters made easy uncontested baskets. If we want to be like Duke we have to be playing 40 minutes without relaxing. Will we get to the point where the team will be giving out that effort 40 minutes for every game? I wish the more talented players had the passion shown by untalented players just happy to get into the game for a couple of minutes.
Heather A. Dinich: This is a good question, because after Maryland lost to North Carolina at Comcast -- their first and only loss at home so far this season -- D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones both told me in the locker room there were spurts where the Tar Heels wanted it more. Neither one could answer why. Even though Maryland showed the kind of effort you're referencing in the second half Tuesday against Virginia, they didn't come out with an intensity that matched that of the Cavaliers. I think Georgia Tech, in terms of effort, might have been their most complete game of the season. Then again, it was their first without McCray, and they definitely had something to prove.
Joe, Millersville: Losing Antonio Logan-El was a big hit, and now I've heard that 7 of the top 11 recruits in Maryland signed with Penn State. I know that Maryland signed a couple of top players from Pa., but what is the scoop? Is someone influencing these kids against attending Maryland?
Heather A. Dinich: It's no secret Penn State's Derrick Williams has been a recruiting tool for the Nits, but I think it goes deeper than that. Penn State's recent success, coupled with back-to-back 5-6 seasons for the Terps played in PSU's favor. What's changed about recruiting lately, though, is how the kids recruit each other. There definitely was a trickle-down effect in the state, as most of the kids headed to PSU know each other and have either played with or against each other at some point. Penn State assistant Larry Johnson, who recruits Maryland, also has strong ties to the state, while the Terps' recruiting staff has lacked some stability recently. When you look at the big picture, though, a 28 or 29th-ranked recruiting class isn't half bad for losing seasons and no bowl appearances in the past two years.
Ray, Huntington, W.Va.: What's going on with the Terps football recruiting? Any hope of getting back to 10 wins next year?
Heather A. Dinich: With Florida State and Miami on the schedule this season, 10 wins might be a stretch, especially since the Terps lost leading pass catcher Vernon Davis to the NFL. It should be interesting, though, to see what this speedy young crop of receivers has to offer. Defensively, it will be tough compensating for the loss of D'Qwell Jackson at linebacker, who led the ACC in tackles the past two regular seasons.
Mike, Baltimore: Is it true Maryland has a 5-star defensive end coming in from a prep school?
Heather A. Dinich: Well, he was an All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year for the Sun, so he must be pretty good. :)
Here's the lowdown on Melvin Alaeze, thanks to the Maryland sports information department:
A two-year letterwinner and starter at Randallstown High School ... transferred from Calvert Hall after his sophomore season ... saw action at defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end, fullback, tailback, punter and handling kickoff duties ... posted 110 tackles, 18.5 sacks, and 30.5 tackles for loss as a senior ... also ran for 351 yards and four touchdowns, caught 17 passes for 257 yards and four TDs while averaging nearly 40 yards per punt ... registered 50 tackles and 16 sacks as a junior while rushing for one TD and catching another ... earned nearly every honor imaginable as a senior ... a Parade All-American ... first team All-American by USA Today, ... was ranked as the No. 1 defensive end in the country by ESPN.com's Tom Lemming and by Rivals.com.
Oh, and yeah, Rivals.com gave him those five stars you were asking about.
Jasmine, Suitland: Why doesn't James Gist get more media attention? He seems to be one of the most hard working guys on the team? Is it because he is a sophomore?
Heather A. Dinich: No, it's not because he's a sophomore. Here's the thing with covering the Maryland men's basketball team -- access is very, very limited. For the past two games, the only access the media has had to players has been the few minutes we're given in the locker room immediately following games. Hardly enough time for an interview that lends itself to a decent feature on a kid. You're right, though, James has been playing well, especially as of late. He had a career-high four assists against Virginia, and after the N.C. State loss, Gary Williams said that it was Gist's best game since he's been at Maryland.
Mike, Columbia: Has anyone taken over Chris McCray's co-captain position in the locker room or is Caner-Medley the one and only team captain?
Heather A. Dinich: Nope, it's just Nik. There wasn't any re-vote, according to a team spokesman.
Larry, Virginia: How did McCray, a scholarship athlete for the past 4 seasons, fall under the radar? The head coach and staff have to take all the blame for this student-athlete. McCray does not need to accept any blame whatsoever. If the staff does their job, this does not occur.
Heather A. Dinich: I'm going to leave this one alone, Larry, but thanks for your thoughts. We'll post 'em for somebody else to disagree with. :)
Pete, Salisbury: With our ACC power ranking slipping, will a 9-7 conference record be good enough?
Heather A. Dinich: It should be, especially with the way the rest of the ACC is bunched up in the standings. Usually a .500 record will do.
Steve, Richardson, Texas: Is there any feeling that John Gilchrist was right? These Terps don't seem to want to win.
Heather A. Dinich: Well, they didn't want to against UNC, but they sure as heck did in the second half against Virginia. I guess the question of the season really is, which team is going to show up?
John, Potomac: Which Terp football recruits do you think will have the biggest impact on the program?
Heather A. Dinich: If I knew the answer to this one, John, I'd have Dave Sollazzo's job. If I had to guess, I'd say DE Melvin Alaeze and TE Drew Gloster.
John, Leesburg, Va.: What do you think was the main reason the Terps lost so many in-state top football recruits to other schools?
Heather A. Dinich: There was a similiar question that should be posted above. I'm not really quite sure why so many people are surprised, to be honest with you -- not after back-to-back losing seasons.
Ray, Ocean Pines: How in the world can Chris McCray become academically ineligible in the second half of his senior year? Doesn't Gary keep up to date on the academic progress, or lack of progress, of his players?
Heather A. Dinich: That could be the question of the season. Yes, Gary keeps track of the guys, and there are ample resources for the athletes at Maryland. They can't go to class for the kids, though -- or take their tests. Gary said he "knew it would be close" with Chris.
Joe, Miners Mills, Pa.: Is Maryland on Shawn Clark's list?
Heather A. Dinich: I'm wondering if you mean Shane Clark, the 6-foot-7 freshman who was set to enroll at Maryland until a mix-up with his grades and NCAA clearinghouse prevented it. He was added to the Villanova roster Dec. 22.
Mike, Columbia: A couple weeks ago The Sun announced that backup QB Joel Statham is not returning, and is transferring to another school. What school is he transferring to and do you know why he is transferring?
Heather A. Dinich: Statham left for Division I-AA Jacksonville State in Alabama. It's not too far from where he's originally from in Georgia. From what I understand, he wanted to play, and after being replaced by Hollenbach last season, the odds of that seemed slim heading into his senior season.
Mike, Miami: Do you think that Maryland will ever attract a Heisman-type quarterback like Vince Young or someone even close to take us to a national championship?
Heather A. Dinich:It's a catch-22 -- you have to win to get the players, and you have to have the players to win. The closer MD gets to contending for a national title, the closer they'll get to landing the quarterback who could take them there. First they might want to shoot for a bowl game and QB who throws more TDs than INTs. One step at a time, Mike.