High academic standards don't deter UM's Williams


COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland basketball coach (( Gary Williams said that, despite a rash of recent recruiting

disappointments, he doesn't plan on lowering his sights or changing his approach in the future.

"We're going to recruit the best players, just like everyone else," said Williams, who in the past two weeks lost top recruits Donyell Marshall and Lawrence Moten. "We have to have that level of player to win a championship in the ACC, and to contend."

Both Marshall and Moten were rejected by the university's admissions office. Marshall later announced that he would attend Connecticut. Moten reportedly is leaning toward Syracuse.

The decisions on Marshall and Moten were the latest obstacles in Williams' attempt to rebuild the Maryland program. He lost two top recruits last year because the Terrapins were about to go on probation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for violations committed under former coach Bob Wade.

"Before I came here, the school went through a lot of things, some of them involving admissions," said Williams. "I've tried to prove and show what my agenda is, which is for the kids to do well academically while maintaining a quality program. Whatever track record was at American, Boston College or Ohio State, I've had to prove that I was serious about academics."

Williams said that his relationship with admissions director Linda Clement has improved steadily over the past few months, since athletic director Andy Geiger changed a departmental policy that prevented coaches to talk directly with Clement.

Williams said that he has had several meetings with Clement, as well as Geiger, to determine what kind of academic profile the university is looking for in its athletes. "Hopefully this spring we will come to an understanding with the admissions office as to what they perceive our situation to be," he said.

Clement said that "Andy had a desire for Gary to have closer, face-to-face contact with more people around the campus."

Geiger has made it clear to Williams that he should try to recruit players with stronger academic backgrounds. "The university isn't going to change its academic standards for it to have a certain level of basketball program," Geiger said. "It works the other way around.

"I don't think the academic standards that we have make it impossible to have an extraordinary basketball team. This is a fine university, in a great basketball conference with an extraordinary coach. We have everything going for us."

Williams, whose teams have a 35-26 record in his first two years despite the controversy surrounding the program, said that getting players like Marshall and Moten interested in the coming to Maryland was a significant step in itself.

As for blue-chip players signing with Maryland, Williams said, "It's going to happen. We are going to get good players. You need that great one everyone else wants. You put in a lot of work trying to get them and if they don't come, you're disappointed. But it's like when you lose a game. You have to go on.

"You never accomplish anything with permanence without experiencing any difficulty. You figure out how you can do things better. We're going to work harder. The thing that separates the great programs is that they have everyone working on the same page. We've made a lot of progress there."

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