COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- It's only an exhibition, but University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams hopes tonight's 8 o'clock game at Cole Field House against USA Verich Reps will give him a good indication of what the Terrapins need to work on before the regular season begins Dec. 1 against UMBC.
The Reps are one of two teams sponsored by Michael G. Verich, an attorney and state representative from Warren, Ohio. Made up of former college players, the Reps are in the midst of a 13-game tour that already has included trips to Chattanooga, Tenn., Raleigh, N.C., Philadelphia, Clemson, S.C., Morgantown, W.Va., and last night to South Bend, Ind. Tonight's game will be their seventh in the last nine days.
"This is their 'A' team, it's the team that beat N.C. State by four and lost by eight to Temple, not the one that lost to Navy by five," said Williams. "I think it's going to be a good test for us. But all I'm going to do with this is see that our players run our offense and our defense, what we're going to use against UMBC next week. We want to win the game, and we want to use our regular rotation."
Toward that end, Williams plans to insert highly touted freshmen Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp into the starting lineup with seniors Evers Burns, Kevin McLinton and Chris Kerwin. Unless the game gets as out of hand as last week's 103-62 win over Akrides-Haarlem did, Williams doesn't plan on using more than eight or nine players.
Though Williams wouldn't say if tonight's starting lineup will be on the floor for Tuesday's opener against UMBC, both Rhodes and Hipp have given indications that they will be ready. Rhodes, a 6-foot-4 guard who has been picked by many as the top freshman in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is living up to his advance billing. Hipp, a 6-7 forward, is coming around after a slow start.
Rhodes had 14 points, four rebounds and five steals in last week's exhibition game; Hipp had 13 points and five rebounds. Another freshman, 6-10 center Nemanja Petrovic, had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Burns led the Terps with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and McLinton added 16.
Williams is hoping for a competitive game tonight, but he doesn't know how fresh the Verich Reps will be considering their rigorous schedule. He knows that last year's Verich Reps team beat Ohio State, which was one of the reasons he put it on Maryland's preseason schedule.
"If we've got a weakness, let's see it," he said.
And, then, let the regular season begin.