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Maryland hopes Gibson is beyond compare

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Before the first shot of the new season has been taken, Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller has had to apologize to one of her players for something she said.

Nothing bad, mind you. In fact, the remark was quite a compliment. Weller, at a gathering of assembled media in

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Greensboro, N.C., last month, called freshman Kelley Gibson the potential female equivalent of Scottie Pippen.

Yes, that Scottie Pippen, the one who won three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and a gold medal with the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

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Reminded of the comment last week, Weller grinned sheepishly and said, "I was trying to get people to identify her with someone they knew. I've already said, 'Kelley, I am sorry for putting all this pressure on you.' But it's not as if [opposing] coaches won't figure out how good she is."

Said Gibson: "It's a big challenge. Scottie Pippen is an excellent player. If I'm the female Scottie Pippen, then whatever it takes to fulfill my goals, I'll do it."

Gibson -- who exceeded 2,200 points and 1,000 rebounds while leading Easton High to two straight state championships -- will be in the starting lineup tonight at 7:30 when the Terps play host to Virginia Tech in the opening round of the inaugural women's preseason National Invitation Tournament.

She already has displayed some of the flash and flair attributed to Pippen, as well as a knack for producing in the clutch.

In last week's exhibition loss to a touring Slovakian team, Gibson connected for 22 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot. Two of Gibson's three three-pointers came in the final minute as Maryland whittled a 12-point deficit down to one before losing, 65-63.

"She [Weller] didn't specifically say, 'Kelley, we need for you to take the shot,' but I just felt really comfortable with my shot at the time," said Gibson. "If the team and Coach Weller feel comfortable with me taking those shots, then I'll take them."

Gibson, 5 feet 11, likely will see time this season at three positions -- point guard, shooting guard and her natural slot, small forward.

And while Weller says her new prodigy reminds her of Pippen, Gibson says her game is modeled more after her idol, sharpshooting guard Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers, with whom she shares uniform number 31.

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But it's probably more accurate to compare Gibson to Sheryl Swoopes, the two-time All-American who scored a record 47 points in leading Texas Tech to the national championship two years ago. Like Swoopes, Gibson is lithe and possesses a quick first step and a gunner's mentality.

"Sheryl Swoopes is stronger, a little thicker and bigger than Kelley, but they're similar," said Weller. "I think Kelley's a little more flexible and she can do more things. Kelley may be a little flashier, but flash doesn't mean you're better."

Indeed, Gibson, who eight days ago reached her 18th birthday, committed nine turnovers and four fouls in last week's exhibition. Those numbers will have to decrease if Maryland is to improve on last season's 15-13 record. The Terps missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years.

But even Pippen had rough going out of the gate, and it's safe to assume Weller won't have to go looking for her star at the end of the bench in the last 1.8 seconds.

"With this team, we ain't going to be losing that much," said Gibson with a smile.

NOTE: Maryland announced it signed Tora Darden, a 6-1 forward from Sullivan Junior College in Lexington, Ky.

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MARYLAND WOMEN AT A GLANCE

Coach: Chris Weller, 20th season.

Affiliation: Atlantic Coast Conference.

1993-94 record: 15-13, 8-8 in the ACC.

Starters lost: Bonnie Rimkus, Monica Adams, Michele Andrew.

Outlook: Having lost its three leading scorers and rebounders to graduation, Maryland might be staring at a rebuilding season, especially if its six newcomers are slow to jell. The frontcourt, with only two players over 6 feet 2 and only senior F Kesha Camper with any experience, will be severely tested. Point G Karon Ferguson, the other senior, will anchor the versatile backcourt, with help from junior college transfer Demetria Tutt. Sophomore G Lillian Purvis and freshman F/G Kelley Gibson should take most of the team's shots and sophomore G Kwana Williams and freshman F/G Sonia Chase (McDonogh) should provide quality depth.

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Schedule

Date Opponent Time

Nov. 15 Virginia Tech 7:30*

Nov. 17 at NIT TBA

Nov. 20 at NIT TBA

Nov. 22 at NIT TBA

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Nov. 26 Mount St. Mary's 2

Nov. 30 at Howard 6

Dec. 4 Tennessee 7

Dec. 7 Coppin State 7:30

Dec. 10 at Rutgers 2

Dec. 13 Towson State 7:30

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Dec. 22 at Loyola 6

Dec. 28 William & Mary 8**

Dec. 29 at Dial Soap Classic TBA

Jan. 2 at N.C. State 7

Jan. 5 at Georgia Tech 7:30

Jan. 8 Duke 7

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Jan. 11 Clemson 7:30

Jan. 14 at Florida State 7

Jan. 18 Iona 7:30

Jan. 22 at N. Carolina (HTS) Noon

Jan. 25 Virginia 7:30

Jan. 28 N.C. State 11:30

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Feb. 1 at Wake Forest 7:30

Feb. 5 Georgia Tech Noon

Feb. 7 at Duke 7

Feb. 11 at Clemson 7

Feb. 13 Wake Forest (HTS) 9

Feb. 16 Florida State 7:30

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Feb. 21 North Carolina 7:30

Feb. 26 at Virginia (HTS) Noon

March 2-5 ACC tournament TBA

*-National Invitation Tournament

**-Maryland Dial Soap Classic


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