Joe who? Williams looks forward


COLLEGE PARK -- For a coach who just lost the college basketball player of the year before his time, Gary Williams can't complain.

He's got his first senior-dominated team coming back to Maryland for the 1995-96 season. He picked off three recruits who will help down the road, if not immediately. His health is fine, his basketball camp is over, and a golf trip to Scotland is imminent.

If it weren't for some Terps players' violation of NCAA rules against college betting, Williams' basketball life would be almost perfect.

Or as perfect as life without Joe Smith could be.

While the Terps' on-court style will change next season, Williams is counting on the same kind of results.

"We'll fill [the void left by Smith's departure] with the team," Williams said yesterday of Life After Joe. "We'll change the focus of the team. I don't worry about who's the next Joe Smith. Our job is to be a great basketball team next year. Whatever five players that is, is the way we're going to get it done."

Smith, last year's college player of the year as a sophomore, will take his 20 points and 10 rebounds to the Golden State Warriors as the first pick in the NBA draft.

Meanwhile, Maryland, 26-8 last season with its second straight trip to the Sweet 16, will take a veteran team into the ACC campaign. Because four starters -- junior Keith Booth and seniors Exree Hipp, Johnny Rhodes and Duane Simpkins -- return, the Terps will be expected to finish in the ACC's upper tier, if not in the top two.

Without Smith, Williams says the Terps will feature more pressure defense and a variation of their three-guard rotation.

"When you lose a player like Joe Smith, you lose rebounding, scoring and defense -- the intimidation factor with blocked shots," Williams said. "At the same time, we have quality players who were ignored because of the attention Joe got. With that comes a lot of responsibility, too."

Mario Lucas, a 6-foot-8, 213-pound forward/center, gives the Terps four seniors, a break in tradition from Williams' previous six teams, which were heavily populated by underclassmen.

Lucas will get a chance "to show how good he is," Williams said, now that Smith is in the NBA. In 34 games and 522 minutes last season, Lucas averaged 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds. Sophomore Rodney Elliott, 6-9 and 220, also will help to make up for Smith's absence inside, along with Booth and 6-9 Nigerian recruit Obinna Ekezie.

"Even if Joe was back, we needed a big, strong player in the middle," Williams said. "If [Ekezie] can rebound and play defense, he can help us."

Maryland improved its backcourt in the recruiting season by adding point guard Terrell Stokes from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High and shooting guard LaRon Profit from Camden, Del. Junior Matt Kovarik and sophomore Sarunas Jasikevicius also could figure in the guard mix behind Simpkins and Rhodes, although Matt Raydo, hit with a 20-game suspension by the NCAA for betting on college games, does not figure.

Williams called Virginia's guard tandem of Harold Deane and Curtis Staples one of the nation's best backcourts, and in the next breath recognized his own talent. "We're one of the best backcourts in the country, too," he said, this despite losing blue chip point guard Louis Bullock of Temple Hills to Michigan.

Whether it adds up to another NCAA tournament run is uncertain. But in his six seasons, Williams has restored Maryland basketball to national prominence. He won't luxuriate in that knowledge, but he knows where he wants to go.

"Whenever I'm done coaching, I'll reflect on the situation," he said.

"I don't want to get complacent. I look at [North] Carolina. They've kept that high level for 25, 30 years."


What: An all-star basketball game to benefit a scholarship fund named in memory of David Brown, a Baltimore City Community College player who was shot and killed in Baltimore in January. Proceeds also will benefit the BCCC basketball program.

Date: Tomorrow

Site: Baltimore City CC

Time: 7 p.m.

Tickets: $5

Players: Paul Banks (Texas-Arlington), Keith Booth (Maryland), Donta Bright (Massachusetts), Damon Cason (Towson State), Rodney Elliott (Maryland), Kwame Evans (George Washington), Jimmy Fields (Bridgton Academy of Mass.), Ernest Hall (BCCC), Adrian Jones (BCCC), Diego Jones (West Virginia), Michael Lloyd (Syracuse), Kurk Lee (Europe Pro League), Ronald Lucas (Europe Pro League), Kevin Norris (Miami), Marlon Quillens (Pfeiffer College), Shawnta Rogers (George Washington), Kevin Simpson (Dixie Junior College of Utah), Darnell Snead (BCCC), Dawood Thomas (BCCC).

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