Terrapins get off to clockwork start Fun is order of hour as Midnight Madness ushers in season


COLLEGE PARK -- This was for fun, for the fans, for a peek at the future.

When LaRon Profit threw down a titillating dunk at the stroke of midnight Saturday, the soaring 6-foot-6 freshman set the celebratory tone for Maryland's coming-out party.

Dunks and more dunks. Fireworks. ESPN and Dick Vitale. A flurry of three-point shots. There was Madness at Midnight at Cole Field House, and 12,000 raucous basketball fans were there to soak it in.

If first impressions are lasting, the precocious Profit, first up in player introductions, made his mark.

"I was having fun out there," he said after a high-spirited, 35-minute workout that signaled the start of the college basketball season. "That's the last time we'll have fun for a


Delaware's player of the year last season averaging 25.8 points and 8.9 rebounds for Cesar Rodney High in Dover, Profit sought the advice of Exree Hipp before the festivities began.

"He said, 'Do whatever you can do -- let the flow take over,' " Profit said. "[The feeling] was incredible."

Hipp approached it from a slightly less emotional angle.

"As a senior, I was trying to be the mature one about it," he said. "You don't want to do anything to hurt yourself. We were just trying to get the crowd into it. We had fun."

Maryland's other two freshmen -- 6-9 Obinna Ekezie and 6-0 Terrell Stokes -- looked equally at ease. But Profit drew the biggest response from the crowd.

"He is 180 degrees from shy," coach Gary Williams said. "He just turned 18. He'll learn there are good days and bad days."

Of his three freshmen, Williams said, "Obinna has a quiet confidence, Terrell is outgoing, and LaRon is very outgoing. [But] I like guys who come in thinking they can help."

The new guys weren't the only ones to play show and tell. Junior Keith Booth, who spent the summer honing his jump shot, hit a three-pointer during a 15-minute scrimmage. He made a one-handed jam off an alley-oop pass from Sarunas Jasikevicius, and twice dunked off a 360-degree spin.

"This was to put on a show for the fans, to thank them for their support over the years," Booth said.

NOTES: The Terps formally began practice yesterday. Williams moved this afternoon's practice back to 7:15 p.m. so several of his black players could participate in the Million Man March. "It's a unity thing to me," said Johnny Rhodes, who was limited Saturday night by a tender right ankle. "There will be African American men from all over the country. They're trying to get black men together. It's great." . . . Coach Chris Weller's women's team was introduced Saturday night.

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