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Terps' possible impact help still on way in 1997-98 T. Johnson junior Morris remains committed

Not all news from Frederick was bad for Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams this week.

Terence Morris, a 6-foot-8 prodigy from Thomas Johnson High and one of the top-10 rated juniors in the country, remains committed to the Terrapins, his coach said yesterday.

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"He is as committed as he can be," said Tom Dickman.

Morris, who made an oral commitment last September, to Maryland for the 1997-98 season, averaged 21.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and an intimidating 4.2 blocks per game for Thomas Johnson this year.

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A year ahead of his time to sign, Morris took a higher profile in Maryland recruiting on Tuesday when another Frederick phenom -- Nate James of St. John's at Prospect Hall -- picked Duke over Maryland.

James' decision sent reverberations through the cottage industry of recruiting publications. As soon as James chose Duke, recruiting guru Bob Gibbons dropped Maryland from the upper echelon of Atlantic Coast Conference recruiting "to the very bottom of the ACC," he said.

"If you're going to be a contender in basketball," Gibbons said, "you've got to get one impact blue-chip recruit a year. That was Nate James.

"Unless they get an unknown, this class will make it mandatory [to have a big recruiting splash next year]. And they've got a start on that with Terence Morris. If they get Mark Karcher [of St. Frances] . . . . this could be a class of role players and next year would be a dynamite class."

Williams did not get caught up in the rush to judgment. Maryland's class of 1996 produced the first 7-footer in school history in Mike Mardesich of Worcester (Mass.) Academy, a 6-7 rebounder in LaRon Cephas of Sanford School in Wilmington, Del., and 6-4 sharpshooter Kelly Hite of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic.

"With the players we have coming back and the three guys we got, I'm pretty happy with that," he said. "We still have a scholarship to use, but now we're in pretty good position."

In Mardesich, the Terps have a potential impact player. He averaged better than 19 points and 13 rebounds for Worcester, and was courted by schools like Arizona, George Washington, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Penn State and Harvard. Gibbons likened Mardesich to North Carolina's 7-2 Serge Zwikker.

"With Mardesich, the word is potential," Gibbons said. "Is he going to work hard and develop the way Zwikker did? He's got the same type tools Zwikker had. I can't look in Mardesich's heart."

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Tommy Johnson, who coached Mardesich at Conroe (Texas) High two years ago, has no doubts about Mardesich's heart.

"When I got him, I felt he was someone who would play at a big-time school," Johnson said. "He had a big body, he could run the floor and he had great hands. What makes him special is he's a student of the game."

Maryland's two other recruits are problematic. Cephas still needs a qualifying score in the Scholastic Assessment Test, and Hite is a relative unknown with a good shooting touch.

The Class of 1997? Morris must win the battle of the books to get into Maryland. He is still regaining 15 pounds he lost to mononucleosis since the end of the season.

"We moved him out on the perimeter more this year," Dickman said. "He took 50 three-pointers and made 23. He's become a little more confident, a little more fundamentally sound putting the ball on the floor 18 feet from the basket."

In College Park this week, that was the good news.

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Pub Date: 5/16/96


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