LANDOVER -- A reporter tried to supply Laron Profit with an excuse. He is only a sophomore, right? Another of society's victims.
Profit didn't want to hear it.
He was late for a film session, and that's why he didn't start yesterday. He was late for a film session, and it was no one's fault but his own.
"That's something you're taught in elementary school -- be on time," Profit said. "Either you're on time, or you're not."
What's this, a Maryland player taking responsibility?
Last year's seniors wouldn't have approved.
Profit accepted his punishment. He apologized to his teammates. He called his mother to explain.
And then, he scored a career-high 24 points off the bench, helping Maryland improve to 5-0 with an 80-64 victory over California.
"I'm going to try and be late for every team meeting," Profit said, jokingly. "Sixth man of the year, that's my goal."
He can forget it.
Profit might be Maryland's best wing since Albert King, and its most explosive talent since Len Bias.
He made 10 of his 14 shots yesterday, including four of five from three-point range. He also had five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Not bad for a guy who sat the first six minutes and 18 seconds after breaking one of the few rules on coach Gary Williams' checklist.
Profit said he was 10 to 15 minutes late for Saturday's film session. He declined to say why.
"I'm not embarrassed," he said. "I just felt I let my teammates down going into a big game."
Refreshing, isn't it?
Forget the NBA, Laron.
Report straight to the Orioles.
Seriously, this Maryland team already is far more likable than last year's failed chemistry experiment, and not simply because it pounded California.
Remember Exree Hipp complaining about playing time when he was still out of shape? Duane Simpkins failing to pay his six
zillion parking tickets?
No one should pretend that this latest group is perfect, but the players certainly seem less selfish. Even more important, they're accountable to each other.
Profit was asked if he would have benched himself if he was the coach.
He nodded furiously.
"He [Williams] did the right thing," Profit said. "No excuses. We're all mature men.
"Coach Williams doesn't have many rules. One rule is, 'Be on time.' When you're a coach, you have to discipline players, so everyone knows they're not above the law."
His teammates agreed.
"Rules are rules," Keith Booth said.
"Ain't no horrible rule," Terrell Stokes added.
Still, it helps that Booth is a prototype senior leader. Johnny Rhodes was less inspirational last season, and the other seniors were underachievers.
The question now is if Maryland will indeed prove better than expected, and Profit is at the center of that equation, too.
This is not a big team -- center Obinna Ekezie is the only regular starter above 6 feet 6 -- so tonight's Franklin National Bank Classic final against George Washington and 7-1 Alexander Koul could prove a more difficult test.
But what happens if Profit keeps advancing rapidly?
Harnesses all of his talent?
Develops into a dominant force?
"He has that type of potential," Williams said. "He's not going to do this every night. He's a sophomore. He's still learning the game. He has got to get stronger. But he has the capability to be an outstanding player."
Williams doesn't want to create unfair expectations -- he's mindful of what happened to last year's team after back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances with Joe Smith.
And yet, Profit scored half of Maryland's points during a 26-8 run at the start of the second half yesterday, transforming a four-point game into a blowout.
He hit three three-pointers, a short turnaround jumper, a layup in transition. Later, he added another long three, slapping Williams on the behind as he ran back up court.
What had Williams said?
"No-no-no-no-no -- yes!" Profit recalled.
He's that kind of kid -- smart, sensitive, funny.
"A great kid," Williams said.
"Doesn't mean anything," the coach said.
Profit said, joking, "I'm kind of a lazy guy -- I try to fight time, and end up losing," But yesterday, he faced up to a mistake, and ended up winning.
This is the way it's supposed to be, isn't it?
At least a half-dozen NBA scouts witnessed Profit's breakthrough performance at USAir Arena.
"Obviously, the Bullets play here," Profit said. "When you step on the court where the professionals play, you want to raise your game as well."
Uh-oh, NBA talk. Will Profit get carried away? It's always possible. But he already is one step ahead of Hipp, Mario Lucas and Co.
"When I came off the bench, I just wanted to play well, and do what I could to help the team," he said.
There's a lot to like in this kid.
And maybe, just maybe, a lot to like in this team.
Pub Date: 12/09/96