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Elliott's sixth sense is lift for Terps 1st man off bench, ex-Poet makes major contribution


HONOLULU -- Maryland junior forward Rodney Elliott was playing only 25 minutes a game heading into this morning's Rainbow Classic semifinal against Hawaii, but the former Baltimore Dunbar player was making the most of his time on the court, leading the unbeaten Terps in rebounding (8.0 a game) and averaging 9.9 points.

"Rodney is playing the sixth-man role for us the way John Havlicek used to do for the Boston Celtics," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He gives us a spark whenever we need it."

That was the case in the opening-round win over Pittsburgh, when Elliott grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and helped trigger a second-half rally and 66-63 victory.

"I've got no problem with my role," Elliott said. "We're undefeated [10-0], and I'm playing a part in it. There's nothing I'd rather be doing."

He has been particularly effective when finding himself on the floor with former Dunbar teammate Keith Booth.

"Rodney has had to find his own identity because of Keith's leadership and the attention he gets," Williams said of Elliott, now 6 feet 9 and 226 pounds.

"He's really worked hard in the weight room to get stronger and improve his rebounding. I've talked to a lot of people about what makes a great rebounder. Guys like Bill Russell said 75 percent is just having the mentality to go after every rebound, and Rodney has shown that quality this season," Williams said.

Chip off old block I

Maryland sophomore forward Laron Profit blocked eight shots in the first 10 games. As a freshman, he had six blocks all season.

Profit also had averaged 14.3 points in the four games going into this morning's semifinal.

Chip off old block II

The Rainbow Classic could easily have been named the Father and Son Tournament. Three of the coaches in the eight-team event -- Pitt's Ralph Willard, Georgia's Tubby Smith and Memphis' Larry Finch Sr. -- have sons on their roster and playing key roles. All three are guards -- Kevin Willard, G. G. Smith and Larry Finch Jr.

"This tournament is like a family reunion," Tubby Smith said. "Getting G. G. to play at Georgia was the easiest signing I ever had because I knew his mom pretty well. They always say, if you get to know the mom, you've got a good chance to sign a kid.

"I get on him just like I would any other player. But when I get home, my wife always says, 'Why doesn't G. G get more playing time?' "

Pub Date: 12/30/96

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