COLLEGE PARK -- As the Maryland basketball team practiced yesterday afternoon, coach Gary Williams could sense from the physical nature of their play that the players were getting antsy.
"We went pretty good," Williams said. "I think we're excited about playing someone else."
And the Terrapins will get their wish in their first exhibition game, against the Athletes in Action at 7: 30 tonight at Cole Field House. With the start of the regular season just nine days away against South Carolina in Minneapolis, fans and the players tTC themselves will get a feel for a squad that's been ranked anywhere from 13th to 23rd in preseason polls.
After a 21-11 season that ended with a disappointing first-round NCAA tournament loss to the College of Charleston, the Terrapins will enter this season with more size and depth than in recent years. That's a main reason for the preseason projections, although Williams will get a sense tonight about how players like 6-foot-8 freshman forward Terence Morris and 7-foot redshirt freshman center Mike Mardesich will perform.
"I'd really like to see how the young players respond to game pressure," Williams said. "And then what I'd like to do is get a feel for our rotation. If we have nine or 10 who can play, how can we get them to play effectively. That's something I'll be looking for."
Athletes in Action won't be an easy opponent. With last night's 86-73 loss to Michigan State, the team is 3-1 (with previous wins over Bradley, Evansville and Michigan). Guard Ryan Hoover (Notre Dame, 1996) might be the most-recognizable name on the team, but the squad is made up of former collegiate stars who -- with some as old as 27 -- are physically more mature than college players. The touring team has shot over 50 percent from the field in each of its first three games.
Williams will counter at the game's start with perhaps his most experienced team, including the four returning starters -- forward Laron Profit, center Obinna Ekezie, and guards Terrell Stokes and Sarunas Jasikevicius. One of the biggest questions facing the Terrapins this season will be who will replace Keith Booth in the starting lineup, and at least for tonight that honor will go to fellow Dunbar alum Rodney Elliott, a 6-8 senior forward.
That's not to say that will be the starting lineup when the season starts on Nov. 14. Williams would like to start Elliott. But if Elliott proves to be more comfortable off the bench, where he averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds last year, the starting spot could go to Morris, who has been impressive since the start of practice on Oct. 18.
"I would like to see Terence play some with the first team," Williams said. "I just want to see how he responds on the court with the starters."
The Terrapins will have one more scrimmage, Monday against the Australian Olympic team.
Pub Date: 11/05/97