COLLEGE PARK - After an unusual beginning, during which they split two games in a regular-season tournament that gave the nation its first view of college basketball this season, the Maryland Terrapins in a sense will back up to finish their preseason.
Maryland is back on the practice court all week, continuing with its second and final exhibition tonight at Cole Field House against Nike Elite. The Terps will resume their regular-season schedule on Saturday against visiting, neighboring American University, where Terps coach Gary Williams got his start 23 years ago.
"It's a little interesting, but I don't think we have time to gear down [for the Nike team]," said junior forward Tahj Holden, referring to Maryland's schedule, which took the Terps to Madison Square Garden for two nights and a 1-1 showing last week in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, marking the earliest starting point in school history.
"We want to play at a certain level this year, whether we're playing against Nike or Duke. We're into our fifth week of practices, and we still have some things to work on, just like everybody else in the country."
Williams wants to accomplish some things besides beating Nike, which is coached by Bill Frieder, who formerly worked at Michigan and Arizona State.
After facing two opponents in Arizona and Temple that played almost exclusively zone defenses, Williams figures the Terps will get to attack a good share of man-to-man defense tonight. And after adding reserve guard Calvin McCall and backup center Ryan Randle to form a nine-man rotation in Friday's 82-74 victory over Temple, Williams would like to get freshman point guard Andre Collins into the mix against Nike.
"This is a big week of practice. We need these five practice days," Williams said. "[Tonight] is a practice day, it's just against different people. I think Calvin McCall and Ryan Randle showed they can be on the court against a good team and not hurt us. I'd like for Andre to be our 10th guy. You earn your spot in practice."
Williams also will continue to take close looks at Holden and sophomore Chris Wilcox at power forward.
Holden and Wilcox each started a half in Maryland's exhibition opener on Nov. 2. Williams then started Wilcox against Arizona before opting for Holden against the huge front line of Temple. Williams said matchups could end up dictating which of them starts during the regular season. Wilcox has an edge in quickness and athletic ability. Holden is bigger, more experienced and has a better feel for the Terps' half-court offense.
"How they go into the game will depend on the game," Williams said.
NOTES: Senior guard Juan Dixon, who suffered a sprained left ankle against Temple and did not practice on Sunday, worked yesterday and will play tonight. Williams said Dixon would have played on Sunday if Maryland had a game scheduled. ... Holden started the fourth game of his career against Temple. Holden started three games as a freshman, then came off the bench in all 27 of his games last season. ... The one-week early signing period begins tomorrow, and the Terps are expecting point guard John Gilchrist (Salem High School, Va.), shooting guard Chris McCray (Fairmont Heights, Md.), small forward Nik Caner-Medley (Deering, Maine) and power forward Travis Garrison (DeMatha, Md.) to sign letters of intent during the week.