COLLEGE PARK - Mr. Badu, what is your cumulative grade-point average at the University of Maryland?
"I wouldn't go into all that, because I'm applying to law schools."
Have you been accepted by any?
"I can't go into that."
Can you tell us where you have applied?
"I really wouldn't want to go into that, because I wouldn't want to apply any pressure."
Earl Badu's athletic career at Maryland consists of 33 minutes on the basketball court, but the 23-year-old is already savvy enough to maneuver his way in a court of law. Badu, a Baltimore native who joined the Terps as a walk-on in 1998 and has paid his way through Maryland, is eager to collect more tuition notices, as he's in the process of weighing his law school options.
"He says," Maryland coach Gary Williams cracked, "that he wants to represent all the guys who played better than he did."
Badu is interested in business law, but he raved more about the Family Law course that spiced up his double major of government and politics and art studio. Last summer he sat in on some litigation as an intern with a legal firm in Rockville.
He's a second-generation American, as his parents emigrated from Ghana in the early 1970s. Yaw Badu owned a convenience store on the eastern edge of the city, and stressed the value of education. An older brother graduated from Michigan State, and a younger sister goes to Penn State.
Earl only tried basketball in the seventh grade in order to hang with his Little League baseball teammates. He played three years at Overlea, then transferred to St. Frances Academy, where he was the point guard in 1996-97 for Mark Karcher.
Karcher, The Sun's Player of the Year that season, did not meet NCAA standards for freshman eligibility and went to Temple. Badu's solid academic record had him weighing Division III packages or the possibility of walking on with the Terps. Assistant coach Dave Dickerson remembered Karcher's setup man, who came with other references. In the Catholic League, he had played against Juan Dixon, who is one of his current suite mates.
NCAA Clearinghouse issues - Badu transferred from a large public high school to a small parochial one - kept him from playing a game until February 2000, but Williams wouldn't have kept him around unless he was capable of making a contribution. When Badu was a freshman, he learned time management from Obinna Ekezie. Since then, he's taught his teammates how to find a niche.
"Each player on the team has a role," Williams said. "Earl can be the guy I yell at in practice, and the players know that most of the time I'm kidding. But he's always been positive, and he's a pretty good basketball player. He can make shots. You have to cover Earl. That really helps us [in practice]. When he got in the game a couple of times this year, he became a passer, to show everyone he was a complete player, not just a shooter."
Twenty-six of Badu's career minutes came this season. He got his first college basket Dec. 11 against Monmouth, and nearly became the last Maryland player to score at Cole Field House. Badu's neat bank shot in traffic gave the Terps a 107-90 lead on Virginia with 47 seconds left March 3. Freshman Andre Collins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, and that was fine with Badu, who was uncomfortable with the chant of "Shoot, Earl, shoot!"
"When I enter a game, I take it as if it's the beginning," Badu said. "I just let whatever happens take care of itself. I don't have any preconceived thoughts, like I've got to get a bucket. If I get an opportunity to shoot, I'll shoot. In the flow of our offense, it seems like so many people are open, so I just pass the ball.
"It's been very exciting to have an opportunity to be on some of the best teams, arguably, in Maryland history."