For the Terps' Daniels, it's been quite the ride


COLLEGE PARK - Tough appearances and tender actions go hand in hand while describing Terri Daniels and the restaurant she grew up around and has worked at throughout her life.

In one thought, Daniels - a senior guard on the Maryland women's basketball team who plays her final home game at 7 tonight against No. 2 Duke - betrays sentimentality about the end of her four-year career. Her life as a Terp began with trips to play pickup games at Cole Field House and will finish with Daniels as one of the school's top all-time three-point shooters.

"I've got a few more games to play," she said after Maryland's recent loss to Virginia dropped the team to 4-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "My parents are going to be upset more than I am."

A moment later, she predicts, "I'll probably cry as well, but it will be a great way to end."

In the same way, Daniels' Restaurant in Elkridge - owned by Terri's father, Dan, and grandmother, Emily - agrees with and defies its exterior. It is a "biker" establishment, from the Harley-Davidson clock that sits behind the bartender to the outside bar - which allows one to ride in, gulp and ride out - to the designation of a priest to bless the motorcycles in an informal Mass in the parking lot each May.

For those accustomed to the campus scene, Daniels' can be something of an eye-opener, as it was when the Maryland coaching staff made a visit for Terri Daniels' 21st birthday.

"It was quite an experience," Terps coach Brenda Frese said. "We took the whole staff, and it was fun. But it was an experience."

Though Daniels' might not be a darling of the local Chamber of Commerce, perhaps it should be. It's a restaurant staffed mainly by family members that has been turned into a self-styled community by patrons during its 28 years.

Approximately 50 people from the restaurant will rent a bus to go to the final game of someone they've known not only as a player - her autographed posters hang on the walls - but also as a dishwasher, waitress and bartender.

"I've met a lot of interesting people there, and it's a good foundation," said Terri Daniels, who played well against then-No. 7 North Carolina when the group made its last bus trip. "It's just additional motivation for me to play with more pride. I always play well when they come up."

Daniels, the youngest of four children, dreamed of playing at Maryland since being selected as an honorary Terrapin as part of a youth basketball program in 1992. She was on the Maryland bench for the only home sellout in the history of the school's women's basketball program, watching the then-No. 1 Terps play No. 2 Virginia.

Between dream and reality, she spent her final two high school years toiling in the background at St. Mary's in Annapolis as Emily Lipton and Maria Smear starred. Though she had point guard skills and good size at 5 feet 11, her academic record suffered because of attention deficit disorder that was diagnosed when she was a fourth-grader. Only West Virginia and junior colleges recruited her.

It was only after current teammate Vicki Brick took Daniels to College Park for pickup games did former coach Chris Weller take notice. "I didn't know what my options were going to be, but I got very fortunate to come here," Daniels said.

With 98 three-pointers, Daniels ranks fifth in Maryland history. She also has 343 assists, 10th all time. So her defenses initially go up at the suggestion that she's overshadowed again, now taking a back seat to All-ACC candidate and teammate Renneika Razor.

"What does that mean?" she asked. "I can shoot the ball and make the most of it. I know what I can do, and that's the most important thing."

On a team that goes to Razor for points, Daniels is counted on for leadership.

During a timeout in the final minutes of the Terps' upset win at Florida State last week, she was the motivator in the huddle.

"There's energy everyday with her," fellow senior Brie Jackson said. "It's something you can rely on with her."

Said Frese: "She's the biggest confidence-booster. The focus is never on her, because it's always on someone else."

For once, however, Daniels will be on center stage tonight. She'll be honored on "Senior Night" - along with Jackson and Razor - and hopes coaching or broadcasting is in her future.

Her mother, Barbara, holds out hope that tonight's emotions might drive the Terps against a Duke team that won the previous meeting, 101-49.

"Maybe that will be an energy boost for them," Barbara Daniels said of a team that has been in contention in the last minute of its past three home losses. "So many times the team has been in there, but they can't finish."

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