WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - John Gilchrist was assured and ebullient 10 months ago in Greensboro, where he led Maryland to its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title in two decades.
A few miles to the west on Tobacco Road last night, Gilchrist looked dazed and confused, as he was benched ostensibly for his academic indifference and did not play in the second half in part because of a pair of nagging injuries.
The coming weeks will determine the direction of the Terps and their junior point guard, whose Most Valuable Player performance in last year's ACC tournament was one of the reasons Maryland was ranked No. 16 in the preseason and has him touted as a possible lottery pick on at least one NBA draft Web site.
Gilchrist has two-thirds of the Terps' assists this season, and came into last night's 81-66 loss to No. 4 Wake Forest ranking among the top 10 in the ACC in scoring (10th), assists (third), assist-to-turnover ratio (second), steals (fourth) and field-goal percentage (ninth).
Sophomore D.J. Strawberry started over Gilchrist, who came off the bench with 13:44 remaining in the first half and immediately made his presence felt with assists to Ekene Ibekwe and Nik Caner-Medley.
He was pulled after a six-minute stint, played the last three minutes of the first half, and didn't re-enter the game in the second. He finished with two points.
The only Terp averaging 30 minutes a game, Gilchrist got only nine last night, his briefest appearance and his first scoreless game since his freshman year, when he backed up Steve Blake. He had started 20 straight games.
A Maryland statement issued before the game said that Gilchrist was benched "because of a missed academic assignment" in the winter session. Three-quarters of the Terps are taking courses in the session, which began last week and runs to the end of the month.
Gilchrist is also slowed by wrist and ankle injuries.
"I didn't practice at all this week," Gilchrist said. "I was questionable anyway. My wrist and hip are hurting. I was confident enough to go, but the coaches felt me not being 100 percent wasn't good enough."
Ibekwe and assistant coach Dave Dickerson were among those on the bench who implored Gilchrist to keep his head up. He sat and stared into the distance during a 9-0 Wake Forest run late in the first half. Midway through the second, Gilchrist did stand up and applaud a hustle play by a teammate.
After Strawberry turned his left ankle, Williams kept Gilchrist on the bench and went deep on his roster. When Mike Jones and Sterling Ledbetter helped slice the Demon Deacons' lead to 14 points with five minutes left, Gilchrist was up and smiling at their play.
The night on the bench resembled Gilchrist's play on the floor.
Unable to suppress his wildly varying emotions and guide the Terps with an even keel, Gilchrist has struggled to find the proper fit on this team. McCray and Mike Grinnon were voted captains by their peers, over their most publicized player. Gilchrist is the only Maryland perimeter player who's made better than 32 percent of his three-pointers, and in recent weeks his scoring increased and his assists decreased.
Next for Maryland
Matchup: Temple (5-6) vs. Maryland (9-4)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WBAL (1090 AM)