In end, separate directions suit Maryland, Gilchrist

I am just trying to progress in life," the e-mail read, "and not make any ripples along the way.

"I do not want anyone to think I abandoned them," it continued. "I just felt that it was the right thing to do in my heart."


The letter was signed, "God Bless, John Gilchrist III."

I had contacted Gilchrist because I had the crazy notion that he was the missing piece, that he was what was keeping the Maryland Terrapins from resembling a top-tier team this season. It made at least some sense, right?


The Terps have lacked a true floor leader and consistent playmaker this season. They played one game in which not a single player had more than one assist, and three times have posted 25 or more turnovers.

And Gilchrist, a skilled yet volatile point guard, hasn't realized his NBA dream as quickly as he had hoped. He left Maryland last spring, forgoing his senior year to take his chances at the NBA draft, but his name was never called.

On paper it would seem like the most unfortunate parting of ways, one of those divorces in which both parties suffer. But as Gilchrist and I exchanged e-mails, and as the Terps advanced through Atlantic Coast Conference play, my hypothesis began looking rather foolish.

"I cannot explain how much this year has meant to me so far," Gilchrist wrote.

When draft day came and went last June, Gilchrist was left with no college eligibility and his personal dream deferred. He's now playing and living in Rishon LeZion, Israel, just 15 minutes outside Tel Aviv.

He spends his days watching movies and playing NBA Live 2006. He e-mails family and friends, goes shopping in the town center and follows the Terps on the Internet.

Regrets? He has none.

"This was the best decision for me at the time, and it has not been a bad ride so far," Gilchrist says. "I was taught as a kid by my parents to 'run your own race,' and that is something that has stuck with me throughout my life."


He's averaging 14 points, five rebounds and four assists this season for Maccabi Rishon LeZion and says his play is better than ever. Some Terps fans can't help but wonder how that would translate at Comcast Center. Maryland could use someone with Gilchrist's talent. Remember the way he played in the 2004 ACC tournament? The Terps miss that guy.

There have been times this season that Maryland players have moved around the court with no sense of direction.

But Wednesday night at Georgia Tech, we saw Maryland finally play like a real team, each part fulfilling its small role for the greater good. That wasn't always easy with Gilchrist, was it? He'd go from MVP to MIA in a single possession.

By the time he left Maryland, it seemed as if the Terps had tired of him. "Head case," is the phrase we most often heard. The label reached Gilchrist's ears, too, and probably those of NBA scouts.

He wrote last week: "I never wanted to be known as a bad guy or anything. ... I have always just played basketball, and I have had a good life along the way. I am just understanding the business side and the importance of the little things besides just playing basketball."

Gilchrist stepped on campus in fall 2002, a key component of coach Gary Williams' most heralded recruiting class. The Terps lost another member of that class last week when senior Chris McCray was declared academically ineligible.


It's a class that never reached expectations. Just yesterday, the Terps turned the ball over 20 times in a loss at Temple. But only a few days earlier, in their first game without McCray, Maryland put together its most well-rounded performance of the season.

It reminds you of one of sports' most consistent themes: Life moves on.

Gilchrist, now 21, left school because he wanted to provide more for his daughter, Haven Gabrielle, who's 1 1/2 years old. "She is my motivation," he says.

The Israeli league is a good one. Each team is allowed four American players, and Gilchrist's team has surprised many so far with a 7-3 record.

He remembers his time at Maryland fondly, but his basketball dream is still in front of him. By all accounts, he's playing better than ever. Gilchrist just hopes that NBA scouts are taking notice.

"I never know if what I am doing here is being noticed, but I just leave that up to the scouts and others to do their jobs," he says. "I am just here to concentrate on my job."


I had thought the Terps might still need Gilchrist, and Gilchrist might still need the Terps. But it wasn't one of those divorces. Sure, it was ugly when it happened. There was some name-calling, some things said under the breath.

As time passed, so did any enmity.

That light that shined so bright leading the Terps to the ACC tournament championship has moved on. He has his sights set on better things.

And so does Maryland.

Read Rick Maese's blog at

Points after -- Rick Maese


Drawing a line: Just one week after Temple managed only 34 points in an entire game, its fans decided to storm the court after yesterday's win over No. 18 Maryland. Schools need to band together to stop this trend before it gathers any more steam. If you thought a couple of NBA players charging into the stands was dangerous, think about the potential problem of thousands of students flooding onto a basketball court. It's a cross between bull stampede and a Linkin Park concert. Someone is going to get hurt if schools don't take pro-active measures immediately.

Science lesson 1: Archaeologists in Iran have discovered a 3,000-year-old skeleton of a man who appears to be clutching a dagger. New York Mets first baseman Julio Franco is being brought in to help ID the body. Sources say the two might have played Rookie ball together.

Science lesson 2: Scientists in Salt Lake City have found a scorpion that survived for more than a year without food and water, living inside a plaster mold. That's nothing. Ex-Oriole Sidney Ponson was plastered for longer than that here in Baltimore, and he's getting along fine these days.