College Park -- Maryland senior forward James Gist, the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder, and sophomore forward Landon Milbourne will be suspended for the Terps' regular-season opener at 8 p.m. Sunday against North Florida, coach Gary Williams said yesterday.
Gist and Milbourne, both projected starters for tonight's 8 p.m. exhibition game against Concordia, participated in one day of the Maryland State 5-on-5 Tournament in Ocean City in April. By playing, they violated NCAA bylaw 14.7.2, which prohibits athletes from competing in unsanctioned basketball competition outside the university.
"They made a mistake," Williams said. "That's one thing you know as a player: You have to play in sanctioned events. Obviously, they were swayed by some people who thought it would be neat if they played. We have to be a little tougher than that.
"At the same time, they are really good guys, they're good people and they made a mistake," he said. " ... It's a tough lesson to learn, but hopefully, they got it."
Williams said he knew of the violation immediately after it happened because "several people called the NCAA office as soon as they played." He told officials in Maryland's athletic department, who informed the compliance staff, which reported the violation to the NCAA.
Historically, Williams said, this has been the penalty - if you play in an unsanctioned game, you miss a game. Gist and Milbourne are eligible to play the next game, against either Tulsa or Hampton, in the second round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic on Monday.
Gist averaged 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds as a junior, and Milbourne averaged 13.5 points and 3.2 rebounds this summer with the East Coast All-Stars. Milbourne was behind former Terp D.J. Strawberry last season but is expected to emerge as Maryland's starting small forward.
Williams said the suspensions will give him a chance to play some of the younger players, as his roster includes seven freshmen, including Jerome Burney, who redshirted last season. Tonight's exhibition game against Concordia could determine which of them earns the most minutes Sunday.
"This is a pretty good learning experience, maybe early for the freshmen to understand how things work," Williams said. "You're not always going to have your best players, and they're two of our best players. ... Hopefully, we can use this as a valuable learning tool, plus understand there are rules that have to be adhered to and you have to do what you're supposed to do."