No stretch: New aide helps Terps shape up

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - Along with "press," "post" and "trap," Maryland basketball players have added some new expressions into their lexicon this season.

Adrian Bowie, Dave Neal and the other Terps couldn't have told you before the preseason about "downward dog" or "child pose."

Now, the players know all too well about these and other yoga positions.

Their challenging yoga training - which began weeks before their opening game and has continued into the season - is part of the regimen introduced by Paul Ricci. The former Ravens assistant was brought in by coach Gary Williams during the offseason to fill the new position of full-time strength and conditioning coach.

Williams had been concerned that Maryland faded late in games last season because of fatigue.

Ricci, who brought with him several new training routines, is credited by Williams and others with upgrading Maryland's performance - particularly on defense.

"Conditioning always shows up on the defensive end," Williams said. "Somehow players seem to find energy to shoot the ball."

Entering this afternoon's game against Charlotte (5-6), the Terrapins (10-2) ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense at 60.5 points per game and were holding opponents to 39 percent shooting - including 28 percent on three-point attempts.

Maryland has held its past five opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Terps begin ACC play next Saturday at home against Georgia Tech.

Better conditioning might even be helping the Terps focus better on the free-throw line. Maryland leads the ACC in free-throw accuracy at 79 percent.

"We knew being a team that is undersized - not really big down low - that we were going to have to press and kind of wear out the other team," said Neal, a senior forward. "He [Ricci] really worked us hard during the preseason. I feel like we're the best conditioned team since I've been here."

Neal smiles when asked about the yoga.

"This is the first year we've done it. If people don't know, it's tougher than people think," Neal said. "Downward dog, child pose - I forget the names of some others. It helped all of us out with our flexibility. Knock on wood, we've had only two injuries so far, and I think yoga has helped with that, too."

Ricci said he brought in the same yoga instructor, Karen Dubs, that the Ravens still use.

"Once they [the Terps] did it the first couple of times, they were really into it," Ricci said. "Basketball guys have major lower back pain, and their ankles and feet are beat up. What we're doing is difficult, and their competitive nature would come out."

Said Bowie, a sophomore guard: "With all the stretching and all those types of positions and the breathing techniques, it helped me a lot with my flexibility. I'll do it once in a while. Every day? Definitely not."

Last season, Williams said, Maryland sometimes tired at the end of halves.

"Teams are going to score against you," the coach said. "But as long as you can make them work ... you've got an edge. This year our defense has been one of our strengths. Paul Ricci has come in here and done a very good job."

NOTES: : Maryland has won six straight games and is 8-0 at Comcast Center. ... Charlotte, which returns four starters, has won four in a row.


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