Feeling the pressure of replacing three senior starters, most members of the Maryland men's basketball team remained close to campus over the summer.
The players participated in pickup games with Maryland alumni such as Steve Blake, lifted weights and ate meals together. They couldn't have remained closer to Comcast Center if they had slept there.
In fact, a small group did just that.
"Actually, we lived in Comcast for a little while," said senior forward Dino Gregory. "In a lounge room with video and stuff. There's a couple sofas in there. There's a TV in there."
It was the players' unusual way of staying close to their gym, their equipment and each other. If living at a basketball arena seems extreme, it's a fitting metaphor for a team that believes it needs to work overtime to replace graduated seniors Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes.
Vasquez, Milbourne and Hayes averaged a combined 43.6 points — 54.7 percent of Maryland's total per game. That's a hefty load to replace. Vasquez, now with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, leading the Terps to a regular-season tie with Duke atop the ACC standings, and an NCAA tournament second-round finish. Gary Williams is the reigning ACC Coach of the Year.
The burden falls particularly hard this season on Gregory and fellow seniors Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie. Their class has seemed to be perpetually waiting in the wings. Each has experience as a starter, but has spent more time as a reserve.
Maryland opens the season Monday night against Seattle University at Comcast Center.
"We have a chip on our shoulder with our three seniors not playing as much as we wanted to these last three years that we've been here," said Tucker, a swingman. "Coach told us at the beginning of the year that now we've got a chance to prove what we can do."
Like many others, Tucker — who is from El Paso, Texas — remained on campus after the spring.
"It's the first time we all stayed the whole summer," Gregory said. "Cliff usually goes back to Texas."
Williams has seemed to issue a challenge to his senior trio, which has combined to make 47 starts over three years.
"As a player, you always want your chance. Well, here it is," the coach said.
All three seniors were starters in Maryland's 106-58 exhibition victory over Florida Southern on Nov. 1. Tucker was particularly impressive with 15 points and 10 assists. "Definitely being a starter you have more of a comfort level," he said.
Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) went 3-for-6 from the field and said afterward that he knows he must shoot well this season to take the pressure off 6-foot-10 sophomore Jordan Williams, who is Maryland's biggest inside scoring threat. Last season, Gregory shot 41.2 percent.
"I wanted to work on my face-up game," said Gregory, voted by the players as a team co-captain along with junior guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances). "I know a lot of guys are going to double Jordan, so I wanted to work on my [range] so I can knock it down."
Bowie, too, has been working on his shooting. While the guard's 3-point shooting has improved, his field-goal percentage fell from 45.3 percent in 2008-09 to 42.3 percent last season.
"I waited three years to have an opportunity like this, so I want to go out with a bang," said Bowie, a former Terrapins ballboy whose father, John, was also a ballboy at Cole Field House when Lefty Driesell was coach.
"I want to go out on a positive note and potentially have a chance to play professionally," Bowie said.
Among its returning players, Maryland was led in scoring last season by Mosley (10.1 points per game) and Jordan Williams (9.6).
The Terps often used a trapping, pressing defense to get steals and score points in transition. That was how Maryland erased a nine-point deficit in less than a minute-and-a-half in its last-second, 85-83 loss to Michigan State in the second round of last season's NCAA tournament.
That sort of defense figures to again be a key part of Maryland's game.
'We just need to focus on the defensive end and we'll be OK," Tucker said.
As in previous seasons, Maryland is using a drill called the "22" to get in shape for all that defensive pressure. The "22," is so named because players are asked to sprint up and down the court twice in 22 seconds or less. After a 40-second break, they do it again — 21 more times. Four Terps had passed the "22" drill when the team hosted its media day several weeks ago. According to players, they were Mosley, Bowie, freshman guard Pe'Shon Howard and 6-10 center Berend Weijs, a transfer.
Howard and Weijs are among six newcomers pushing for playing time. Terrell Stoglin, a 6-1 guard, played the most minutes (18) in the exhibition game and scored nine points.
Bowie scored 15 points in the game at Comcast Center. He smiled afterward when asked about his teammates who had lived at the arena.
"In summer, it's two sessions so the second session they didn't have housing so they just stayed here," Bowie said. "I would never sleep here. I have a place, so I'd rather just come here in the morning."