Key Loss: G John Gilchrist (13.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.5 apg)
Postseason:NIT: Defeated Oral Roberts 85–72, defeated Davidson 78–63, defeated TCU 85–73, lost to South Carolina 75–67 in the semifinals
Chicago, IL/Kennedy-King (IL) CC
Philadelphia, PA/Hargrave Military (VA) Academy
McLean, VA/Bishop O’Connell
Brown was a late signee and filled John Gilchrist's scholarship after the former starting point guard left school to enter the NBA Draft. Williams is counting on Brown to play at both point guard and shooting guard. If Sterling Ledbetter doesn't play well at point guard, Brown could challenge for the starting job. The Terrapins have a plethora of athletic frontcourt players, so either Clark or Neal could redshirt this season; neither figures to play much as a freshman.
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Expected to be among the best teams in the ACC last season, Maryland missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993 and failed to win 20 games for the first time since 1995-96. Maryland lacked chemistry, toughness and consistency, losing their last four regular-season games while perhaps needing only one win to secure an NCAA bid.
"We've done what only four other programs in the country have done, which is go to 11 straight NCAAs," says fiery coach Gary Williams, who won a national championship in 2002 but suffered through one of the most frustrating campaigns of his career last season. "If it was easy to go every year, there would be more than four teams. I'm proud of what I do as a coach. I know the effort I put into last year. We set the bar higher than any program in this area."
Small forward Nik Caner-Medley emerged as one of the ACC's best players last season, averaging 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in conference games. Caner-Medley played his best in some of Maryland's biggest games, scoring 21 at Wake Forest and 25 at Duke. At 60-foot-8 and 240 pounds, Caner-Medley is athletic and made a respectable 34.1 percent of his 3-point attempts. But Williams wanted his leading scorer to get stronger in the offseason and to improve his low post moves to make him more effective around the basket.
Power forward Travis Garrison is the Terrapins' best frontcourt presence and led the team with 15.0 points and 9.3 rebounds during four games in the postseason NIT. Garrison has good shooting range and is an excellent free-throw shooter and shot-blocker. But at 6-8 and 241 pounds, Garrison is often overwhelmed by taller players and fouled out of seven games.
Center Ekene Ibekwe is an athletic player who showed a lot of promise early in the season, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a November loss at Wisconsin, but he lacked consistency and wasn't much of a factor late in the season after cracking ribs. Swingman D.J. Strawberry, the team's best defender, returns after missing most of last season with a torn knee ligament.
Sophomore James Gist is the team's best athlete and should get more playing time after a productive freshman season.
The Terrapins' lack of chemistry started with departed point guard John Gilchrist, who never seemed to get along with his coach or teammates. Williams benched Gilchrist during Maryland's run to the NIT semifinals and started Sterling Ledbetter at point guard. Ledbetter was far from sterling during his late-season audition, averaging 6.4 points with 21 assists and 21 turnovers. But he showed enough promise to take over Gilchrist's job this season. Junior college transfer Parrish Brown, who was also recruited by Illinois, Mississippi and Wisconsin, is a capable floor leader, but he lacks size and hasn't faced ACC-caliber competition.
Shooting guard Chris McCray was the team's most consistent player last season, averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Williams is counting on him to emerge as the team's leader. McCray is a lock-down defender who often draws an opponent's best shooter.
Mike Jones had productive spurts last season but has failed to live up to the potential that made him a McDonald's All-America in high school.
Talent should not be an issue at Maryland this season. If Williams and new assistants Michael Adams and Rob Moxley can convince the Terrapins to play with more passion and energy, particularly on the defensive end of the court, they could emerge as one of the three best teams in the conference. Maryland has two potent scorers in Caner-Medley and McCray and a deep, talented bench. Strawberry's return should bolster the team's defense.
But Williams demands a lot from his point guards, and Ledbetter and Brown haven't been under the fire they'll face from their coach and opponents. If the point guards can run the team and take care of the basketball, Maryland should punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament, especially since many of the ACC's top teams will have to reload after losing several star players.