On paper, Maryland looks like a powerhouse. Hunter, the bouncy jump shooter who averaged 16.9 points during the last 12 games of his freshman year, and Bryant, a muscular, 6'4" penetrator, should complement each other very well. But neither one can live without the ball, and both seethe when they don't get it enough. Manning, a deadly shooter, should have provided spark for the team, but he, too, has turned out to be something less than generous with the ball, which has added to the friction. Only Gibson and Forward Lawrence Boston, who are big, strong rebounders and capable scorers, are performing their roles.
Had the guards fulfilled their roles, King, a 6'6", 180-pound blade of a forward with uncluttered, lightning-fast moves and sound basketball instincts, would have fit in nicely. He is a friendly, unselfish kid who is as smart as a whip. It's simple—throw him the ball and he either scores quickly on a high-percentage shot or gives the ball back to you. None of the Terps have been willing to pass to King often enough to give this scenario a fair test. In light of that, Driesell, who can be faulted for recruiting players he seems unable either to control or change, might have tried to instill what could be called "the Las Vegas spirit" in the Terps. In other words: everybody shoots whenever he wants, everybody else goes to the board to try to get a shot of his own if the first guy misses, and no recriminations afterward. Greed feeding off greed.
Because he has spent most of the season being frozen out, King did not begin to show his stuff until recent televised games against North Carolina and Notre Dame. He exploded for 16 points in the first half at Carolina, scoring on all manner of shots—rainbows from the corner, 17-footers off the glass, a vicious rebound dunk—before getting only three shots in the second half of an 85-71 loss. He simply did not get the ball. Of Maryland's 28 baskets in that game, only six were set up by assists. At South Bend. NBC commentator Al McGuire had no sooner said, "Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka may be the best prepared freshman I have ever seen," than King rocketed inside for a magnificent triple-pump jackknife layup in heavy traffic. "Now I see why 500 colleges were after him," said McGuire.
Despite the disruption around him, King admits to very few misgivings about his decision to go to Maryland—perhaps because he knows that the press is watching closely for an outburst that, coming from a player of King's reputation, could cripple the Terps' basketball program. There will be no loud criticism, no decision to transfer or anything juicy like that. But behind his veneer of cool. King is not that happy. Last year he was forever hiding in the bathroom so recruiters would think he wasn't at home. Now he closes his door at Ellicott Hall before letting his true emotions out. It is no secret that he is not in love with Maryland, which is hardly unusual for a freshman whose girl friend still goes to high school in Brooklyn. But he has gone to extremes to close the gap between College Park and home; in the last three months he has run up a $1,000 phone bill. He also complains about never having played on a big winner in high school. Because he does not figure to be at Maryland more than two years before becoming a pro, he had hoped this season would be a big one.
After the loss at Virginia, a game in which King had a couple of brilliant moments while scoring 15 points and the Terps again had only six assists. Cavalier Coach Terry Holland was asked what he thought of King.
"He didn't have a great game tonight by any means," said Holland, "but he is unquestionably a great player. I thought he looked scared."
Distressed might be a better word.