Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Mike Jones and Sarunas: Peas and Carrots

This is a message for all of you agnostics and atheists out there.
Clearly, there is a G-d because my prayers have been answered. DJ
Strawberry started last night in place of the much-maligned (by me)
Nik Caner Medley. Now it wasn't exactly what I had prayed for. If
you'll recall, I wanted Mike Jones to start in his place. At this
point, who I am to complain?

Of course there may be some other factors afoot that prompted this
dramatic change in Gary's lineup. Last week, my buddy Geoff and I
each penned an email into the "Ask Gary" feature on
The text of my email went as follows.

"Dear Gary,

I'm curious as to why you do not play the three guard set more often.
Duke used that lineup quite effectively last year and is doing so this
year. It would give the Terps an extra shooter from the outside and
it would eliminate a defensive liability in Nik Caner-Medley. Your



Now is it a coincidence that Gary removed NCM from the lineup the very
next game to try out the three-guard set? Of course it is. I can
dream though can't I? If Gary can hear my message on getting rid of
NCM, maybe he will listen to my telepathic signals to give Mike Jones
more than eight friggin minutes against the likes of Mt. St. Mary's!!
Gary what does this guy have to get some playing time? Is he that bad
in practice? I mean, he sure looks fluid to me on the court.

The way that Gary has handled MJ is reminiscent of another former Terp
who was misused during his stint in College Park. When I first saw
Sarunas Jasikevicius step on to the court at the Cole Field House aka
"Basketball Heaven", I new I had just seen a special talent. Gary
never knew how to use Sarunas' unique talents. Sarunas' creative
passing skills were curtailed while he was a Terp, and he was always
accused of playing bad defense.

Let's see what Sarunas has done since leaving Maryland. For those
unaware (if you are reading this article, I would be shocked if you
are), Sarunas nearly single-handedly defeated the "Dream Team" in the
2000 Olympics and then led his team to victory in the 2004 Olympics
against Team USA. In both games, Jasikevicius was the best player on
the court.

Recently, the clearing house for all things European
Basketball, named Jasikevicius the 2004 Player of the Year in Europe
AND named him to the starting five of the All European Team. His
teammates on that team? None other than:
• Predrag Stojakovic (207-F-77), Sacramento Kings (NBA), Serbia/M.
• Dirk Nowitzki (211-F-78), Dallas Mavericks (NBA), Germany
• Pau Gasol (214-F-80), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), Spain
• Tony Parker (183-G-80), San Antonio Spurs (NBA), France
That is some company he keeps, eh? Just for a little clarity, Andre
Kirilenko is NOT on this team and Sarunas is. The only thing keeping
Sarunas from a stellar career in the NBA is Sarunas. He has been
offered contracts by several teams, but has always balked. Maybe he
doesn't like the coaching style in the US. Maybe he was scarred by
the way Gary misused him. I'm not saying that's the reason, I'm just
saying it's possible.

OK, so what is my point? Sarunas and MJ are like peas and carrots
(your welcome, Dan). They have been misused by Gary. I am scared
that one day we will see Mike Jones wearing another college uniform
hoisting up rainbow threes and scoring 20 points per game. If it
happened once, it could happen again. If you aren't Gary's kind of
guy, it doesn't mean you aren't a great player, it just means you're
not Gary's kind of guy.

Look for another post this week previewing the matchup between
Maryland and UNC this weekend.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Maryland 90, Florida State 88 OT

“Mike Jones saved our ass tonight” That was an email I received from my buddy Goodman. He’s right. Maryland won in overtime against a team that lost to the University of Texas Corpus Christi earlier this season. That is NOTHING to be proud of. As it stands now, Maryland stinks. We have two cupcake games for Gary to make some wholesale changes so we can prepare for some unbelievably difficult road tests against UNC and Wake. It’s a good thing we won tonight because I think an 0-3 start would be disastrous.

I was at the game tonight thanks to my buddy Pert. I’m grateful for those tix but Maryland’s “play” made me nauseous.

The night started off poorly. Thanks to everyone who was on the Beltway at around 5:30 tonight. No one in this fucking state knows how to drive. I don’t care if there are flurries. You can drive more than 30 mph on the beltway. I made it to the “Gigantic Advertisement for high speed Internet Center” right after the first TV timeout. The next 41 minutes of play were agonizing hell.

The fans have completely given up on Nik Caner-Medley. I probably need a day or two before I can speak rationally on the subject. But I will try nonetheless. NCM was so bad tonight; that there were times that Gary would have been better off pulling a Gene Hackman and rolling out four players. NCM had several airballs. Some of his shots were so bad that I seriously think he might need glasses. Things on the other side of the ball were just as bad. I have not seen a Terp get so consistently beaten on defense since Chris Kerwin (anyone remember that guy from our probation days?). Gary should be ashamed of his small forward.

I don’t know how many more times this can be said. Gary needs to bench NCM, move Chris McCray to small forward and start Mike Jones. For some inexplicable reason, Mike Jones remains a fixture on the bench. Why? Why? Why? Why? No Seriously? Why?

Finally after watching a team that had no one for Gilchrist to pass to for the entire second half; Gary inserted Mike Jones into the lineup for NCM in overtime. Mike Jones promptly hit a three (the first three that wasn’t from Gilchrist since 15 minutes left in the first half) to put the Terps up two with 1:30 left. What other evidence does Gary need to play this man?

I can’t stress this enough. If Gary doesn’t wise up and start playing Mike Jones, this team is going nowhere. He is the only Terp besides Gilchrist who can consistently hit from the outside.

The Terps have become so predictable on offense, it is sickening. Gilchrist is the only guy out there doing anything. Gist has potential, but at this early stage in his career he is one-dimensional.

The problem with Maryland is that we have guys who don’t complement each other. DJ Strawberry and Chris McCray have the same game. Ibekwe and Gist have the same game. Bowers has no game. Garrison (McDonald’s All-American) has disappeared (more on that later), and Mike Jones (McDonald’s All-American) doesn’t play. I don’t know another coach in America that would sit two McD’s AA’s and keep trotting out some slow white guy from Maine. . Gary, these guys were your top recruits for Chrissake.

Some more takeaways from the game:

• Hot girl always trumps cute baby in the “fan of the game” contest.
• The cheerleader coach for the Terps is a 20-something guy. I can’t describe the unintentional comedy of watching him tell the cheerleaders what to do and when. In the list of jobs that most likely make you gay, “cheerleader coach” has to be number 1, or at least number 2 behind starring in the movie “The Last Samurai”.
• The crowd was dead tonight. I blame the players on the court. They gave us no reason to cheer.
• James Gist has serious ups. He got hurt when he went up for a full court pass and he must have been 50 inches off the ground. I don’t know if I have ever seen a human being get that high off the ground.
• Gary needs to run some plays for Travis Garrison. He has a good medium range jumper. Run him off some baseline screens to get him open. It will free up the middle for Gilchrist’s drives. I have stressed this all-season and I’m getting tired of saying it. Between Garrison and Jones, the Terps should be getting 25-30 points a game. We are going nowhere unless these guys get involved. Get your head in the game, Gary. You have good players, use them!
• With Fofana now gone, the Terps are dangerously weak down low. We have no natural center aside from the artist formerly known as Mike Mardesich (Will Bowers). A strong breeze can push Ibekwe out of the lane. Garrison is our big banger and that’s it.
• Toyota needs to grow a pair. It’s hard enough for these students to win a car in the halftime shootout by hitting a lay-up, free throw, three pointer and half court shot in 25 seconds. Do you need to throw a fat girl up there? I mean this girl was airballing free throws. How was she going to hit a half court shot? Make it interesting, you corporate wusses.
• The Marylad State Police are mobilized and prepared for directing traffic out of the Comcast Center. I felt like I was in a Presidential motorcade as they blocked off traffic for cars leaving my garage. Why can’t they do anything else right?

A note from last week’s column about Maryland’s lack of famous alumni: A reader pointed out that Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm has surpassed Connie Chung as our most famous living alumni. Frankly, I’d be honored to have sit courtside and reenact the Curb episode where he trips Shaq during a game and puts him on the DL with a knee injury. Only instead of Shaq, it would be NCM. Now that is making a contribution to your alma mater.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More on Mike Jones from the Baltimore Sun 12/13

…….Jones, a former McDonald’s All-American, played less than a minute against George Washington the previous Sunday. Speculation that he is unhappy and could possibly transfer has been prevalent on Terps chat rooms in the past couple of weeks, but Jones disputed it.

“It’s not really frustrating,” he said. “I just have to understand that at critical situations, Coach does what he has to do. His job [is] to do what he has to do to win games. … I don’t pay attention to outside sources. I just listen to what Coach tells me, the team and my family. There is no other option for me. I am with the team.”

Chat Rooms? There are no real Terp chat rooms. I’ve been to the Terrible Terrapin Times site, and I know that no one is talking there. Where could they be getting this from? Is it possible that the Baltimore Sun has started reading Herman Veal Chops?!? I believe I mentioned this possibility at the beginning of the season in my backcourt preview.

I guess it wouldn’t be the first time that a blogger has created a story out of thin air. Please no emails about how there is no chance they read that on the Chops. I know that. Let me have my fantasy.

Mr. Jones and Me

Some readers have asked about my “obsession” with Mike Jones. and why I complain about his lack of playing time. Since the Terps are on a mini-hiatus “studying” for finals, I figure it is worth an explanation. Essentially, there are four main factors that contribute to my support of the guy.

1. The Precedent: The kid is a McDonald’s All-American and he never gets off the bench. It’s not as if Gary has so many All-American recruits pining away to be Terps. Maryland has always lost these guys to Duke and UNC and I don’t like it when we don’t play the ones we have. By not playing Mike Jones, Gary is sending a terrible message to any future McDonald’s All-Americans thinking of coming to College Park. He’s saying, “If you have some bad habits or don’t play my style of ball then I’m not playing you regardless of whether or not you can help us win”.

2. His Game: It’s not like when he gets in there, he’s lost. Quite the contrary. He has the most consistent jumper on the team, and frankly one of the best I have seen in a Terps uniform. Obviously, no one is better than Juan (especially in the clutch), but Mike Jones had some huge buckets for us in ACC Tournament last year. In fact, he was wide open during the last play against Syracuse in last year’s second round loss. If DJ had only passed the ball to him, well let’s just say would have been playing Alabama for a trip to the school’s third ever Elite Eight (%#@&). I’m not bitter or anything.

How can you not love a guy with a natural shooter’s stroke and the ability to go to the hole? The problem with his game as I see it; is that he is afraid to make a mistake or two. Much of that stems from the fact that if he commits a turnover or takes a “questionable” shot, Gary yanks him from the game. How do you develop a level of comfort when you are gone after one turnover. Which leads me to…..

3. His confidence: Any basketball player who refers to himself as MJ, and is not Michael Jordan, is obviously supremely confident. Gary is slowly eroding that away. There are very few athletes in any sport who thrive on pressure and crunch time. Last year, Mike Jones played his best basketball in those situations. Kids like that don’t grow on trees.

4. Lack of Improvement of the starters: Nik Caner-Medley is overrated, and it must be killing Mike Jones to see this bozo starting over him. Like I mentioned in an earlier column, NCM can only hit a three when he catches the ball on the baseline, in shooting motion, with the wind blowing outside at 5 mph and it’s 73 degrees. Otherwise, he misses. Jones is deadly from anywhere on the court. Chris McCray has a great all around game except for one thing. He is unbelievably inconsistent from three point range.

There is one simple fact about big time college basketball. You cannot win without a two guard who can hit the open three. Period. End of story. That neutralizes opponents. That is why teams like Valpo and Butler win in the NCAA Tournament every year. Look at all the marksman that Duke has had over the years. JJ Redick, Mike Dunleavy (alright he’s a three), Trajan Langdon. The list goes on.

I am suggesting moving McCray to the three spot and let Jones takeover at the two. DJ can back up either position and let NCM transfer and commit charges/travelling violations while simultaneously getting burned on defense somewhere else. Seriously, what is NCM bringing to the table? He gets like 5 rebounds a game, and commits about as many turnovers. He can’t defend to save his life. Someone explain this phenomenon to me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


At this point, I think I would rather watch Mischa Barton try to act on The O.C. than watch Maryland play UNC Asheville this weekend. The game is completely useless. A 30-point win will do nothing for all of the problems that were exposed last weekend. Gary and the boyz are in a holding pattern until the FSU game next week at the Comcast Center.

At least the game won’t be held at the Leon County Civic Center. I mean is there a worse name for a college arena than that? It sounds like the 4-H club comes in after the game and sets up for the big County Fair. Can’t they name it after famous alumni Burt Reynolds or something? It could be called the Deliverance Center…"where FSU makes all of their opponents squeal like a pig, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee". Come to think of it, that is what they should rename whatever the arena is called at the University of Arkansas.

Since I’m getting some things off my chest, why doesn’t Maryland have any famous alumni? How much would our program be helped if we had an Ashley Judd type leading the cheers? I mean, Bob Novak is probably our most famous alumnus at this point and he is most notable for revealing an undercover CIA agent in his Washington Post column. Thanks, Bob we are so proud of you. Who else do we have besides athletes? Connie Chung? That dude who defrauded the NY Times? Am I forgetting someone? There has to be some famous alumni somewhere that I’m missing.

The bigger Terps story this weekend is the Maryland Soccer team. For those who don’t know, they are in College Cup this weekend at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. The College Cup is the Final Four of college soccer and this Maryland’s third straight and possibly, last crack at it.

Any self respecting Terps fan located in Southern California (read: Hartz and Waxman!!) should find their way to the game this weekend. Actually, I’m kidding. There is really never a need to ever go to Carson, CA unless you are landing a blimp.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

BB&T (Bad, Bad and Terrible)

Misery at the MCI Center

Sorry for the week long hiatus. I was without an Internet connection for the last week while I moved the Herman Veal Empire to DC. I shall not leave my readers (both of you) wanting again.

After an exhausting week, where I started a new job and moved cities, I decided to celebrate a difficult week with a relaxing doubleheader of basketball at the MCI Center. Relaxing it wasn’t.

Maryland’s dismal performance culminated in what may be the worst sports day I have had since the Jeffrey Maier incident in ’96 American League Divisional Playoffs. Not only did the Terps give up 101 points to George Washington (????), the Ravens ended their season by crapping the bed against the Cinncinnati Bengals (the Bengals!?!). To cap matters, my fantasy team lost a heartbreaker to end my season.

What have I done to deserve this? Whenever fortune frowns on my sports teams, I convince myself that these losses will only make it sweeter when my teams win it all. Unfortunately, my teams do not appear to possess the necessary personnel to make a championship dream possible for the next several years.

Since this is a Terps Basketball column, I won’t bore you with how I feel about the fact that Ravens will have Kyle Boller for the indefinite future, while two rivals (Bengals, Steelers) have QBs that are as young, but much better. It could be an ugly few years as Ray Lewis gets old and the defense declines. Well at least the Ravens gave me a Super Bowl. I really have no right to complain.

The same can be said of the Terps. The National Championship of 2002 is something that I will always cherish. I believe in the five-year rule. Any team that wins it all (in any league) should get a five-year pass from its fans. That does not mean that I should sit by as this team plays with their collective heads up their asses, and attempts to pass it off as team basketball.

The final of the BB&T Classic on Sunday was a manifestation of all that is wrong with this year’s Maryland squad. Here are a couple indisputable facts:
• Gary Williams made two huge recruiting errors by offering scholarships to Hassan Fofana and Will Bowers. Both guys couldn’t be any stiffer if they had rigormortis. As a result, the Terps have no big man to play post defense. Ibekwe is a power forward who gets pushed around down low.
• Gilchrist is a mess. He scored 23 points against GW and he had a horrrrible game. So far Gilchrist has played five terrible games and one good game (Memphis). As I stated in an earlier column, he didn’t play well in Italy this summer, or in preseason, and now it is carrying over to the regular season. This team is going nowhere unless Gilchrist gets his ass in gear.
• You can’t blame Gilchrist for everything, it’s not all his fault. There is no one to pass to. Who on the team can hit an open shot? There is only one guy who gets any playing time that can hit a three-pointer: Nik Caner-Medley. The only problem is that NCM will only hit the three if he gets the ball on the baseline and he catches it in perfect shooting position, and it is 73.4 degrees in the arena, and the sun is shining. Otherwise he misses it. Too bad Maryland doesn’t have any McDonald’s All-Americans riding the pine who happen to have a gorgeous shooting touch. They don’t because Gary would play a guy like that, right? I’m sure Mike Jones is thrilled with his decision to come to Maryland. Every time he sees DJ and McCray clank one, Jones probably wants to stab himself through the ear with a pencil. Who wouldn’t?
• Maryland has no transition defense. It’s really quite embarrassing watching GW consistently break our press for easy buckets. Gary Williams’ teams NEVER play poor transition defense, so I don’t know what is happening here. I know that it needs to improve quickly.
• No one on the team can hit free throws. Period. It has already cost the Terps two games this year.
• Maryland cannot win unless they get Travis Garrison involved in the offense. The best way to do this is to run him off a baseline screen, so he can take that 15-foot shot. It is the key to his offense and it will free up the interior for Gilchrist to drive to the hoop and dish. We need to start running some plays to get Garrison open so he can take it. I can’t stress this enough. When Maryland played well last year, it was because Travis Garrison was involved in the offense.

So where does this leave the Maryland Terrapins? Like last year, this team will have tremendous problems maintaining consistency. This will cause me to throw things at my television all season. I am stocking up on nerf balls because I don’t want to put my shoe through it. The bottom line is that the ACC is way too tough for Maryland to still be working on the same problems from last year. If this season turns out like last year, minus the ACC Championship, Gary is going to have to get off his high horse and actually start visiting recruits. Maybe if Gary had actually gone to see Rudy Gay play in person last year, instead of sending Dave Dickerson, Rudy would be a Terp instead of a UConn Husky.

The time is ticking on Gary’s five-year pass and I’m starting to wonder. Gary Williams got out-coached on Sunday and it’s not the first time that has happened. I know that Juan Dixon was the most special player Gary ever had and he is the reason why that banner hangs from the rafters of the Comcast Center. Now that Gary does not have the right mix of talent on this squad, let’s see if he can mold them into winners. My TV is praying that he does, lest I perform an Elvis on it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Note: This column also appears at Turtle Soup on the Most Valuable Network

Maryland 84, Memphis 61

I still can’t believe that score. Memphis is a good team who played terrible last night. Most of that was due to the most impressive defensive performance I have ever seen from a Gary Williams’ team.

Throughout the second half, Memphis found it nearly impossible to get into its half court offense. The guard play for Maryland forced so many turnovers, and when they didn’t, the frontcourt was there to clean the glass.

This is how basketball is supposed to be played. The Terps didn’t hit a three-pointer until Gar-baaage time, but it didn’t matter. Who needs to take threes when you are dunking the ball every time down the court? Maryland was so dominant in this game, that they made Memphis look like Jackson State.

Don’t misunderstand, Memphis is a good team. They played a close game with no. 4 Syracuse last week until the Orangemen pulled away at the end.

I spent the first hour after the game last night trying to remember the last time Maryland beat a Top 25 team so soundly. I’m not sure if the Terps ever have.

If last night’s game is any indication, Maryland is better than advertised. Winning at a neutral site, was something the Terps were not able to do until the ACC tournament last year. (That is, if you count Greensboro, NC as a neutral site).

Let’s take a look at some of the Terps individual performances last night:

John Gilchrist: Simply put, he is the man. This team will go as far as Gilchrist can take them. He almost finished with a triple-double (he needed three more assists). Most importantly, Gilchrist only had one turnover. Look out Chris Paul, Jarrett Jack and Raymond Felton. Grade A+

Nik Caner-Medley: I’ve always been critical on NCM over the last two seasons. I thought he played the best game of his career last night. He displayed tenacity on both ends which something I have rarely seen in his career. He also displayed keen shot selection and he crashed the boards too. Grade: A

Travis Garrison: He sort of disappeared last night. If Travis doesn’t hit an early 15 footer, it seems like it is difficult for him to get going. I’m not too concerned however. He has a great jumper, and he will get his chance to use it. Grade: C

Ekene Ibekwe: His defensive effort was an A+. He dominated the interior with his shot blocking and rebounding. His offensive effort was an F-. He looked lost and he couldn’t hit a two-footer. Fortunately, with the offensive players around him, he won’t need to score much. Grade: C

Chris McCray: Except for his three-point shot, McCray is hitting on all cylinders. He ran the floor exceptionally well, made some beautiful passes that led to easy buckets, and he is automatic from the charity stripe. Grade: B

The Bench: I think the Terps might have the best bench in the nation. James Gist, DJ Strawberry, and Mike Jones would probably start on just about any other team in the country. DJ is so good defensively that I think that Gilchrist looks at games as a break from having to go against DJ in practice. Jones is simply the best three-point shooter on the team and Gist jumps higher than anyone in Terp uniform this side of Exree Hipp. Grade: A+

Maryland has its first road test next week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin is one of those teams that lulls you to sleep with its methodical offense and plays zone defense. The Badgers like final scores in the 60’s. If Maryland is able to take Wisconsin out of their game and emerge from Madison unscathed, then Terps fans should be in store for a wonderful season.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Maryland 93, Mercer 67

Maryland won by 27 points last night and they stunk. They were terrible. Keep in mind that the score in these early season cupcake games are meaningless. Teams like Maryland will beat teams like Mercer. In most cases, the Mercer’s of the world can hang on for about 10 minutes. After that, the top teams usually take over thanks to huge advantages in size and bench depth.

Given these facts, it is instructive to look at some other statistics besides the final score to determine how well Maryland played last night. Let’s take a look at some:

Turnovers: 22

With 17 assists last night, Maryland had an assist/turnover ratio under 1. Translation: they played careless. To make matters worse, in two combined games, the Terps have 43 turnovers! That is absolutely unacceptable for a team of Maryland’s caliber playing against the likes of Jackson State and Mercer. Gilchrist had five turnovers himself. He needs to play better against Memphis if Maryland is going to win.

Big Man Play:

Ekene Ibekwe: 1-9 FG, 2-6 FT! We played Mercer! These numbers are atrocious against anyone, let alone Mercer. Will Bowers came in and looked completely lost. I am giving up hope on him ever becoming a player. He is a poor man’s Mike Mardesich. Now that is saying something.


Mercer shot 43% from 3PT range (9-21). The perimeter defense is terrible. At times, Maryland looked as if they have never played defense together. Mercer consistently found open shots and the guards will able to get penetration into the paint. This needs to improve as the schedule gets tougher.

Some Positives:

James Gist played well, but I haven’t seen anything but dunks from the guy. Hopefully, he has a medium range game of some kind.

Maryland plays Memphis on Friday at a neutral site. The Terps are experienced enough to beat this team, but if they don’t improve turnovers, big man play, and the defensive intensity, they will lose badly.

I have faith. Gary will get the team ready to play. Go Terps.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?