Friday, November 10, 2006

Terps Nation #1 for 2006-2007 Season

Greetings Terrapin Nation and welcome to the first installment of the 2006-2007 season.

Before I get to breaking it down and babbling at full throttle, I have a few administrative announcements to make.

Ravens Game Watch Party for a Good Cause

First, I would like to invite everyone on this list to a Ravens game watch party this Sunday, November 12th at Shuckers Bar in Fell’s Point.

What: This is a charity event to benefit the Derek Meizlesh Foundation and the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland.

Where: Click HERE for a map and info

When: Sunday, 11/12, 12 noon – 5 p.m.

How much: It’s easy on the wallet people. $40 for one person, $75 for two.

Why: Good times, great cause and because you’re going to watch football anyway, why not do it with friends in Fells?

You get lots of food and at least two drinks, big screens for the game. Shuckers is a great place, nice and open, lots of room to hang out. If you plan to come, please do me a quick favor a reply with a headcount so the official organizers know how many to expect.

Here’s a sample for how you might choose to reply if you are one of those people who is soooooo busy.

Click “reply”

Type: “in”


“in +1”

Click “send”

Note – you don’t have to use the quotation marks.

Time required – 2-3 seconds*

Fun to be had – lots

*your speed may vary depending on factors including, but not limited to, need to inform/request permission from your significant other, availability on Sunday afternoon, level of ‘cool factor’ still left in your old, weary bones.

Random aside

I went to CVS this morning to buy some glass cleaner. I walked up to the register and a woman rang me up. She was about 60 and skinny, kind of hunched over and grand-motherly looking with a hair net and skinny glasses resting on the brim of her nose.

She said “3.35.” I gave her a Five, a quarter and a dime. She put the quarter and the dime down, put the five in the register, and gave me back a dollar and 65 cents. I said, “Oh. I gave you $5.35 so I could get two dollars back.” Then I pointed to the quarter and the dime on the counter.

She looked at me, looked at the coins, while still holding my change in her hands… then she picked up my coins, put them together with the 65 cents in her hand, and handed it all to me and said, “oh, ok, here honey, here’s $1 and another dollar in change… Two dollars.” She wasn’t being mean or sarcastic, she was just trying to give me two dollars like I asked. OK then.

Burying the lead

A few of you on this list already know this, but many do not, and I am here to make an announcement… I got a paying gig this year to be a Terps commentator on the radio… after a campaign that bordered on harassment and what I can only suspect is a combination of apathy and submission on the part of the station manager, I have been hired to be YOUR host of Maryland basketball pre and post game coverage on THE Terrapin Sports Radio Network.

Now, there’s a lot I can say right now about how it came about and how it’s going so far after 2 preseason games (luckily and sketchy), but I am excited about the opportunity and tonight -- in case your mind was too focused on elections, Ravens, Redskins, and your own personal life and career -- is the first regular season Maryland basketball game. Terps play Hampton at 8:30 in the second half of the coaches vs. cancer classic. If Maryland wins tonight and tomorrow against the winner of the Vermont/New Orleans game, then they’ll go to NY next week for the semifinals and finals.

About my show… I’m the guy who does a half hour of pre game starting one hour before tip. I then hand off to Johnny Holiday and Chris Knoche, who do the final half hour of pregame and, of course, the actual broadcast. Unfortunately, my portion isn’t on in DC, but it is carried on 1300 AM and 105.7 FM in Baltimore and I think the FM signal travels pretty nicely down to DC.

So… if you have a moment and are so inclined, check it out. Tonight, my good friend and NBA player representative Doug Neustadt will join me to talk about former Terps in the pros (Doug represents Sarunas, Drew Nicholas, and others) (OK, the “others” are Mike Mardesich, somewhat MIA, and Terrence Morris, currently looking for work).

Weekly column in PressBox

My other media gig for the season is writing a weekly college hoops column, focusing mainly on the Terps in the new PressBox newspaper in Baltimore

My first column debuts this week, where I quickly break down the Terps and throw a bone of coverage/thoughts to the other programs in the Baltimore area. I can’t be as irreverent as I am on these Terp Nation emails, but I am trying to still keep it loose and entertaining.

Because there are only so many hours in the day and I do have an actual job, I am just going to paste my first column that will run in PressBox this week below so that everyone on this list can read it first. That’s right people, you are getting exclusive content.

Very Quick Thoughts on the Terps

I am going to keep this quick because I basically wrote what I wanted to say in the column below but not as explicitly as I’ll say it here… I am not sure if Maryland will be any good or better than they have been for the past three years this year. Pretty dramatic statement right? I mean, if Ibekwe, Jones, Gist, and Strawberry haven’t taken Maryland to where we expect Maryland to be for the past 2 seasons, I am not sure why we should think this year will be a lot different.

That said, at least there’s some exciting new blood in the program. Best player is likely Greivis Vasquez. Whose name, I actually just confirmed with the basketball SID, is officially pronounced GRAY-vis. Here’s the actual exchange (more exclusive content people);

OK, on to this week’s column, here it is, enjoy:


Terps Hoping New Faces Mean Return to Winning Ways in College Park

By Greg Abel

Don’t look now, but while we’ve been watching the Ravens run out to a 6-2 record, and the Terps football team summon the early Fridge years, college basketball season crept up and joined the party.

Yup, college hoops tips off in earnest this week in College Park, with Maryland playing host to the first and second rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The calendar says Election Day, November 7th, and Maryland is playing a real game, the earliest start to a season ever.

With a fresh start, you can be sure that Gary Williams’ Terps hope to reestablish themselves in the ACC and nationally as an elite program.

In the three seasons following the departure of every meaningful player from the 2002 national championship team, Maryland has gone 19-11 (7-9), 16-12 (7-9), and 19-12 (8-8). That might pass for reasonable at Clemson, but not at Maryland, where Williams spent a long, long time squeezing every last drop of effort and potential out of his players while building the program from bad, to better, to good, to great.

Eleven straight NCAA tournament appearances came to an end following the 2004-2005 season, and if not for an out of body ACC tournament by then sophomore John Gilchrist, Maryland would be working on a three-season drought from the Big Dance.

So, what’s in store for this year’s Terps? Most importantly, some new faces and new energy. Not that Nik Caner-Medley didn’t have some great moments (he was the class of his class), or that Travis Garrison didn’t want to win (he certainly wanted to shoot… from outside anyway), but when the curtain fell on the 2005-2006 season, the Terps were last seen losing at home to Manhattan in the NIT. Not good. Chris McCray had already been lost to grades and John Gilchrist had long since said “Shalom” to the program, having taken his game to the pro leagues in Israel.

Now it’s time for the core foursome of D.J Strawberry, Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe, and James Gist to take their turn at the helm, so we’ll see what they can do as leaders.

They will have help. Maryland has five newcomers, led by freshman point guard Eric Hayes and freshman guard/forward Greivis Vasquez. Both can and will play the point, with Hayes getting the early nod as starter. But Vasquez, a native of Venezuela, will get as many minutes as anyone and will rotate from point to shooting guard, to small forward.

At 6-5, rangy and talented, Vasquez is fun to watch -- the kind of player who demands attention, because he is highly skilled and charismatic. Hayes is all business, a steady coach’s son of a point guard from Potomac, Va. Hayes will remind fans of Steve Blake in composure and build, though he might have a tad more muscle than Blake did when he arrived to College Park.

Regardless, the duo gives Gary exactly what he lacked last year – depth at the point, where Strawberry struggled through an awkward season handling the ball and nursing a few injuries. Now healthy and back at his natural role on the wing, look for Strawberry to have a solid senior season. You can definitely say this about D.J. -- no one plays harder or cares more.

The other newcomers are 6-7 swingman Landon Milburne, a left-hander who will get minutes out on the wing and can do a bit of everything; Bambale Osby, a chiseled 6-8, 250-pound transfer from Paris (TX) Junior College who carries a delightful afro and gives the Terps some much-needed bulk; and freshman Jerome Burney, a 6-9 shot blocking specialist, currently nursing a left foot injury and expected to get back on the court shortly.

As for the returning players, it’s time to get it done already, right? We have seen flashes from Ibekwe, Jones, and Gist, but none of Maryland’s upper classmen have ever demonstrated the consistency of a true, big-time player, capable of throwing a team on his back.

Here’s hoping this is the year Maryland turns things around.

Looking Around the Region
In other area hoops news, it will be interesting to see if any genuine rivalries emerge now that the Baltimore area has three well-known coaches patrolling the sidelines in Pat Kennedy at Towson, Jimmy Patsos at Loyola, and Todd Bozeman attempting to resurrect his once promising career at Morgan State.

Or, forget rivalries, it would be fantastic for Baltimore hoops if just one of those programs – and you can add UMBC and Navy to the list – would jump out and establish themselves as something other than a middle or bottom-of-the-pack finisher in their respective conference.

At Towson, it’s about time for Kennedy to show that his best basketball days aren’t behind him by having his Tigers inject a little magic into the Towson Center. Kennedy can be excused for an awful first year two years ago – 5-24 with someone else’s players – but now he’s had two seasons to recruit and turn things around with his own guys.
The Tigers improved to 12-16 last year, and there's cause for optimism this year.

The Tigers boast the region’s best NBA prospect in shooting guard Gary Neal, a 6-4 transfer from LaSalle who is the NCAA’s leading returning scorer after putting up 26.1 points per game last season. Any true hoops fan in the area should make their way to Towson this year to see Neal and to take in a few games in the highly competitive and entertaining Colonial Athletic Association.

After all, from the CAA came the best story last season in the form of the George Mason Patriots and their pied-piper coach, Jim Larranaga. The Patriots, you may recall, defeated (ahem) North Carolina, Michigan State, Wichita State, and (hey now!) UConn to reach the Final Four. Interestingly enough, Mason features two Mount St. Joseph products in junior forward Will Thomas, a left-handed, 6-7 baby hook artist, and 6-6 freshman Louis Birdsong.

The Patriots come to Towson on January 11th, now that’s worth circling on the calendar.