Thoughts From Williams on Upcoming Season
Maryland held its men's basketball media day earlier today at the Comcast Center, which allowed Coach Gary Williams to provide his outlook on the upcoming 2008-09 campaign. Williams aknowledged his team's perceived shortcomings, and then provided reasons why his team can be successful in spite of them.
"Every year’s a different challenge," Williams said. "I think that’s the great thing about coaching is even if you return all the same players, they come back a year older, they have different interests, some guys are more into basketball, some less, and it will be a challenge to get those guys to play well again."
The most apparent challenge will be establish some sort of post presence to balance out the lineup. Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney were the two names most frequently mentioned when discussing the Terps frontcourt, and it seems they will be the players looked to first to fill the gaps left by the departed James Gist and Bambale Osby. Williams said Dupree lost 20 pounds since the end of last season, which the coach took as a show of commitment.
"I think with all players, they have to earn the right to get the confidence that they’re good," Williams said. "I think Braxton has done the things to get the confidence to believe he can be a good player for us this year."
He also noted Burney is in "great physical condition."
Landon Milbourne also will be spending some time in the post this season. Williams said he was open to running four-guard offensive sets, which would necessitate a player like the 6-foot-7 Milbourne playing the power forward position. Regardless of who plays where, Williams did not think his team would have a difficult time adjusting to or executing a four-guard system. He also didn't think a four-guard offense would prohibit success in regards to wins and losses.
"Whether we play three or four guards, most teams play three, depending on what you call your wings, Villanova, Memphis, for example, were very successful last year playing with four guards at a time," Wiliams said. "I think you have to look at your talent and see how to get the best players on the court. That’s something I’m definitely looking at. You can still win, so you have to figure out what’s best for our team."
Part of that figuring will include finding a way to limit his team's turnovers. Last season, the Terps were one of the ACC's top teams in terms of assists. They also, however, were one of the top teams in terms of turnovers. Williams's solution was simple enough: "Don’t turn it over as much." He followed with a slightly more substantive response.
"We tried to make hard plays last year at times," Williams said. "You know, when you’re really playing well, it just seems like the ball gets to the guy that’s open. But they’re easy passes. You know, a spectacular pass, everybody gets excited about it. You know, like a lob pass on a fast break. They’re all nice, but the basic stuff is what you need. And we were turning the ball over too many times last year. Part of that hopefully will come with the experience in the backcourt now. We’re always going to turn the ball over some because we like to run. If you want to score 80 points a game, then you’re going to have 12 turnovers."
Bottom line: Williams and his team have a lot of matters to address prior to the start of the season next month. The ACC, Williams said, will be tough this season. He and his players know most people aren't expecting much out of them. Yesterday at least, they didn't seem to mind. Most seemed excited at the prospect of proving people wrong. Whether or not they actually can do it remains to be seen.
"Let’s see, the Big East will have their media day in a couple of weeks and they’ll say, what do they got? 18 teams in that conference now? They’ll say they deserve nine in the NCAA tournament, so as the number of the ACC, I’ll say we deserve six, six out of 12; we’ll go 50 percent, too," Williams said. "I think the thing that might separate our league a little bit from some other leagues is the way you look at things top to bottom. You know, we have a 12-team league, and I don’t think there’s a bad basketball program in the league. I don’t think there’s a program that skirts anything, budget-wise. They do whatever it takes to be successful, and that’s why it’s so successful every year."
So, Williams believes the ACC deserves six NCAA berths. Incidentally, he did not say whether he believed the Terps would be one of those six teams.
Your first chance to take a look-see at the Terps will be tomorrow night at the Comcast Center. Maryland Madness will begin around 7:20 p.m.
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