July 1, 2008
COLLEGE PARK Last issue, we wrote about the Maryland basketball program's recruiting woes.
By the time that story hit the streets, Maryland had been hit by another bombshell. Gus Gilchrist, who had been penciled in as the Terrapins' starting power forward and primary inside scoring option, asked for and was granted his release.
It was shocking news for Maryland fans, who still were reeling from the news that highly touted junior college transfer Tyree Evans had been granted a release from his national letter of intent. Even Williams seemed caught off-guard by the Gilchrist request.
Angry fans probably shouldn't blame Williams for the latest twist in an absolutely bizarre offseason for Maryland basketball. This one appears to be much more about Gilchrist and his advisors.
Terrelle Woody calls himself Gilchrist's trainer, but he appears to be an influential advisor as well. Some folks at Maryland privately have used more negative and inflammatory terms to describe Woody, who regularly speaks for Gilchrist in media reports.
When Gilchrist was released from his original letter of intent to Virginia Tech and decided to transfer to Maryland, it was Woody who spoke on the player's behalf.
"It was really close between Maryland and Georgetown, but Gus just has such a strong comfort level with Maryland. He has trained with Braxton Dupree and Shane Walker, and he is really comfortable with (assistants) Keith Booth and Chuck Driesell," Woody said then. "Gus will have a chance to get acclimated to the program and get used to the flex offense. Gus is an excellent fit for the flex offense. He can hit the jumper and post up. He shoots the three-pointer well, so the 10- to 12-footer is automatic for him."
Gilchrist still wasn't talking for himself much after announcing his latest decision to abandon a program without even playing a game. Woody told the media that Gilchrist was upset by the fact that he would be able to play only 2.5 years at Maryland.
"Gus just got his release so that he'll have the opportunity to find a school where he can have his full four years of eligibility. Basically, he wants to have the opportunity to have his years back, and the ACC didn't give him that," Woody said. "Everything at Maryland, he loves. He loves Coach Williams, loves the school, the people, his teammates. But we felt like he should have the opportunity to have four."
Gilchrist subsequently signed with South Florida, which announced that it would file an appeal with the NCAA to waive the mandatory one-year sit out rule so the 6-9 banger could play immediately.
Confused? Join the club.
What this comes down to is that Gilchrist was unhappy about an ACC rule that penalizes athletes from transferring from one member school to another. ACC officials docked Gilchrist a year of eligibility because of the intra-conference transfer rule, and multiple appeals were unsuccessful.
Maryland athletic officials initially filed an appeal with the ACC in November that was denied. A second appeal, which cited the unique circumstances of Gilchrist's decision to not enroll at Virginia Tech, was filed in April and also rejected.
Transferring to a school outside the ACC would restore one year of eligibility for Gilchrist, but it seems highly doubtful that he will wind up with four full years. Further complicating the situation is the NCAA rule that gives athletes five years (as measured from initial college enrollment) to play four.
What is most strange about the entire episode is the fact that some in the Gilchrist camp claim that he didn't know the realities of transferring to Maryland, but some in College Park claim that's not the case.
Additionally, various Maryland officials urged the Temple Hills resident to enroll during the fall semester last year, so he would have been eligible at the start of the 2008-09 season. Gilchrist chose instead to enroll in January, which essentially cost him another half-season of eligibility.
Why Gilchrist suddenly decided in June that the amount of eligibility he would have at Maryland was unacceptable has never been made clear, either by the player or Woody. One last twist involves the future of Woody, who some expect to surface in the strength and conditioning department at South Florida.
FRONTCOURT CUPBOARD EMPTY?
That Williams has been unable to land a quality frontcourt recruit in recent years makes Gilchrist's sudden departure even more devastating.
That the remaining big men on Maryland's roster are all mediocre at best makes the loss of Gilchrist downright scary. How does a center-power forward combination of Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney strike you?
Maryland's four remaining frontcourt players senior Dave Neal and sophomores Dupree, Burney and Dino Gregory combined to average 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds last season. The foursome managed 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in ACC games.
The Terrapins are now down to nine scholarship players, only a handful of whom are proven commodities. Truth be told, point guard Greivis Vasquez is the only returning player who has shown he can produce against ACC competition.
If the Terps hope to be even moderately successful next season, players such as small forward Landon Milbourne, combination guard Eric Hayes and swingmen Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker will need to significantly step up their games.
Coming off its third NIT appearance in four seasons, Maryland needed to upgrade its talent level. Instead, the Terrapins appear to have gotten worse. Not only have the Terps not addressed their needs, they have come away with even more holes to fill.
Williams and his staff still are trying to find some players for 2008-09, although the pickings are extremely slim at this stage of the recruiting campaign. Maryland desperately needs lone signee Sean Mosley to earn a qualifying SAT score and can only hope that Jin Soo Kim, originally a 2009 commitment, is successful in reclassifying and enrolling this fall.
"We're still recruiting. We're not finished yet," Williams said. "We're going to be good next year. We're going to play, and we'll be good. We have a lot of guys with experience, and we'll see how it plays out."
The latest word out of College Park was that Maryland also was reconsidering offering a scholarship to Steve Goins, a 6-10 Chicago product. Williams previously had decided to pass on the late bloomer, whose offers at this point have come from the likes of Detroit, Marist and Illinois-Chicago.