ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
"NO MATTER HOW I TRY"
(COACH: LEFTY DRIESELL)
November 20, 1985
A good man is hard enough to find, but for Maryland coach Lefty Driesell a big man is nigh on impossible. This season Driesell has struck out on two continents. He seems to have less chance of coming up with a center for his Terrapins than Howard Cosell does of discovering humility. Lefty has always had excellent forwards, and he thinks senior Len Bias, the '84-85 ACC Player of the Year, is his best ever. But when it comes to the big man, there has been a hex on Driesell ever since the premier big man of the '70s, Moses Malone, skipped out on him for the pros.
Last spring Driesell went to Italy twice to recruit 6'11" Marco Baldi, but lost him to St. John's. Driesell then signed 7'2" Christoph Weisheit, a West German who played high school ball in Effingham, Ill. In the fall, doctors discovered that Weisheit suffers from Marfan's Syndrome, a congenital connective tissue disorder that affects the heart, and is unfit for play. For those keeping track of such things, Weisheit will be Maryland's tallest team manager ever.
In addition to that, 6'7", 195-pound sophomore Derrick Lewis suffers from high blood pressure and wasn't allowed to lift weights to bulk up this summer, so the Terps are moving him from the middle out to forward. Last season Lewis averaged 6.5 rebounds a game and led the ACC in blocked shots with 99, but he tired midway through the schedule from guarding players at least 20 pounds heavier. Now Lewis can concentrate on producing more offense—he took fewer than six shots a game last season. "I was worried about them being blocked," he says. "I wasn't as confident with a center guarding me. I'm more comfortable facing the basket anyway."
Junior Terry Long, a 6'8", 240-pounder, will man the post and get some help from freshman Tony Massenberg (6'8", 215). When Lefty wants a quick team on the floor, Lewis will shift back to the paint, and his corner spot will be filled by senior forward Speedy Jones, who will see at least 20 minutes of action each game coming off the bench.
The only question about the power-forward position is what Bias, the 6'8", 195-pound gamebreaker who grew up in Landover, just down the street from Cole Field House, will do for an encore. Last season he led the conference in scoring (19.0 points per game), and was an iron man, averaging 36.5 minutes. For a time, though, there was doubt that there would even be an encore. Rumors had Bias jumping to the pros, but he claims he never seriously considered leaving Maryland.
"I didn't think I was that good," Bias says. "I wasn't ready. My game wasn't ready. I wanted to stay in school, get it perfected and get my degree." Says Driesell, "Last year Leonard probably would have been one of the top 10 picks in the draft. This year he could be number one. He didn't care whether he was one or one hundred. He wanted to stay in school."
The brightest news of the preseason came when 6'4" guard John Johnson, the '84-85 Tennessee prep player of the year, won the third-guard spot almost immediately. He may be the team's best defensive player, and he isn't shy about taking the ball to the hole. Driesell doesn't like to start freshmen—last season Lewis was the first to do so since '75-76—but with a little experience, Johnson will threaten senior Jeff Baxter's job at second guard.
At point guard, junior Keith Gatlin set a Terp assist record for Maryland last season with 221, many of them coming on alleyoop passes to Bias and Lewis. Both are great leapers, but much to Driesell's frustration, Maryland won't have anybody taller on the receiving end of Gatlin's lobs, at least for another season. Oh well, Lefty. There's always Australia.