Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell yesterday reinstated 6-foot-4 sophomore James (Turk) Tillman to his team. Tillman practiced with the Terrapins and will dress for tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference game against Virginia (WMAL)TV-7, 8 p.m.) at Cole Field House.
Driesell suspended Tillman four games ago, after the forward-guard refused to enter the game in the final minutes of a 62-54 win over Navy. Driesell said at the time that Tillman's suspension covered the remainder of the season and that he expected the former Eastern High all-America to transfer at the end of the semester.
"I reinstated him simply because he came to see me and he said he had learned his lesson," Driesell said yesterday following practice. "I thought he deserved a second chance."
At the time of the suspension, Tillman was playing little and the Terps had the most depth in the Atlantic Coast Conference at the small forward and big guard positions. Driesell denied that injuries to Billy Bryant and Steve Sheppard had anything to do with his decision and that he had acquiesced to the pressures of winning games.
"I'm really not concerned about that, okay?" Driesell said. "I discussed it with the staff; it's my decision; I don't care what people have to say."
Tillman, who had twice earlier refused to play when ordered into a game by Driesell, said he had reached an understanding with Driesell after an assistant coach, Howard White, had visited he and his mother Sunday. The understanding was reached yesterday afternoon, Tillman said. He and his mother had talked with White and Driesell on Monday.
"It was what I wanted to do instead of sitting out a year and playing ball elsewhere," Tillman said. "I decided what I wanted to do."
Nevertheless, Tillman said he has left open an option to transfer after this season. And he said that he did not think what he did, leading to his suspension, was wrong."I didn't feel like I did the wrong thing; but I didn't think it would be like this, leading to a suspension, after the first two times."
Sources close to Driesell said that Tillman could have been back on the team within two to three days of his suspension had Tillman swallowed his pride. After the Navy game and the injuries, Maryland lost three of its next four games.
Sunday morning Whiote happened to be driving through southeast Washington on the way to an indoor tennis court, so he stopped and spoke with Tillman and his mother. White said he came to talk academics and Tillman's possible transfer since he had recruited Tillman and felt "a slight obligation" toward him.
One thing led to another and they discussed basketball. White explained that he had played for and worked under Driesell, so he knew the lefthander well.
He told Tillman the move was up to him. And yesterday Tillman asked for the second chance.
Tillman's reinstatement took most of his teammates by surprise.
Meanwhile, Driesell said that he would start his big lineup of 6-10 Larry Gibson, 6-10 Mike Davis and 6-8 Lawrence Boston against Virginia and that Bryant would be available for limited duty at small forward. Bryant, who will be the starting small forward when he recovers from a broken left hadn, was fitted with a soft plastic brace that restricts the movement of his wrist.
Driesell also said he was closing his lockerroom to reporters on the day before a game.