Steve Sheppard stepped gingerly onto the Cole Field House floor yesterday. Soon Brian Magid joined in a one-on-one game against his Maryland basketball teammate.
He made his first two shots. With a twinkle in his eye and no pain in his injured left achilles tendon, Sheppard turned to magid and said. "They say the great players never lose their toush."
Maryland's Bear is out of an eight-game hibernation. He went easy yesterday afternoon after coach Lefty Driesell called off formal practice to give his team an extra day's rest for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament starting Thursday at Greensboro, N.C.
Seeing what Sheppard, the team's leading scorer and best and quickest defensive forward, could do probably would have bhad Driesell jumping for joy had the coach not been hobbling on two bad legs Himselg. But Driesell said, "He's looking pretty good for the first time out."
Today's practice will be the big one for Sheppard. Trainer Jim Weir said the left achilles tendon, was not as stiff as it had been before the alst game Sheppard played Jan. 29. Following that 86-76 loss to George Washington, Dr. Stan Lavaine, the team physician, put thr leg in a cast. Yesterday Sheppard wore a specially built-up sneaker for the first time.
"Tomorrow will tell." Weir said as he watched Sheppard later play in a 45-minute three-on-three game. "It depends on how he feels, if it stiffens up on him overnight or not. It's like a knee injury - you don't know for sure until the next day."
"I expect to play," Sheppard said. "I'll have to see how it feels. Right now it feels weak," Sheppard said. "Iy doesn't hurt; it just feels weak. I have a month. I was a little afraid to jump on it today. I don't want to start too hard on it and hurt it again."
While Sheooard moved naturally. fluidly and without much a limp on offense, he was obviously tentative in his defensive movements.
"That," he said, "is because on defense you have to dig in. On offense you know what you're going to do. On defense, you don't know what the other guy will do."
Driesell left open the possibility hw will start Sheppard, the team's only will start. Sheppard, the team's only senior, in Thursday's 8 p.m, first-round game against NOrth Carolina State. Driesell said yesterday he wqill be looking for how Sheppard moves and how he handles the ball before making any decisions.
At on point in his workout yesterday, Sheppard's rust showed so much that he stopped and told a teammate, "My footwork is really messed up."
Maryland won six of its last eight games following Sheppard's departure to finish with a 7-5 ACC and 19-7 over all record. Even though Maryland has beaten State twice this season it it a defferent matchup without Sheppard in the lineup.
That was apparent in Sheppard's next-to-last appearance, in Raleigj Jan. 27, Sheppard. limping and obviously in pin. wanted to sit out the game and rest the leg. But State's obverwhelmimg quickness against maryland's big front line of 6-foot-10 Mike Davis, 6-9 larry Gibson a 19-2 lead.
In a gusty performance, Shjeppard came off the bench and climbed an 18-point, nine-rebound , zero-turnover performance by sinking the winning basket with three seconds tp play in the 75-73 win.
Without Sheppard - and how much stamina he will have for the grind of a three' day tournament is unknown - Maryland has serious defensive liabilities. In addition, Maryland defensive scheme puts little pressure on the first pass to the wings; instead, the big men sag black and challenge the opponent into a power game.
IN both Maryland losses, the small forward position was exploited. North Carolina's Walter Davis had had 25 points and 12 rebounds; Virginia's Mike Newlen and Mike Owens, splitting the position, combined for 23 points and nine rebounds. larry Harris kept a bad Pittsburg team close with 38 points in a 88-75 loss.
Brian Walker, NOrth Carolina State's starting basketball guard, has a sprained right knee and is "very doubtful " for Thursday's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opener against Maryland, coach Norm Sloan said today.
Wlaker, a freshman and State's best defensive goard, suffered the injury in Saturday night's 91-85 victory over Wake Forest. Sloan said he would not decide who to start in Walker's place until Thursday. Al Green, a starter last season, has been first guard off the bench.