Thirty minutes into yesterday's practice, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell was bellowing, "Don't y'all want to play?"
The young Terrapins (5-2), looking confused and fatigued at times, might very well answer "not yet" to the prospect of meeting fourth-ranked N.C. State at 9 o'clock tonight at Maryland, starting the Atlantic Coast Conference season earlier than usual.
"I think they're a little tired. I wasn't going to practice today and maybe we shouldn't have," Driesell said. "I know they know the plays. I think they just weren't concentrating. We had a real hard practice yesterday.
"Are they ready? How the heck do I know? I'll find out tomorrow."
It will be a night of reckoning for freshman point guard Dutch Morley, who will start and share time with fellow first-year man Reggie Jackson. They are saddled with the chore of matching up against Clyde (the Glide) Austin, the Wolfpack's leading scorer at 17.9.
Besides having a lehtal jump shot, Austin is a crafty assist man, second only to Duke's Jim Spanarkel among ACC guards.
Morley and Jackson also must lead the Terps through the Wolfpack's back-court press and keep order when State shuffles players and defenses-mostly a 2-3 zone this year, along with the old 1-3-1 and some man to man.
Maryland's other highly regarded freshman, power forward Buck Williams, will be tested by Hawkeye Whitney. Down from 240 pounds to 215, the De Matha graduate says he has left behind the frustrations of last year's 46 percent shooting performance.
"I come to play now." said Whitney, who is shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Driesell hopes Williams will do the same. He hopes yesterday's workout is not an indicator of how things will go. "What's the matter?" he asked Williams at one point. "Are you sick, Buck? Buck, this is the biggest game of your life."
Al King practices without a band-age on his left knee and will be back in the starting lineup, matching up with State's Tiny Pinder. King pumped some life into his teammates with several dunks yesterday.
Ernest Graham will start a shooting guard, draing State's Tony Warren, and Larry Gibson will go at center against 6-foot-11 Craig Watts and reserve Glenn Sudhop, who is 7-2.
The last time the two clubs met was in last season's ACC tournament, when King almost singlehandedly brought Maryland a 109-108 victory in three overtimes.
King seems to be at full speed since spraining his knee at Las Vegas Dec. 4.
Both clubs are somewhat untested. Maryland lost to the only good terms it has played: Georgetown and Las Vegas. State is 7-1, but its only meaningful victory was 72-66 over Louisville, a team similar in age and style to Maryland. It is worth noting, however, that N.C. State moved up in the national polls after losing to top-ranked Duke, 65-63.
That loss to Duke, in the Big Four tournament, does not count in State's ACC record.
While State will test Maryland's ball-handling and poise tonight, the Terps will challenge the Wolfpack s rebounding and zone defenses. Driesell hopes to force State to take outside shots, even though all the first 10 players, with the exception of the centers, can shoot jump shots.
If Maryland gets ahead, Driesell may spread the court to draw State out of its zone, giving his one-on-one players a chance to convert their moves into points.
"We would do that against anybody's zone," Driesell said. "I don't like anybody dictating to me what to play. Some teams can't play with us man for man."
Driesell said he was unsure how much substituting he would do. State plays its first 10 players almost equally.
State Coach Norm Sloan considers this an important first step in his bid to sneak up on Duke in the ACC. The Terps, because of their youth, may have to be content to hone themselves for the ACC tournament rather than pay too much attention to the won-lost record.
There has been talk that Driesell must win 18 games this season to keep his job, following last year's 15-13 season earmarked by controversy.
"I won't even honor that with a comment," Driesell said.
Maryland does not play again in the ACC until Jan. 6, here against Wake Forest.