"This isn't a realistic profession," said the winning coach, Terry Holland. Across the hall, the losing coach, Lefty Driesell, was equal parts wonderment and disgust with players who in five days had beaten the top-ranked team in the country and lost to the alumni of Louisville's Ballard High School.

Virginia, which has three Ballard grads, is as close to a one-man team at the moment as major-college basketball will offer. That player, the gifted and untiring Jeff Lamp, went two for 13 in the second half Wednesday night and the Terrapins still lost at home by six points.

What are the cosmic conclusions? Their frustrated and sometimes angry fans to the contrary, the young Terrapins are almost exactly where they should be, 14-6 overall and 3-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a team with great players but not yet a great team -- and with a coach with a history of not being able to lift a team beyond its natural level.

Before the season, most of us hoop junkies (what else would you cll someone who actually once looked forward to watching eight games in one day?) Figured Maryland for 15 to 18 victories and about a.500 record in the ACC.

Larry Gibson is inconsistent at center, Ernest Graham, like the B52, is going to miss as often as he hits from long range, and Reggie Jackson and Albert King are playing out of position. And Maryland might as well walk over and tell the opposition what out-of-bounds play it will run near the end of tight games.

Except everyone already knows the ball will go to Greg Manning.

Maryland could use a Bobby Stokes, the little Cavalier pest who assumes every loose ball is his and causes steals that are credited to others. It already has one in Dutch Morley, but he played only 11 minutes Wednesday.

At times Maryland shows the same one-on-one disease Driesell was supposed to have stamped out in the past two recruiting classes, too many players who belong in the same position, and either few plays or few plays that get run properly.

But the one season-long joy -- except at the free-throw lone -- has been freshman forward Buck Williams. If there still is such a thing as a steal in big-time recruiting, this season's heist is Williams.

At 6-foot-8, Williams remains rather anonymous. He is neither quotable nor flashy, but he works as hard as anyone and shows no fear. And he leads his closest rebounding rival in the ACC by 42.

Saturday at Duke, the four statistically best rebounders in the ACC collide. Williams is the least known. The latest league stats reveal Williams averaging 10.3 rebounds, Mike Gminski 9.1, Gene Banks 8.9 and Gibson 8.5.

Williams is from Phil Ford country, Rocky Mount, N.C., via the rugged Sonny Hill summer league in Hiladelphia, where timid souls soon become spectators.

Driesell won Williams from the spirited lastminute rush of North Carolina Coach Dean Smith because he worked harder and longer. Driesell was always available "when I had troubles -- and I had a whole bunch of them," Williams said.

"A lot of players I went against lost their heads. I've seen too many good players still on the play-ground."

Better than you?

"Maybe."

No special scholar in high school -- whispers within the ACC being that Carolina hurt itself by suggesting he attend prep school -- Williams got a B average his first semester at Maryland.

The two numbers that usually show how hard a player has worked each game are free throws attempted and rebounds. And rebounding can be the most annoying chore on the floor, as Williams learned once again against Virginia.

"The problem is that you get in great position during each shot," he said, "and then have the ball bounce on the other side of the basket. That happened the first half (he had only three rebounds).

"The second half, the ball just bounced my way (and he got 11 rebounds and made all four of his field-goal tries). Was I comfortable getting the ball that often? Yes. But here we have so many offensive players I don't have to score that much."

Williams also is working hard trying to improve his dismal percentage from the free-throw line. A three-for-five performance against Virginia lifted him to 42 percent this season.

Some interviewers after the game suggested Williams should try to tell some of his teammates, among them Graham, about how to play at full throttle every second and stry within the team concept. There is a simpler way: all they have to do is watch him.