John Bilney, Maryland's only senior basketball player, said yesterday that he does not understand why Coach Lefty Driesell has not used him in the Terrapins' last two games.
"I think," Bilney offered, "I should have played againnst Penn State and Georgetown. I could have helped."
Bilney played in all 30 games last season, used primarily for his defense and his rebounding. Before the season Driesell publicly rapped Bilney, saying, "He could help us if he'd learn to shoot a layup or make a foul shot." s
When starting center Buck Williams broke a finger before last week's season opener against Maryland-Eastern Shore, the 6-foot-9 Bilney expected to see a lot of playing time. He played 10 minutes against UMES and has not played since.
"I thought when Buck got hurt that I would at least be splitting time at center with Taylor (Baldwin)," Bilney said. "But Coach has just been going with Taylor and David (Henderson) and not even playing me at forward at all.
"I just don't understand it," he continued. "It's very frustrating.
"They (the coaches) tell me I'm not working hard enough in practice. I think I am working hard. I'm trying the best I can. I think I can help the team if they give me a chance."
Bilney said he was particularly surprised that he did not play in Wednesday's 83-71 loss to Georgetown, a game in which Maryland was outrebounded, 39-25.
"The last two years I've played against Georgetown and done pretty well," Bilney said. "I've played against Craig Shelton summers ever since I got here and I've always done a pretty good job on him.
"Coach knows that. He knows I'm not afraid of a guy like Shelton, that I'll go in and play him tough. But he didn't use me. It was very hard to just sit on the bench, the only senior, and watch the big local game of the season without playing at all; feeling like I could help, feeling like I could do as well as the guys who were in there." i
Driesell said he never considered using Bilney in the Georgetown game in spite of his team's problems inside.
"He's just not playing well in practice," the coach said. "He has to get his confidence offensively. When he does that, he'll start playing and, I hope, helping us." $ bilney said he has not yet discussed the situation with Driesell but will do so soon if things do not change.
"Right now I don't want to go in there because I know what he'll say, that I'm not working hard enough. We just don't agree on that," Bilney went on.
"But if something doesn't happen soon then I'm going to have to talk to him. I want to play in Europe next year and I'm sure not going to get better sitting on the bench.
"Basketball is very important to me. I've been playing it a very long time now and I don't want it to end after this year. I want to play."
Bilney was highly recruited as a senior at Woodcliff Lake, N.J., choosing Maryland over Kentucky, Indiana and Duke. He was a member of the freshman class that included Jo Jo Hunter, Billy Bryant, Mark Crawford and Henderson -- now a junior after a red-shirt year. The first three have since left Maryland.
Bilney played in 19 games as a freshman and was a starter at the beginning of his sophomore season. He has never scored in double figures but has been considered a good defensive player and rebounder.
As a sophomore, Bilney was embroiled in controversy when he was one of four players mentioned in newspaper reports as being placed on academic probation at Maryland.
"I haven't exactly had great publicity since I got here," Bilney said yesterday with a wry smile."That's why I've tried to avoid the limelight. It seems like every time I say anything or do anything it means trouble.
"A lot of people have judged me on the grade thing, which I don't think is too fair. That piece of paper (his diploma) is important to me now.
"As a freshman and a sophomore you still dream about having an extended pro career. Now I know it has to end sometime, maybe soon, and I want to have that degree to fall back on."
As the team's only senior, Bilney had hoped to be named team captain but Driesell has opted for game captains, a matter the two discussed when Driesell made the decision.
Asked to categorize his relationship with Driesell, Bilney sad, "It's been hectic. But I respect him."
Now, however, with Brown coming into Cole Field House tomorrow night, Bilney hopes Driesell will heed the cries of the Maryland students who Wednesday began chanting, "Bilney, Bilney," in the second half.
"I wish he would listen to them," Bilney said. "Hearing them, and having people come up and say they think I should be playing, is about the only thing keeping my sanity right now. At least I'm not the only one who thinks I should be in there."