Members of the Maryland basketball team give a number of reasons for choosing the school. But all offer one reason in common: "I wanted to play in the big time."
Maryland is the big time. With an annual basketball budget of more than $300,000, with all but five of its games this season on television, with membership in the presigious Atlantic Coast Conference and an annual athletic budget of more than $3 million, Maryland can spend money -- and make it -- with almost anyone.
How wealthy is Maryland? This season, prior to almost every game, each membr of the team was presented with a T-shirt saying "Beat . . ." the blank filed in with the opponent's name. Few programs can spend several thousand dollar on superfluous items like lettered T-shirts.
The 24-6 Terrapin team that will take the court in Philadelphia to face Georgetown in the Eastern Region semifinals Friday is the product of hard work and hard cash.
But the Terrapins can afford to spend money. The reason: the basketball team makes money. Athletic Director Carl James says the basketball program finishes in the black every year. In fact, according to James, if the basketball team makes the NCAA final four this year, it will net more money than the football team. Between them, football and basketball pay for Maryland's other 21 varsity sports for men and women.
The basketball budget includes salaries for the coaches -- Driesell gets $45,000 -- travel expenses, equipment, scholarships (paid for by the Terrapin Club) and recruiting. Driesell's staff includes two full-time assistant coaches, a part-time assistant, a trainer and two secretaries.
But the key expense is recruiting. The Terps will spend about $65,000 this year on recruiting. Although this year's team is made up strictly of Easterners, Maryland recruits nationally. One of players it is waging a major effort to land this year is Charles Pittman, a 6-foot-8 junior college player from California.
Even though Driesell does not recruit with the same personal intensity of years past, the Terps start out each summer with a list of almost 200 prospects.
Driesell and his assistants -- Tom Abatemarco, John Kochan and Sherman Dillard -- travel extensively during and after the season. A player like 6-6 James Banks of Atlanta may be seen a dozen times by Maryland coaches before he decides on a college.
Dresell's recruiting philosophy has changed in recent years. Burned by Moses Malone's last-minute decision to skip college and by several other players who didn't even feign an interest in school -- one returned from the ACC tournament his senior year, packed his bags and left -- Driesell has returned to trying to recruit players who can graduate.
That doesn't mean Driesell would have turned down Ralph Sampson if he had wanted to come to Maryland for two years or that Springarn's Earl Jones will be turned down should he become available.
But the Terps are intent on recruiting players who will stay at Maryland for four years. There was a period of several years in which Driesell concentrated heavily on recruiting locally. He signed players like Billy Bryant, Jo Jo Hunter, James Tillman and Brian Magid. None Stayed at College Park.
"I realized after a while that if you want to have a team in the top 10 you can't just recruit locally," said Driesell. "For a while I tried to recruit just 10 or 12 guys a year and hope we'd get two or three. But that's not enough. You have to recruit maybe 50. You have to make sure those two or three you get can play."
Maryland can get virtually any basketball player it wants into school -- as long as he has the NCAA-minimum 2.0 average. But most of the players on the current team are, at least, decent students and several are better than decent.
"It doesn't do any good to get a kid into school if he can't do the work," said Abatemarco, who, as an assistant at Iona, played a major role in recruiting Jeff Ruland. "If the kid is doing poorly academically, he's going to be unhappy and won't play well. What's more, he'll probably drop out eventually and then you've got a black mark on your program. We're still fighting the memories of the Hunter-Bryant-Tillman days. People still bring it up when they're recruiting against us."
Conversely, Maryland's recuriters like to talk to players about the future, about playing the ACC and what that means: national exposure, outstanding competition, huge amounts of press coverage (Maryland is the only local school that can afford a weekly press luncheon) and lots and lots of television. So many good players want to play in the ACC that frequently the Terp's only serious competition for a player is another ACC school.Banks, for example, is almost certain to attend Maryland or North Carolina. Woodson's Pete Holbert, who chose Maryland, would have gone to N.C. Sstate if he had not opted for College Park.
Put the ACC is not just a selling point for the coaches in recruiting. It is also a selling point for Tom Fields, Terrapin Club director, when he is out raising money.
"The ACC tournament is the major thing I have to offer people," Fields said. "They know that contributions can help get them into the tournament."
Playing mediocre nonconference opponents, the Terps don't even come close to selling out 14,500-seat Cole Field House. James wants to beef up future nonconference schedules in order to fill more seats. Driesell would prefer to continue playing puff opponents to help ensure 20 wins. "With the league games we play, we don't need many more tough games," he said. "Our schedule's brutal as it is."
Playing that kind of schedule for 11 years, Driesell has won 223 games. He has recruited players like Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Steve Sheppard and Albert King. He has done that by selling himself, the ACC and Maryland's location adjoining the nation's capital.
Still, this isn't Kentucky. For the Terps to be popular, they have to play good teams and they have to beat them with some consistency.
But, as Driesell puts it, sweeping an arm around his large, award-studded office, "We ain't done bad here."