Dutch Morley was trying to hide, to pretend that he didn't hear the 13,221 people screaming for him to be put back into the opening game of the MIT against Marshall. Sitting on the Maryland bench, the junior guard looked at his sneaker tops so his eyes wouldn't have to meet those of the Terrapin assistant coaches who were whispering to Lefty Driesell, telling him that Morley had 12 assists, tying the school record.
This was the kid's big moment, they told Driesell; this is your chance to pay Morley back for all the thankless charges he has taken in practice, all the times he has tried to inspire his more talented teammates by diving on the hardwood floor.
Driesell fidgeted, his ears going up and down like they were on a puppeteer's string. It was against his nature to put a starter back in with a 30-point lead. What if he got hurt? What if the other coach took it as an insult? But then, how much did he owe Morley for three years of good citzenship?
Just four years ago, when Driesell recruited Morley -- then a guard for undefeated De Matha, ranked No. 1 in the nation -- the Maryland coach had an overtalented, grumpy 15-13 team. Driesell knew what he needed: fewer head cases and more Dutch Morleys.
For three years, Morley has put the team first. In his first 69 games at Maryland, Morley started less than a third, willingly staying on the bench during the introductions so that Reggie Jackson could have the pleasure of being the starter.
However, time and again, when the game was on the line, Morley was handling the ball, making crucial free throws, the epitome of poise. When the Terps were behind at halftime, Morley would start the second half. When the Terp offense stagnated, Driesell would yell, "Dutch, get in there and get the ball to the big guys."
Morley, the Terp with the career scoring average of 2.7 points, would strip off his warmup jacket and get the job done. He didn't always play the most minutes, but he played the quality minutes. As a reward, Morley got to hear himself referred to by basketball cognoscenti as "Maryland's weak link." If only Maryland had a fast point guard who could shoot, they'd have a shot at the national title, said the wise guys.
Morley has never lacked free advice. Leading a top 10 team in assists and steals, while playing only 18 minutes a game, never seems to be quite enough. "I wish he'd shoot more," says Driesell, aware that despite a decent touch, the modest Morley has taken so few shots that he has averaged less than one basket per game in his Terp career.
"Dutch has a great head and temperament. He's a natural leader, says Morley's De Matha coach, Morgan Wootten. "I remember the Capital Classic (in '78) when the other nine guys on the court all had more talent than Dutch, but he was the one who took the charge, made the free throws and won the game in the last seconds. He's just a winner.
"However," says Wootten, "I sure whish he'd shoot more."
With this as background, Morley's teammates weren't about to let that assist record escape him. With 3:39 to play in Maryland's game against Marshall, Jackson obligingly fouled out. "We were all yelling, 'Way to foul, Reggie, way to foul out,' laughed senior Greg Manning.
"I'd rather not have gone in," said Morley. "It made all the other guys try too hard. Sure, it was funny, but it wasn't helping them. I hated to see them worrying about me."
In turn, he hit all four of his mates with potential assist passes. They all missed. The crowd roared every time Morley touched the ball and groaned every time his substitute mates missed. And after every flub, Morley seemed pained. Not because he was missing a record, but because he was having absolutely the opposite effect on a game then the one he has taken 10 years to polish. Instead of making all his teammates look better, he was inadvertently making them look worse.
Finally, with 10 seconds left to play, Morley put on a one-man solo press against three players. Diving on the floor, he stole the inbounds pass. After dribbling between his legs while on one knee like a Globetrotter, Morley bounced one last pass to another Terp for a layup. However, the poor fellow, in the flurry, forgot himself, dribbled once (killing any assist), then missed a layup as he was poked in the eye for a foul. The sinful sub careened toward the Maryland bench looking for sympathy, winding up in front of Driesell. Little good it did him. As the player rubbed his wounded eye, Driesell demanded, "Why didn't you shoot it?"
It is doubtful that Morley will ever again get such sustained attention and empathy as he did that night. Yet, the next night, in the MIT championship game, Morley had a better game. Naturally, it went unnoticed. He had 10 points, six assists, four steals, held his man scoreless for 34 minutes and ended up second in the balloting for tournament MVP.
Morley will never complain about his Terrapin lot. "I remember the day Lefty offered Dutch his scholarship," says Patti Flynn, Morley's cousin and a basketball player at Maryland five years ahead of Morley. "After he came out of the coach's office, we walked around and around the rim of Cole Field House. I was excited, sort of punching him on the arm, trying to get a reaction out of him, 'cause it's always like pulling teeth trying to get him to say anything, even for the family. I knew it was a dream come true for him."
Finally, Morley gave in to his cousin's enthusiasm.
"I just can't believe this is happening," he said. "I'm going to get to play in the big time."
In his own distinctive way, Morley has graced that big time, even if he does only score one basket a game.