Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell looked down his bench Monday night and waved Jeff Adkins to take over the point guard position, four minutes into the game against Maryland-Eastern Shore. The Terrapins had been shooting, passing and playing defense poorly.
The 6-foot-5 freshman took the ensuing inbounds pass, dribbled to the foul line and made a 15-foot shot. Seconds later, Terrapin center Charles Pittman stole an errant pass, and moved the ball to Adkins, who made an 18-footer from the base line. After a Hawk basket, Adkins drove the ball the length of the floor, losing the final defender with a hanging, five-foot jumper.
That tied the game, 14-14, and Maryland went on to win, 76-64. The faithful at Cole Field House had found a new hero.
Adkins, the freshman from Martinsville, Va., who looked so unimpressive in high school all-star games last spring, has shown he can play. Driesell said yesterday it is "very likely" Adkins will start tonight against Towson State.
Adkins has been consistent most of the early season, spectacular several times and doesn't make obvious mistakes. Best of all, he drives to the basket -- on anybody. Maryland hasn't had a guard who could do that since Brad Davis, now with the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association.
"When Coach (Driesell) recruited me, he told me he needed my help right away," Adkins said. "I came here because Coach needed scoring in the back court. I don't think he expected me to produce this much, this early, though."
Hardly anybody did. Adkins is third on the team in scoring (11.6 points per game) and is tied for second in assists. Although he hasn't started, he has more minutes than any other Terrapin guard.
The misconception about Adkins' game -- that he didn't have one -- started last March when he looked mediocre in the Capital Classic, the showcase game for the nation's best high school players.
"I didn't play well in that Capital Classic," Adkins admitted yesterday. "But all-star games are for flashy players, and I'm not the flashiest player you've ever seen. That Capital Classic game was the best thing that ever happened to me.
"More than anything, I had to come back here and show people I could play. I worked hard during the summer on my ball handling. And I think my defense improved from having to play against so many good one-on-one players in the Urban Coalition League.
"When I was younger, I could shoot, but I could never drive. So I worked on it. If you can drive, that makes the defense honor your jump shot."
Adkins says his adjustment to classes and university life is just as hard as his adjustment to college basketball. "I keep worrying about final exams next week," he said. "In a basketball game, you're moving; you don't get nervous. But during an (exam) you've got to think so much, I'll probably be scared."
Adkins is a country boy. He is still in awe of Washington, the big city, although he worked in the District last summer as a law clerk. "I was big time," Adkins said, laughing, as he frequently does. "I wore a tie and everything."
Driesell is fortunate in having Adkins playing for, and not against, Maryland. North Carolina -- only 90 minutes from his home -- recruited Adkins heavily. He had idolized Bobby Jones and Phil Ford when they were Tar Heels. But Adkins also is realistic.
"Carolina has too many good players," Adkins said. "I wanted to go to school where I could play immediately. Plus, Carolina tried to big-time me. Their approach was, 'You have to come to Carolina. It's the best place in the world.' I didn't feel comfortable with that."