Now, it is Keith Gatlin's turn.

Last month, it was Jeff Adkins who went from starter to scrub. Monday, as Maryland was beating second-ranked Duke, 78-76 in overtime, Gatlin played a total of nine minutes -- none of them in the second half. The man who replaced him: Adkins.

Yesterday, Coach Lefty Driesell said he wasn't certain who would start at point guard tonight when the Terrapins (12-4, 2-1 in the ACC) host Clemson at 8. "I'll probably decide who to start about five minutes before the game starts," Driesell said. "I just think Keith is a little down on himself right now. I think he got depressed after the Carolina game and it carried over."

Gatlin was clearly down yesterday but he insisted it was not on himself. "I tend to be quiet; I'm a laid-back kind of person," he said softly as he laced on his sneakers. "Coach likes his point guards loud. He wants me to be talking and calling things out and that just isn't my personality. I think I get the job done my way.

"I wasn't that down after the Carolina game. I was upset that we lost because we should have won. But I wasn't depressed or anything. Just because I'm quiet doesn't mean I'm depressed. I can't change my personality to prove to someone I'm not depressed.

"Monday, I was tentative a little in the first half, but I certainly didn't expect to only play nine minutes. It's kind of hard to get into a game when you only play nine minutes. Sitting on the bench was a new experience for me in the second half. It hurt me. But if Coach wants me to come off the bench, that's what I'll do.

"The assistant coaches have been asking me if I need to talk or something. I told them, 'I don't have a problem.' I know I can play. I think I've proven I can play. I don't think I'm having a confidence problem at all."

Asked if he thought Driesell was having a confidence problem in terms of his play, Gatlin smiled and said, "No comment."

Gatlin has averaged 9.0 points and 6.1 assists a game. He is the player most capable of making the Terrapins a good transition team. At 6 feet 5, he has excellent vision and is a wonderful open-floor player when he is clicking.

Last year, as a freshman, he was a catalyst in Maryland's run to the ACC Tournament championship. Lately, he has had some turnover problems and when he started badly against Duke, Driesell yanked him for Adkins.

Adkins, who admits he is "not a confident player a lot of the time," immediately made a steal and hit a long jumper. By halftime, he had 11 points. Driesell started him in the second half and never so much as cast a glance in Gatlin's direction.

The irony here is the role reversal for Gatlin and Adkins. Both were starters when the season began but Adkins was benched after a bad start. A senior who had started for three seasons, he suddenly found himself playing two and three minutes a night.

"I went three straight games where my shooting stats were 0-1, 0-1, 0-1," he said. "It was hard for me. But I was determined that my senior year was going to be fun no matter what. If I couldn't help by playing, I would help other ways. I made so many suggestions in practice I thought I was the first undergraduate assistant in history."

It is Driesell's history to go with the hot hand. That thinking can work two ways. It can help a team because the second-stringers know they have a chance to play if a starter slumps. But it can also work the other way if a starter is slumping because he tends to press, knowing Driesell may yank him at any minute.

"I play whoever is playing the best," Driesell said yesterday. "Right now, Jeff is playing well."

In Hawaii three weeks ago, Driesell called Adkins "our fourth guard." Adkins, delighted with his seven-for-11, 16-point night against Duke, can feel his desire coming back as his college career winds down.

"It didn't bother me to not start and I get mad at myself for that," Adkins said. "I know basketball isn't going to be my career (he wants to go to law school next fall), but I know if I don't go all out these last few weeks I'll regret it years from now. Even now, when I look back, you know, driving down the road or something, I'll think of a game or a play and I'll say, 'Oh, God, why did you do that, Jeff?'

"Right now, I just want to have the feeling I had Monday as many times as I can before I'm through. If you think about it, you have maybe three moments a year, if you're lucky, like that. You win a big game, have a big night, the crowd is going crazy and it feels so sweet you can't even describe it. But that's what basketball comes down to. All the work, all the crazy practices, all the hours, for three moments a year. But that's what you remember; that's what you think about when you're through."

Adkins has been through enough in four years to empathize with Gatlin. He wants a starting shot but understands Gatlin's frustration. "My sophomore year seems like so long ago now but I can remember thinking then if I ever got benched it would kill me," Adkins said.

"Keith is going to be all right. He's going to play and he's going to do the things he does so well. But I know it has to be tough for him right now."

Gatlin agreed. "If I don't start, it will hurt me," he said. "I know what I've done and what I can do. I'm trying not to get down, but it isn't easy."

Did he expect to talk to Driesell? "That's up to him," Gatlin said. "Sometimes, it's not easy to talk to him. He has his way, I have mine. But I don't think I can change now. I've been this way all my life."


At the request of Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Bob James, Driesell has sent a letter to all conference coaches reminding them of an unwritten agreement among the eight coaches that they will not criticize officials in public.

James called Driesell, who is chairman of the league coaches this season, after N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano blew up at the officials following State's loss to Maryland here. In addition to lengthy postgame criticism, Valvano showed replays of three crucial calls on his TV show.

Freshman guard Wally Lancaster, who has been out 10 days with a sprained ankle, dressed for practice yesterday.