All-Atlantic Coast Conference center Derrick Lewis has been cleared to practice basketball after missing almost four weeks while doctors evaluated a blood pressure condition, the University of Maryland announced yesterday.

Lewis is Maryland's only senior and was the leading scorer and rebounder on the 1986-87 squad.

He is the leading returning scorer and rebounder in the ACC and the nation's leading returning shot blocker, with an average of 4.4 blocks a game.

After working out Saturday night and yesterday afternoon, Lewis said he felt a bit rusty.

"I felt a bit weak today," said Lewis, who had only done mostly stationary drills during the time off. "There are some big guys out there. My brother {freshman Cedric} was beating me up. There were some shots I didn't hit. But hopefully by the end of the week I'll be in a lot better shape."

Lewis has had hypertension and recurrent high blood pressure since he arrived as a freshman. Lewis missed some practice time as a freshman, but he has played in every game -- and started the last 103 -- in three seasons. Lewis said there was no "flare-up" of high blood pressure in this instance.

Even so, the university and the doctors involved were cautious about letting him play.

"The doctors are making the call," Athletic Director Lew Perkins said yesterday. "They are making the decision and that's good enough for me."

Said Lewis: "It was frustrating because I felt fine and nothing was wrong, but I was waiting for them to make a decision. It wasn't a flare-up. Everyone thought it was, but we go through the routine every year. It was the same thing as freshman year."

Then why the layoff?

"Just to be cautious," Coach Bob Wade said.

There is some indication that Lewis or his family was asked to sign a waiver, releasing the university of responsibility should something happen related to his blood pressure. Lewis said he didn't know of anything like that, and his father, Robert, declined to comment on the situation.

Asked about a waiver, Perkins said, "I can't answer that question. That's between the young man and his family."

The Terrapins open the season with an exhibition game against the Canadian national team Nov. 18, and begin the regular season with the MCI-Harbor Classic Nov. 27-28 in Baltimore. Wade was glad to have his top returning player back on the court full-time.

"We're very happy and now we can go on with finalizing our plans," Wade said. "He will need a week or 10 days to get in tip-top shape. Mentally, he's ready. It will take a few practices to get physically toned up."

With guard Keith Gatlin and transfer Rodney Walker not practicing because they haven't met Wade's academic requirements, and Greg Nared out with a broken finger, Wade had only 10 players until Lewis returned to practice.

"It's an extra body," Wade said. "But he's first-team all-ACC and him returning to the lineup means a lot."

Lewis appears to be the only Terrapin with a starting spot assured.

"He's the incumbent," Wade said. "It would be pretty difficult to get him out of the lineup."

Maryland Chancellor John B. Slaughter has been involved in monitoring the situation since Lewis was a freshman.

"I have no further concerns," Slaughter said yesterday.

Asked recently whether it was unusual for the top administrator to be so involved, Slaughter said, "I don't really know if there is a model for this type of situation."

Lewis has no restrictions on how much he can play in practice or games.

"Hopefully, this year he won't have to play 40 minutes," said Wade, who had to use Lewis and a few others for most of every game last year.

"We want to work him at power forward or small forward," Wade said. "There's a lot of work to do. They were four critical weeks for playing around with those positions."