With his team trailing by nine points in the second half, Mississippi guard Ronnie Miller figured it was time to press Maryland's Rudy Archer. Unnerving the other team's point guard, or better yet, stealing the ball and scoring, could ignite his team. So he moved in close as soon as Archer caught the ball in the back court. A few moments later, he regretted it.

The left-handed Archer gave Miller a quick head-and-shoulder fake to get a little room and raced into the front court, dribbling with his right hand. Miller was still with him as he reached the right of the foul circle, but not after Archer spun. Free of Miller and going to his left, Archer fired a pass down the lane to Derrick Lewis under the basket for a dunk.

The basket was almost an afterthought. The pass was the play, and the 6,538 fans in the Baltimore Arena yelled loud and long for one of their own. There were chants of "Roo-dee, Roo-dee, Roo-dee."

"It was exciting to go back home and play in front of people who had seen you play all your life," said Archer, who went to Southwestern High School in Baltimore.

"Passing is the strongest part of my game. It makes me feel so good to come down in a situation where you have the advantage and dish off to a teammate for a basket. Scoring is a big part of the game, but you have to know how to score and when to score. You have to know when to take the shot and when not to take the shot."

Maryland, which is 2-0 going into tonight's game against Winthrop (2-0) at 8 at Cole Field House, beat Loyola and Mississippi in the MCI-Harbor Classic over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Archer played differently in each game. In the first, he led Maryland with 21 points, displaying a fadeaway jumper in traffic. In the title game against Ole Miss, he had just four points but had more assists and less turnovers.

"You have to be able to switch your game," Archer said. "You need to be able to help in more ways than one."

If Archer's high school grades had been better, he would have playing in the Washington area two years ago. "I signed a letter of intent to George Mason, but I had to sit out because of academics," Archer said. "Joe Harrington, who was the coach then, told me I might want to think about junior college. I went to Allegany Community College {in Cumberland, Md.} liked what I saw and took advantage of the situation. I got a degree, had two good seasons and now I'm at Maryland."

Archer chose Maryland over Ohio State, Clemson, Wake Forest and Nevada-Las Vegas. He might have become a Runnin' Rebel had his parents, Henrietta and Rudy Sr., not objected to the youngest of their six children going so far from home.

"It's the glamorous life and I got caught up in it and wanted to go there," Archer said. "But I got back and my parents thought it wasn't the right decision. It's too far away."

So Archer went down I-95 to College Park, where Baltimore area basketball players had been almost non-existent since Ernie Graham came from Dunbar in 1977. Coach Bob Wade, formerly the coach at Baltimore power Dunbar, is hoping Archer is just the first of many.

"I haven't really expected much, just what I saw of him in high school," Archer said of any difference between Wade as recruiter and Wade as coach. "He has treated me the same and acted the same. He's never told me a lie and if he's promised anything, he's lived up to his word."