Flying turtles have been sighted again at Maryland. Once fairly common during the early 1970s, the breed has returned with enough flair to coax a crowd of 12,575 into Cole Field House on a night when even the mildly hardy stayed home.

Evidently, the area is intrigued by this young collection of aggressive players still being mixed and matched by Bob Wade. Who can resist the lure of heralded athletes reacting to ever-increasing pressure? Not to mention a coach also grappling with new tests, such as how to deal with being famous.

As unusual as fast breaks and full-court presses lately at Maryland is what helps cause them. The center of attention for these swift Terrapins is a rarity absent for close to 15 years -- a center.

That's center as in a giant for whom shot-blocking, rebounding and close-to-the-hoop offensive skills have been developed over years instead of months. Lefty Driesell had been searching for such a force since Lenny Elmore graduated; first time out of the box as a college recruiter, Wade got one.

Brian Williams is the Elmore-like player around whom Wade and higher officials hope to build Maryland's return to glory. Others received more attention after the Terrapins' nice work against South Carolina Monday; freshman Williams got a hug from the chancellor, John B. Slaughter.

Almost halfway through his second season as coach, Wade still is welcoming players he would have liked to have had on hand before his first. Tony Massenburg apparently is going to be an impressive addition to the front court; Keith Gatlin might be the same in the back court, if his first-semester grades meet Wade's approval.

"We can wear teams down, like they did to us last year," guard Teyon McCoy said after the 82-77 victory. Having been part of a starting five that almost never left the court a season ago, McCoy appreciates that change.

"Last year," he recalled, "North Carolina and Duke would take their starters out with maybe eight minutes left in the first half and bring them back about three minutes later.

"That meant they could come back in fresh, while we'd still been out there playing. This year, we have all-around depth."

The Terrapins also have enough tall and small players to throw a very effective all-court press at many opponents. With Williams available to swat away shots down the floor, teammates can gamble for steals.

South Carolina Coach George Felton's second most frustrating memory was "too many transition baskets." His first was Maryland shooting three times as many free throws (39-13).

To Wade, this is an encouraging sign of spunk from Williams and redshirt sophomore Massenburg. Trouble is, the team has not been especially good at foul shots, finally clawing above 60 percent for the season against South Carolina.

That Williams was able to play well while in foul trouble was partly why Wade offered a rare smile during his postgame press conference. Williams has averaged almost four fouls a game and his late absence was a major factor in Maryland being unable to upset LSU.

"He kept saying {in the dressing room}: 'I finished the game; I finished the game,' " Wade said. "He was very proud."

Wade was pleased with a few plays by the 6-10 Williams that may have been undervalued by Massenburg's 25-point debut. Wade trusts Williams in situations most coaches might not with most freshmen. One of them is throwing the ball inbounds against pressure, even with games on the line.

"It helps my confidence," Williams said, "and also helps me mature."

One hint of maturity was Williams grabbing the ball out of the net after a South Carolina basket and whipping it to the hustling Massenburg for a breakaway dunk. The Gamecocks could not even clap their hands in satisfaction before Williams and Massenburg had caused minor embarrassment.

Everybody was properly enthusiastic about those 10 blocked shots Maryland mustered. Four were by the restructured front line of Massenburg (four), Derrick Lewis (three) and Williams (two). Another eraser, Cedric Lewis, missed the game with flu.

"When they get everybody back," Felton said, "they will rise another notch. They have improved in all areas over last year: depth, guard production {with the clever Rudy Archer} and inside production.

"They can compete."

They could not last season, being on the depressing end of some unusual Atlantic Coast Conference symmetry. A team losing all 14 of its ACC games is as unexpected as somebody going unbeaten, as North Carolina did.

Wade has overcome his most critical challenge so far, by recruiting splendidly. Playground games near his home in California against the likes of pros Kiki Vandeweghe and Charles Barkley gave Williams post-graduate basketball experience before he enrolled at Maryland.

"I tried to slam-dunk once against Barkley {at a camp last summer}," Williams said, "and he put it back in my face. But I did play good defense against him {during the 15 or so minutes they were paired}."

Off the court, Wade is playing tougher defense than seems necessary at times. The press that may concern him most, with Archer now aboard, is the relentless one by reporters.

Wade's high school background and success was not anyway near adequate preparation for the sort of intense examination that programs such as Maryland's merit.

The new coach should realize that taking five minutes to deal openly with an issue may well save him five hours eventually. Serious matters, involving Phil Nevin and Lewis, and several less significant became more tangled with each "no comment."

Those of us covering him should remember that Wade follows one of the most accessible men in sport. He also is nowhere near the first sportsman to demand complete coverage -- and to yelp when that actually happens.