Maryland basketball coach Bob Wade said yesterday Keith Gatlin will be in uniform Wednesday night when the Terrapins play at Missouri.
Wade said he had received the first semester grades of Gatlin, a senior guard, and Rodney Walker, a sophomore forward who transferred from Syracuse, and that Gatlin "will resume playing immediately."
Wade said Walker would be able to play Wednesday if the process of transfer certification, required by the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference, is completed. Wade called the process "a formality," and Associate Athletic Director Gerry Gurney, who directs Maryland's academic support unit, said he expected to have the conference's final approval.
After yesterday's practice at Cole Field House, Wade said Gatlin "has done the necessary things as far as I'm concerned to lift the athletic restrictions. I'm satisfied and the academic support people are satisfied and he will be allowed to resume playing immediately."
Gatlin, who arrived in College Park in the fall of 1983, sat out all of last season and did not practice this season until the beginning of winter break because he was trying to meet academic standards imposed by Wade and the academic support unit officials.
Walker transferred from Syracuse last winter and, like all transfers, was not allowed to play in games until he had been enrolled at Maryland for a full school year (two semesters) and had gained 24 hours of course credit. Walker could have practiced with the Terrapins, but he also was held out until he had met Wade's academic criteria.
Sophomore forward Tony Massenburg, who missed all of last season because he was on academic probation, practiced this fall, but did not play until Dec. 28 -- when Maryland played South Carolina -- because he, too, had to meet Wade's academic demands.
First semester final exams ended Dec. 21. Students often find out their grades by looking on lists posted by professors. However, professors did not have to submit grades to the registrar until yesterday.
Gurney praised Wade's handling of the situation.
"I never met a coach who was as aware of the individual academic progress of his or her squad as Coach Wade," Gurney said. "He and his staff paid attention to, and were supportive of, the individuals with sanctions. Some coaches sort of cast people aside, don't care, let them drift and make it or break it on their own. But he kept them a part of the team and followed through. After each exam, Coach Wade was very interested in how they did, where they were and whether they were getting enough tutors."
Gatlin, who is 6 feet 5 and 170 pounds, played mostly at point guard during his first three seasons. In 1985-86, his last season, he averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 assists per game. Now, he could play point guard, off guard or even small forward.
"He's a multi-talented senior," said Wade, "and he gives us another big boost as far as experience. I really think we'll have to go to him as the season progresses."
Walker, who is 6-9, 250 pounds, may have less impact in terms of scoring, but he gives Maryland more depth in the front court. A graduate of Baltimore's Cardinal Gibbons High School, Walker played in 31 games as a freshman at Syracuse and averaged 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Last fall, he did not play much and had just 14 points and seven rebounds in four games.
"He gives us another big body in our rotation," Wade said. "That's especially important because we're still missing Cedric Lewis."
Lewis, who has missed Maryland's last three games, still is bothered by the flu and will not play against Missouri, Wade said.
Gatlin's wait has been much longer. He dropped out of school last year after he was ruled "administratively ineligible," because of unpaid parking fines and registration irregularities. This past summer, he attended classes and played on a Kenner League team that included several other Maryland players. He returned to school this past fall.
"I knew it was just a matter of time -- and it took a long time -- before I could play," Gatlin said yesterday. "I had to let all of the stuff settle. Every time I opened the paper, it was 'Keith is doing this. Keith is doing that.' I was in the paper more than a rock star or television star. I had to get away and get myself together."