J.R. Reid's elbows are almost as punishing as his hips, which is to say nothing of his knees. North Carolina's 6-foot-9, 256-pound forward is an essay in painful angles and muscles, and all he needed to complete the ensemble against Maryland last night was a set of metal teeth.

There has been much talk recently that Reid, the dominating sophomore North Carolina tries so hard to keep under wraps with its typical everyman-basketball, will participate in the NBA draft this summer. As if to confirm his overwhelming young talent, Reid led all scorers with 24 points, 16 of them in the second half, as the Tar Heels defeated the Terrapins, 71-65, at Cole Field House.

The closest the Terrapins would come after the game's first five minutes was five points, and that was due in large measure to Reid, a menacing physical presence with a flat-top haircut. While shooting nine of 11 from the floor, he lured the bulk of Maryland's front court into first-half foul trouble and then gave a virtuoso performance in the second half to finish with six rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and two assists.

"He shot it with right hand, he shot it with the left hand, he broke the pressure," Maryland Coach Bob Wade said. "He's outstanding."

The exhibition only reinforced many opinions that Reid could forego his remaining two years at North Carolina and enter this year's NBA draft. In a year when Danny Manning of Kansas is expected to be the first player chosen, Reid could surpass a slew of other respectable talents coming out, such as Rony Seikaly of Syracuse and Dean Garrett of Indiana.

But Reid said last night he currently has no intention of joining that company. The son of two schoolteachers from Virginia Beach, Va., he said his intention is to remain in school unless something unforseen changes his mind.

"I'm planning on staying four years, my mother is planning on it and so is my father. School is my main thing, all that's on my mind is this season. Basketball can wait."

But something unforseen could come from Coach Dean Smith. Whenever Smith has a player who might consider leaving early, he makes a practice of researching the subject in the springtime by calling various general managers around the league. If he becomes convinced the player will be among the top three draftees, he advises them to come out.

That was the case with Michael Jordan and James Worthy, who left after their junior years. But Smith never has lost a sophomore to the draft before and clearly is becoming irritated with the amount of speculation about Reid.

"I might check for {junior guard} Jeff Lebo or {freshman forward} Pete Chilcutt too," Smith said after last night's game. "What about Danny Ferry? His dad {Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry} might try to get him for the Bullets."

Yet Smith's irritation was blunted by his praise for Reid's accomplishments against Maryland. On a team with no senior starters, Reid has provided much of the impetus for the second-ranked Tar Heels this season. Working against Maryland's more than respectable front court of all-Atlantic Coast Conference forward Derrick Lewis and 6-9 forward Tony Massenburg, he presented them with three fouls each in the first half.

Defensively, he reduced Lewis to a relatively minor factor, with 13 points, and Massenburg to nonexistent, with four points, well below his average of 15.8.

"We work on the post move and getting the foul inside," Reid said. "We were all trying to draw contact."

That left the Terrapins with little strength to defend against Reid in the second period. They went to a 2-3 zone, and Reid went crazy.

"When he gets it inside you can count on two," Lebo said. "Or three."