Saying he was being "loyal to myself as much as to the school," Walt Williams announced yesterday that he will stay at Maryland to play basketball, ending months of speculation about the star point guard's future.

"I wrote on a piece of paper three personal goals: to be successful and happy for the rest of my college career and to make myself a first-round pick in the NBA, and I felt that the best chance to do that is here at Maryland," Williams said.

Williams, a junior from Crossland High School, was flanked by his mother and father and Coach Gary Williams, with his sister, Stephanie, and a number of relatives in the audience during a news conference in College Park to announce the decision.

Williams had been rumored to be transferring to a number of colleges (among them Georgetown, Georgia Tech and St. John's) since he requested permission from Maryland in the spring to talk to other schools. But Williams never talked publicly about his decision.

"I don't like putting myself in unnecessary spotlights, and with this I needed to be left alone," Williams said. "I couldn't play around with this by playing games -- I had to concentrate on making the biggest decision of my life. . . . If I had another year to make it, I might wait another 364 days."

Williams said one of the main reasons he stayed was because "I know where I stand here at this university. I don't want to gamble with maybe not playing the position I want to play or have coaches say I'll be doing one thing and then find myself doing another."

Williams was third on the team in scoring (12.7), rebounding and blocked shots. He was the only player in the ACC to rank in the top 10 in assists, steals and blocked shots.

His decision to stay is one of the few bits of good news for a program that has been rocked since the spring. In March the Terrapins were placed on NCAA probation for three years for violations that happened mainly during the three-year tenure of former coach Bob Wade.

Under the terms of the probation, Maryland cannot appear on live television this season or play in the NCAA tournament for the next two years. That punishment led to sophomore forward Jerrod Mustaf's decision to leave for the NBA. He was selected in the first round by the New York Knicks.

During the summer the NCAA returned to campus to investigate charges that Gary Williams and his staff conducted practices before the official 1989 starting date.

All of that had an impact upon Walt Williams's thinking. Besides Georgetown, Georgia Tech and St. John's, Williams said he also considered Virginia and Nevada-Las Vegas.

Of those schools, Williams said UNLV offered him the best opportunity to play on television regularly as well as compete for a national title. But when the NCAA announced that the school would be unable to defend its 1990 championship, that changed his mind.

"It didn't make sense for me to leave one situation {with a school on probation} for another," he said.

"Every day I woke up it was something different. One day I was leaving, one day I was staying," Williams said. "As I got closer, it just seemed to be 'stay, stay, stay.' I figured the decision would come to me naturally and it did."

Said Gary Williams: "I know I would have slept a lot better if he had made this decision in June. It's been a long summer. I know how I feel now. . . . We'll be a very tough team to play against this year."

With Walt Williams at the point and transfer Matt Roe (who averaged 11 points per game at Syracuse during the 1988-89 season) at off guard, Maryland should have a potent back court. The other expected starters -- center Cedric Lewis, small forward Jesse Martin and junior college transfer Garfield Smith -- appear to be solid.

But with the departure of Mustaf, Tony Massenburg and Teyon McCoy (who transferred to Texas this spring), depth could be a problem beyond sixth man Vince Broadnax and sophomore Evers Burns.

"Walt and Matt Roe and Cedric are competitors -- we'll be playing to win," said Gary Williams, who admittedly was more concerned that his personal gamble -- letting Walt Williams make his decision in relative peace -- paid off.

"Every time I thought about it, I kept asking myself, 'What should I be doing?' " Gary Williams said. "Every time I picked up the phone I thought about giving him the hard sell but I realized that he didn't need to hear someone else putting a lot of noise out there. . . . I just put my faith in him being our point guard."