Keith Booth figured out he was ready to pursue a career in college basketball while, of all things, teaching kids the fundamentals of how to field ground balls and turn the double play.

"I developed a sense of wanting to just teach the game," Booth said yesterday, after he was officially introduced as the latest member of Maryland's coaching staff.

Booth returns to College Park, where he starred as a player from 1993 to '97, becoming an all-American under Coach Gary Williams.

Booth, who was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls and played in 45 NBA games over two seasons, spent the past year as a physical education teacher and middle-school baseball coach at the Park School, a private school just north of his home town, Baltimore. During that season, and during a previous year spent as an academic counselor for athletes at Baltimore's Dunbar High, his alma mater, Booth said the idea of coaching appealed to him.

"Since I was no longer playing, it was a way for me to still be involved," Booth said. "I had the opportunity to work with young kids, and it grew from there."

Over the years, Booth kept in touch with Williams, who long ago thought Booth would make a good member of his staff.

"You coach certain payers and you put it in the back of your mind, thinking, 'He'd be a very good coach some day,' " Williams said. "Keith certainly knows the basketball part of it, but a big part of coaching is getting your feelings about the game through to your team. I always thought, as a player, Keith was really good at that."

Booth will take the spot vacated by Matt Kovarik, the former Terp who spent three years on staff but will likely return to law school. Williams said he liked being able to hire another former Terp "because they have a special feeling about the school."

"As a former player, you know what to expect, not only on the court, but off the court," Booth said. "I played for Coach Williams, so I can definitely relate to the guys if they ever have any questions about what he means."

In other news, the Terps leave for a 12-day trip to Italy -- during which they will play five games -- on Aug. 17. And added to the nonconference regular season schedule will be a November game against Memphis in Springfield, Mass., as well as a home game against Temple.

-- Barry Svrluga