Terps' Wilcox Cut Above
- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 13:16
BY ROGER RUBIN DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Monday, April 01, 2002
Chris Wilcox vividly remembers that car ride home from school back in 1994. He'd just been cut from the seventh-grade basketball team and his aunt, Brenda Brown, had the message Maryland's sophomore power forward needed to hear: remember that Michael Jordan was cut from the first basketball team he tried out for. "She told me that if I continued to work, if I (were to strive) to get better, things would happen for me, too," Wilcox said. He isn't Michael Jordan, but his time has come. Wilcox's meteoric rise has fueled Maryland's run to the national championship game. And though all eyes will be on Terrapins guard Juan Dixon and center Lonny Baxter, Wilcox may have the biggest influence on the outcome of tonight's game. Maryland (31-4) is Goliath and Indiana (25-11) David in the title game tonight at the Georgia Dome. Wilcox, a 6-10 sophomore, likely will be assigned the task of shutting down the Hoosiers' leading scorer, 6-10 Jared Jeffries. "It's never mattered who I was playing against," said Wilcox. "I go with the same approach. I try not to let them get more than one contested shot (each time). And I try not to let them get another shot with an offensive rebound." Wilcox has more than one defensive masterpiece to his season, but the most notable ones were a regular-season clampdown on Duke's Mike Dunleavy, who went 5-for-14 shooting, and Saturday night's number on Kansas' Drew Gooden. Gooden scored 15, but he had only seven after 32 minutes while Maryland put the Jayhawks in a 20-point hole. Wilcox's basketball career has been on the ascent since he found the inspiration after Brown's death in 1998. "Her and my godmother (Patricia Singletary) who I was close with, died within two weeks," he said. "I'm doing it for them now. I hope they are looking down on me and (smiling)." Wilcox was a footnote on Maryland's Final Four run last season. In their five NCAA Tournament games in 2001, he averaged 4.8 minutes and 2.8 points. Things are very different now. In their five wins this tournament, he's averaging 14.2 points. Already there's talk about him possibly making the jump to the NBA when the season's over. "Look at Chris now and he's playing so well," teammate Byron Mouton said. "He's blocking shots, rebounding and running the floor. There's a big difference."
Wilcox really set Gooden on his heels Saturday by blocking his first two shots. The Jayhawks' consensus first-team All-American wasn't the same after that. The brawny duo of Wilcox and Baxter will be going against Jeffries and a thinner, more agile Hoosier frontcourt. Though the Hoosiers grab attention with their accurate three-point shooting (23-for-32 the last two games), play in the middle was the reason they beat Duke in the Sweet 16 and Oklahoma in Saturday's semifinal. "Lots of people say I'm skinny and I am," Jeffries said. "I'm frail, but I think I do a lot of other things besides bang inside. I am quicker than a lot of the guys I match up with. I am taller than others. I find a way. "Going against Maryland, they have two great starters and two more great players off the bench (Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle). It's the most-talented frontcourt we'll go against all season." Wilcox says the battle in the middle will come down to much simpler things. "We want to bang and play our game," he said. "We do that, we win."