Terps' Williams accepts blame for McCray's dismissal
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams on Tuesday accepted responsibility for allowing leading scorer Chris McCray to become academically ineligible, but expressed hope that the senior -- and the Terrapins (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) -- could cope with the adversity created by the "one-time situation."
The school announced Monday that McCray would miss the rest of the season for failing to adhere to NCAA academic standards. The suspension begins Wednesday, when Maryland (13-4) faces Georgia Tech on the road.
"This is the first time in 28 years as a head coach I've lost a player halfway through the season," Williams said. "It's something that I personally take responsibility for. I feel bad about it. My job now is to make sure that Chris does a good job in school this semester and is successful with whatever he wants to do after school is out."
McCray was averaging 15.2 points per game during his second year as the Terrapins' co-captain. Williams said his staff was aware that McCray was struggling in school, but couldn't do enough to keep him eligible.
"No one feels worse than Chris about this situation, but you beat yourself up as a coach thinking there's some way this can be avoided, because I'm not used to this," Williams said. "It's something we certainly will continue to look at, and see if there are ways we can improve what we do."
Williams always meets the media on the day before a game, and in most cases only a handful of reporters show up. On Tuesday, a half-dozen cameras and a room full of reporters were present, and very few questions pertained to Georgia Tech's defense or the fact that Williams is one victory shy of tying Lefty Driesell as the school's career win leader.
Now in his 17th season at Maryland, Williams won a national championship in 2002 and captured the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2004. But the Terrapins failed to gain entry to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and this season has been a struggle.
Williams suspended Travis Garrison for one game after the senior forward was charged with second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense for allegedly grabbing and hitting a woman in a bar on Oct. 27.
Then, on Tuesday, Williams was forced to speak for the first time about a player being placed on academic probation in the middle of the season.
"You don't expect it from a senior. Having been here for 3½ years, you know how the system works. But at the same time, it can happen," Williams said. "I look at this as a one-time situation. We have a lot of things in place that help our student-athletes ... but we also have to have people that are willing to do their part, too. This is a two-way street."
Led by McCray, the Terrapins appeared poised to get back into the NCAA Tournament after having their run of 11 consecutive appearances ended in 2004-05.
Mike Jones will start for McCray, and reserves Parrish Brown and Sterling Ledbetter can also expect to see plenty of time at shooting guard. Others, such as Nik Caner-Medley and D.J. Strawberry, will have to contribute even more.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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