When Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams stepped to the podium Monday night, he was in the middle of his third week of practice, at the end of his team's lone exhibition game and on the cusp of a potentially intriguing season.
Not much could realistically be gleaned from a 106-58 demolition of Division II Florida Southern at Comcast Center.
But Williams' first words encapsulated the evening.
"We were able to use our athletic ability," Williams said.
Cliff Tucker was exceptional. Jordan Williams was his usual self. Ditto Sean Mosley. Adrian Bowie made good decisions.
But again, it was was hardly a fair litmus test, one that offers no long-term answers to a team in the process of replacing three multi-season starters --- including one of the best guards in school history in Greivis Vasquez.
One thing, though, is definite: The Terrapins can run.
"Definitely the most athletic team [I've been part of]," Tucker said. "Once we started pressing them and started running up and down it showed how quick we are. We jumped on them real quick, so hopefully we can keep it up for this year."
Added Dino Gregory: "Everybody's fast. Everybody can jump, everybody can run the floor. It's a lot different. In practice we're just running. Guys are quick. It's a really athletic team."
How long ago was it that Maryland was so blatantly brimming with athletes? There's a case to be made it was the Steve Francis team of 1998-99, a collection of players that also included Laron Profit, Obinna Ekezie and Terence Morris.
Not that the Terps didn't run for the last decade. They did --- at times. But it was never truly encoded into their collective DNA like it was for those late 1990s teams, who ran and ran and ran and blinked only when someone dared to keep pace (which didn't happen much) or forced a more methodical tempo (typically the fatal flaw come March in those days and source of criticism hurled at Gary Williams in his pre-national title days).
"From one to 12, it's definitely the most athletic team that I've seen [while calling game]," said Maryland radio analyst Chris Knoche, who has been part of the Terps' broadcast crew for more than a decade. "They can get up and down the court like the best teams he's ever had. I think his concern right now is at some point in time, they're going to play a team that plays zone, have them walk it up and do some things to slow them down. Then it becomes can guys like Adrian Bowie --- who's so explosive in the open court, and Cliff Tucker, the same way --- can they run offense and get tough points and tough baskets when they really need them?"
That's a former coach and pragmatist talking. A single debut, no matter how thorough a beatdown was administered over a 15-minute stretch, can only move the needle so much.
There were individual items to take from the rout. Tucker, with his 10 assists, did a little of everything. Gregory was active. Bowie was efficient. Terrell Stoglin had a strong first half. Berend Weijs swatted four shots off the bench.
None of the numbers --- besides an 18-for-30 night at the foul line --- hinted at anything negative. There was a 26-1 run in the first half to put things away, and 11 of the Terps' 12 scholarship players got at least 10 minutes of work.
Mosley and Jordan Williams are the team's known quantities, and in all probability Gregory is, too. If Bowie and Tucker excel, the Terps will be a tough out. But they'll have help, which was clear thanks to Stoglin's assertiveness and Pe'Shon Howard's steady (if scoreless) play.
"I think the other thing Gary Williams feels very good about is guys like Bowie and Tucker are going to be challenged every day in practice because he's got two freshman guards playing behind those guys who walked into this program expecting to play," Knoche said. "They carry themselves like they expect to play, and they're going to fight those guys every possession of every practice, and it's not that way every year."
Nor is a team blessed with so much athleticism in a given year. Gary Williams wanted nothing to do with such analysis, batting away a question on the subject like a beach ball and instead caustically pointing out his team didn't receive a vote in the preseason Associated Press poll.
The question will probably resurface, particularly after the season opens next week against Seattle and College of Charleston. Those games --- unlike this one --- will count.
How they will unfold is a bit of a mystery still. What isn't, though, is Maryland intends to push the pace --- mainly because it can. But even if it's there, Williams knows he can't let his team definite itself solely by its ability to run.
"We're not going to get carried away with anything that happened tonight," Williams said. "We know we have a lot of work to do to get ready for Monday. That's the key, to have that attitude."