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Terps coach draws crowd

April 19, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

It didn't take Gary Williams long to warm up the crowd that gathered for a benefit dinner Thursday night.

About 20 seconds into his speech, Williams, head coach of the Maryland Terrapins basketball team, pointed to the blue and white balloon centerpieces on the tables in the Grand Ballroom of the Four Points Sheraton.

"It's nice to see the North Carolina balloons in the room tonight," said Williams, whose Maryland team wears the colors red and black.

Laughter erupted from the approximately 450 people who were on hand to listen to the coach of the 2002 NCAA basketball champions. He was the guest speaker at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County's 12th annual Steak and Burger Dinner.

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The dinner is a fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs, which provides youth development programs for about 2,500 children in Washington County.

Williams also spoke at the event five years ago.

The Boys & Girls Clubs, which has four branches in the county, offers homework assistance, social skills instruction and recreational activities to children daily.

"There's a lot of people in the Hagerstown area who have certainly done a lot for you," Williams told the youngsters who attended the dinner. "These people want to see you succeed, that's why they're helping you."

He also stressed to the youngsters that they have to make an effort to become successful through responsibility, hard work and smart choices.

"It's up to you to do the best you can," Williams said. "You have to do a great job."

Williams used his 2002 Terps as an example of how hard work paid off. The team was unselfish, practiced long hours and honed their individual skills to create a championship team, he said.

"Any time you have a group of people together, they're all different," he said. "They have to get along. They have to sacrifice their individual goals for the goal of the team."

Jim Deaner, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County, said the organization booked Williams months before the Terps won the championship.

"He probably knew he'd do well, but we had no idea he was going to do this well," Deaner said.

Deaner said the Boys & Girls Clubs planned the event for a year.

"We're looking for sports figures, not because they're heroes, but because they're someone kids will listen to," Deaner said. "They might say the same things I've been telling them for several years, but it strikes a chord when Coach Williams says it."

Before Williams' speech, the organization gave Youths of the Year Awards scholarships to three members of the club and to one staff member. The winners were: Clyde Constant, a South Hagerstown High School and Washington County Technical High School student; Tamara Burnett, a senior at North Hagerstown High School; Clif Carey, a senior at North Hagerstown High School and Eddie Younger, a 19-year-old staff member.

The scholarships are funded by Allfirst Foundation.

Younger, who joined the club eight years ago, said the organization has helped him become a responsible adult. He also said it helps kids stay off the streets and away from drugs.

Younger won a $1,000 scholarship and will attend Allegany College and study culinary arts. He plans to transfer to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in two years.

"The club is very important to me," he said. "Ever since I've been going there I've had a lot of opportunities."

Williams wrapped up the evening by thanking Maryland fans for supporting the Terrapins through the season and in the championship game in Atlanta.

"It was a great feeling walking out on the court in Atlanta knowing that the state of Maryland was behind us," he said.

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