At this stage of the 20-in-20 series – a subjective rundown the best 20 players in Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams’ 20 seasons –it should be pretty obvious who the remaining players are.
The order? That’s debatable – and surely will be, starting from the eventual No. 1 pick and trickling down.
But the top 13 is names you’d expect to see there, and there’s really only one other guy in retrospect that would have a good case to crash that list (Drew Nicholas, who as mentioned last night was the Steve Young to Juan Dixon’s Joe Montana).
So now that we’re into the section in which there’s virtually no debate (“virtually” because I can understand why the totality of accomplishments of one of the remaining 13 and the tumultuous final season of another could be assessed differently), it’s time to rundown 10 guys who could also argue for inclusion.
21. Nik Caner-Medley: By a substantial margin the most accomplished of the remaining players, and any reader who wants to argue for the exclusion of anyone else would be well-served to provide Caner-Medley as a replacement. He’s top-20 in school history in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and 3-pointers, and he’s the one member of his ill-fated recruiting class to finish his career in strong fashion. While his bar room boasts of invulnerability proved untrue, he was an exceptionally consistent player – and perhaps unfairly left out of the top 20. Despite an effort to avoid holding team performance against anyone, it probably had something of an influence here.
22. Jerrod Mustaf: In one year under Williams, Mustaf averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting nearly 53 percent. That’s a heck of a season, and it wasn’t like he was much worse as a freshman under Bob Wade. The next two guys have a solid claim to this spot, too, but their accomplishments aren’t so enormous as to trump Mustaf’s production in a shorter time period.
23. Duane Simpkins: A starter on three NCAA tournament teams who scored nearly as many points as Steve Blake (a difference of 16) and ranks sixth on the school assists list, Simpkins has quite a bit going for him. Overlooked a bit because of the overlap with Joe Smith, Keith Booth and Johnny Rhodes, and the loss of Smith clearly made things tougher for Simpkins in his senior season. But he was still really good.
24. Rodney Elliott: Elliott is an almost perfect example of the hard-working player who gradually developed under Williams. He also was a starter for only a season thanks to Booth’s presence – sort of a frontcourt equivalent of Nicholas. As it stands, Elliott is the highest ranked four-year Terp without 1,000 career points. This is about the right spot for him.
25. Sarunas Jasikevicius: The same career arc as Elliott, and while he didn’t produce as potent a senior season as his classmate, he enjoyed a better junior year. The Lithuanian’s outside shot opened up chances in the post for the likes of Booth, Elliott and Obinna Ekezie, and also created opportunities for swingman Laron Profit that might not otherwise have existed.
And five more in no particular order, since at some point in the evaluation players look more and more similar:
* Mike Jones: Played “shooter” his first three seasons, but capped his career with an exceptional burst at the end of his senior season. Jones scored 609 of his 1,180 career points on 3-pointers.
* Ekene Ibekwe: Had 1,109 points and 781 rebounds, and that can’t be ignored. That said, between sharing the frontcourt with Caner-Medley and James Gist, Ibekwe was never the best forward on his team. Tough to justify a top-20 spot when the numbers are good but not jaw-dropping.
* Kevin McLinton: The early 1990s guard enjoyed a fine senior season and was another prototypical Williams player to improve throughout his career.
* Byron Mouton: A big reason the Terps reached consecutive Final Fours was Mouton’s contributions, even if he was anything but a stat-stuffer. He was a defensive pest, and was offensively capable of exploiting a slow forward or small guard matched up with him. If there was a draft of Williams’ players to build an actual team, Mouton would go far higher than the mid-to-late 20s.
* Terrell Stokes: A pure point guard, Stokes had less than 100 more points (678) than assists (593). No matter. He played an effective role throughout the late 1990s, and is the sort of player who could easily be forgotten amid the Booth and Profit and Steve Francis (and others) despite his steadiness.