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20 in 20: No. 2 --- Joe Smith

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The man with the most ordinary name in Maryland basketball history also happens to be its best post player.

Might just be the best player ever, period.

And that would be Joe Smith, who went from unheralded recruiting find to national player of the year in his two seasons in College Park.

Smith averaged 20-and-10 for his career, tossing up 26 points in his debut against Georgetown in an upset that signaled a local changing of the guard – and ignited the Terrapins’ run to the first of 11 straight (and 13 overall) NCAA tournament trips under Gary Williams.

Smith led the ACC in rebounding as a freshman, in scoring as a sophomore and wound up with 1,290 points, 683 rebounds and 190 blocks overall.

Double those totals to account the two years he passed on to become the top pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, and he’d have wound up atop all of those lists by margins of more than 300 points, 300 rebounds and 40 blocks.

That probably doesn’t quite convey just how supremely dominant Smith was. But how about a 29-point, 21-rebound, seven-block game against a Virginia team bound for the Elite Eight?

Or maybe the 24-and-10 in the ACC tournament against the Rasheed Wallace/Jerry Stackhouse North Carolina team? Or the 31-21-7 against Texas in the NCAA tournament?

Ah, let’s just go to the videotape – and evoke memories and what was the Joe Smith game – 40 points and 18 rebounds against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Behold! Billy Hahn coaching Maryland! Pete Gaudet coaching Duke! Dan Patrick still working for ESPN! And SportsCenter actually concentrating on highlights!

It doesn’t matter that it was the Year Duke Was Bad. It was a signature performance, an emphatic demonstration of just how much better Smith was than everyone else – and this was in an ACC that featured Wallace, Tim Duncan, Cherokee Parks, Junior Burrough and Todd Fuller. That’s a lot of good college bigs.

Smith had double-doubles in eight of his last 10 games, 17 in his senior season alone and 37 for his career – which, by the way, lasted all of 64 games.

There is no question, based on dominance alone, Smith is the best player of the Williams era and possibly the entirety of the program. There is also no question he made the right choice in departing, give his spot at the top of the draft.

But this list is about more than merely dominance. Longevity counts, too, and the totality of a player’s accomplishments is a factor as well.

No three-year player could have knocked Smith out of the No. 1 spot. Had Smith stuck around (and possibly cracked 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in just three seasons), it’s close to impossible to envision anyone else occupying the top spot.

Even nearly a decade and a half later (yes, it’s been 14 years since Smith patrolled the paint at Cole Field House), Smith easily outdistances all but one player of the last 20 seasons.

But when that one guy managed to do everything he did, well, he makes a pretty good case for that No. 1 ranking as well.

Previously:

* No. 20: Exree Hipp
* No. 19: James Gist
* No. 18: Obinna Ekezie
* No. 17: Evers Burns
* No. 16: D.J. Strawberry
* No. 15: Drew Nicholas
* No. 14: Tony Massenburg
* The Next 10
* No. 13: Chris Wilcox
* No. 12: John Gilchrist
* No. 11: Laron Profit
* No. 10: Terence Morris
* No. 9: Greivis Vasquez
* No. 8: Steve Francis
* No. 7: Johnny Rhodes
* No. 6: Lonny Baxter
* No. 5: Steve Blake
* No. 4: Keith Booth* No. 3: Walt Williams

Patrick Stevens

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