20 in 20: No. 20 --- Exree Hipp

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As promised earlier, here’s the start of the 20-in-20 series, a rundown of the best players in Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams‘ two decades on the job.

And it begins with a key component of the recruiting class that paved the way for the Terrapins’ turnaround in the 1990s: Forward Exree Hipp, a coveted prospect out of Harker Prep.

For three seasons, Hipp looked every bit like the sort of player who would surely receive a look in the NBA. He – along with classmates Mario Lucas, Johnny Rhodes and Duane Simpkins – absorbed some hard lessons while dealing with a 2-14 record as freshmen.

But then Keith Booth and Joe Smith arrived the next year, providing the Terps with a young nucleus that started the program’s 11-year streak of NCAA appearances.

With Smith as the centerpiece of the 1994-95 team, Hipp averaged 13.6 points and shot a career-high 51.4 percent. Little wonder, then, that he was an honorable mention all-ACC choice (this is the prime of the Stackhouse/Wallace era at North Carolina and the Randolph Childress years at Wake Forest) for the second straight season.

If it had ended there, Hipp would probably be viewed more favorably than he is today. Trouble is, Smith wisely bolted for the pros and Hipp proceeded to endure a miserable senior season.

His scoring was cut in half. His rebounding suffered. His shooting percentage plummeted to 36.8 percent. Smith’s absence – which in turn reduced easy scoring opportunities – was a factor. So too were Hipp’s weight issues.

So, yeah, not the way to go out. And it would make it understandable if there were some questions about Hipp’s placement on this list.

Still, the guy scored 1,372 points (20th in school history) and added 326 assists (17th in school history, even if he’s accidentally omitted from the record book). Toss in 488 rebounds, and that’s a well-rounded career.

Let’s put it another way. The following players in Maryland history have also amassed 1,300 points, 300 assists and 450 rebounds:

* Juan Dixon
* Albert King
* Johnny Rhodes
* Walt Williams
* Ernest Graham
* Greivis Vasquez

To be fair, Keith Booth, Adrian Branch and Laron Profit were all a handful of assists away from making the list.

The point, though, is that Hipp was a solid all-around performer for most of his time with the Terps – a fact that probably shouldn’t be forgotten even if the final quarter of his college career didn’t quite fit with the rest of it.

Patrick Stevens

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