This weekend marked a significant anniversary in the lore of Maryland basketball.
Saturday marked 20 years to the day since Gary Williams returned to take over the Terrapins’ program (and all of the messes that existed and were soon to exist along with it).
In other words, he’s occupied the basketball office for a long time. He’s enjoyed more success than anyone else in school history, and he’s coached a fair number of really good players.
Williams has seen 16 Terps selected in the NBA Draft, and 17 have at least logged some time in the association. Several more have enjoyed fine careers in Europe; there’s nothing wrong with rolling up big numbers and solid money overseas instead of slumming it in the D-League or at the tail end of an NBA bench.
This is also the time of year when, quite frankly, not a whole lot will unfold. It’s still nearly two months until football camp begins, and basketball practice is a long four months or so away.
So that makes it a sound opportunity to review the top 20 players of the Williams era. Heavens knows it is merely a trivial offseason pursuit, it isn’t meant to portend anything and surely doesn’t have any input from anywhere other than my library and my mind, but it would not surprise me to get a few aggravated e-mails contesting some choices.
(And yes, I know Williams is entering his 21st season. But let’s just stick with a round number instead of a figure that followed a round number in April 1988 up in Baltimore).
First some ground rules:
One, since this is evaluating the Gary Era, any production before 1989-90 is going to be discounted. So that will hurt a couple players in particular.
Two, longevity does matter. A guy who plays one or two years – no matter how good – is unlikely to have rolled up the set of accomplishments of someone who stayed three or four years. That said, if you were the national player of the year, that’s a mighty big trump card regardless of career length.
Three, team performance is not directly accounted for. It’s always annoying when people assess a player and say “But he didn’t win a championship” or “His team didn’t win enough.” It simply isn’t a good argument when you’re trying to compare two players in as much of a vacuum as you can create.
If this was supposed to be a top 20 of players from Williams’ best teams, it would be noted as such. That said, it is rather intuitive that the best teams would have the best players. Or at least a lot of the best players.
Four, pro performance doesn’t count. It’s all about what happened in College Park.
OK, think that’s it.
I’ll be sure to include an entry toward the end of this exercise detailing about 10 players or so who warranted consideration but didn’t quite make it. And, hopefully, there will be a mailbag or two along the way. That, of course, is a friendly reminder to feel free to e-mail any time you’d like.
I’ll trot out No. 20 here later on, and hopefully roll through one or two a day for the next couple weeks.