Permit me, if you will, the opportunity to play point guard roulette.
It’s an interesting study involving some very familiar names.
Not only is this point guard roulette, it’s sophomore point guard roulette.
Player A is Steve Blake, who was already established as a stable presence when he put up a sophomore season similar to his first year (that happened to include a much better assist/turnover ratio).
Player C is Greivis Vasquez, who used his size and vision to be both a scorer and a distributor. At the same time, his outside shot wasn’t quite as potent as the other options.
And then there’s Player B – John Gilchrist. Probably not the sort of passer either Blake or Vasquez are, but Gilchrist was a capable scorer at that early stage of his career, and adept at finding the right place to shoot from. He wasn’t the rebounder Vasquez is, but adjusting for size (there’s a difference of two or three inches) they’re actually quite similar.
These three, of course, represent vastly dissimilar career arcs.
Blake went on to run the offense for a national champ, fully capable of doing what was necessary to involve an array of options when he probably could have scored more at the college level.
Vasquez, handed a smallish and scrappy bunch, helped will the Terps to the NCAA tournament as a junior and in all probability will splatter his name all over the school record book next season
Gilchrist? Well, Gilchrist peaked with a resplendent performance in the 2004 ACC tournament before things went south the next season.
A hundred years from now, when there are numbers and some video but no one living who actually saw or cared about the tension that existed that season between Gilchrist and coach Gary Williams, it will be tough to pinpoint why Gilchrist’s third and final season in College Park was viewed with derision.
After all, while Gilchrist’s scoring fell, his outside shooting was almost identical, his rebounding improved, his assists average went up and he dramatically cut down on his turnovers.
Of course, that’s what the numbers say.
No one would argue Gilchrist got better (like Blake and Vasquez did), and whether he likes it or not, the end of Maryland’s 11-year NCAA tournament streak is more likely to be laid on his shoulders than anyone.
(Contrary to the endless chatter of a team always belonging to its seniors, Mike Grinnon and Darien Henry don’t – and shouldn’t – take that hit in this case).
All that said, Gilchrist was still a capable player as a junior. He was a useful reserve as a freshman. And he more than held his own as a junior in a league with no shortage of point guards.
And, of course, he’ll always have Greensboro. His game-by-game lines from the 2004 ACC tournament:
* 16 points (on 5-for-8 shooting), five rebounds and six assists against third-seeded Wake Forest.
* 30 points (on 11-for-13 shooting), four rebounds and seven assists against second-seeded N.C. State
* 26 points (on 10-for-20 shooting), seven rebounds and six assists against top-seeded Duke.
Those were three above-average days, an impressive weekend haul of 24.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.3 apg and one tournament MVP trophy.
Even if Gilchrist is blamed for an implosion as a junior, he warrants just as much credit (if not more) for ensuring the Terps even played in the NCAA tournament in 2004.
His final career numbers – 1,022 points (45th in school history), 364 assists (14th) and 123 steals (16th) – aren’t as good as they should be, the result of bolting after his erratic junior season.
That said, Gilchrist authored some remarkable moments – and enough of them to earn a spot in the top 20 players of the Williams era.