Only four players remain on the countdown of the top 20 players of the Gary Williams era. All were exceptional, and all of them at some stage in their careers simply carried a team.
Keith Booth was no exception.
The two power forwards floating near the top of this list (Lonny Baxter is the other) produced rather comparable careers. Booth was better as a freshman, Baxter as a sophomore. Baxter also was, in part because of his size, a more efficient player.
But he was never asked to do what Booth did as a senior, which was effectively haul a team littered with inexperienced players to the NCAA tournament through his own force of will.
In seven of the last 20 seasons, Maryland’s top scorer averaged at least three points more than its No. 2 scorer. Here’s a rundown:
|Season||Scorer #1||Scorer #2||Difference|
|1992||Walt Williams (26.8)||Evers Burns (15.9)||10.9|
|1995||Joe Smith (20.8)||Johnny Rhodes (14.0)||6.8|
|1997||Keith Booth (19.5)||Laron Profit (12.9)||6.6|
|1994||Joe Smith (19.4)||Exree Hipp (13.2)||6.2|
|2009||Greivis Vasquez (17.5)||Landon Milbourne (11.4)||6.1|
|2002||Juan Dixon (20.4)||Lonny Baxter (15.2)||5.2|
|2003||Drew Nicholas (17.8)||Ryan Randle (12.7)||5.1|
That’s excellent company, and it partially illustrated just how vital Booth was to that 1997 team. But he was also crucial to the program’s mid-1990s comeback, and finished his career with 1,776 points (eighth in school history), 916 rebounds (sixth) and 193 steals (sixth).
Not bad for a 6-foot-6 guy.
The truth is, though, that Booth’s value (and place among the top Maryland players of the last two decades) is amplified by the symbolic value of healing the rift between the program and Baltimore.
Without Booth there might not have been Juan Dixon and Rodney Elliott.
While not quite at that level, there’s a legitimate question of whether possible 2010 starters Dino Gregory and Sean Mosley (back-to-back Baltimore players of the year, in case Williams’ repeated references to those honors were forgotten) would be in the program.
Of course, Booth would have meant little in that regard if he endured a mediocre career. He didn’t. He arrived with Joe Smith, and was a defense-and-rebounds (and some scoring) guy for his first two seasons.
The second half of his career brought a more prominent offensive role and a superlative senior season – a year that went a long way to cementing his status as one of the best players of the Gary Williams era.
* 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