The process of going through the top 20 players in Gary Williams‘ 20 seasons at Maryland inevitably leads to the quandary of evaluating not just the players from the national title team and the Joe Smith era, but also some dark times.
As in, for a season, completely untelevised.
The program mythology is such that Walt Williams hailed as the beacon of hope in the miserable probation years, a man who kept things afloat thanks to his ability to string together seven straight 30-point games in a loaded ACC in 1992.
And certainly, that’s true. Williams was a splendid talent, and his presence ensured a potentially bad (and extremely shallow) team achieved competitiveness while waiting for reinforcements to arrive post-sanctions.
But Williams wasn’t the only beacon of hope. There was Kevin McLinton, a capable guard who started for three seasons.
And there was Evers Burns, a dependable forward who was a secondary option early in his career before turning in a solid senior season the same year the infusion of young talent began.
Gary Williams often calls his 2003 team “the forgotten team of Maryland basketball,” and to some extent he’s right. That team was a shot away from the Elite Eight, but anything short of a Final Four was probably not going to be recalled too much as an encore to a national title.
But it was the 1992-93 bunch that played interregnum between Walt Williams and Smith, an outfit still shackled with the aftereffects of probation with little choice but to go young, that is truly banished from many memories.
Some of that has to do with results; by winning percentage, the 12-16 season was the worst of Gary Williams’ 31-year career.
But it didn’t prevent Burns from turning in a sound final season. Sure, most sub-.500 teams have at least one good player, though that team faced depth issues moreso than a shaky talent among its top two or three options.
Despite the extra attention as the obvious top scorer, Burns averaged 18.5 points and 8.9 rebounds as a senior. His shooting dipped only slightly, remaining above 50 percent.
For his trouble, Burns went in the second round of the NBA Draft to Sacramento, where he played sparingly for a season.
His legacy at Maryland is stronger than many might guess. He’s 23rd in both career scoring (1,315 points) and rebounding (634), and that’s as only a two-year starter.
Burns thrived as both a complement to Walt Williams and as the leading man on a team in transition. No, his jersey isn’t hanging in Comcast Center, and frankly his career doesn’t warrant it.
But he probably is one of the more underappreciated —- and forgotten —- players of the Gary Williams era, and he’s well-deserving of a spot in the top 20.
* No. 20: Exree Hipp
* No. 19: James Gist
* No. 18: Obinna Ekezie
—- Patrick Stevens