You’d think that one of the toughest guys to truly gauge in a countdown of the 20 best Maryland basketball players in the last two decades would be someone from near the beginning of that span who didn’t play on particularly good teams.
But in reality, D.J. Strawberry might be the most difficult of the four-year players that have come through College Park since Gary Williams took over to truly assess.
For starters, who exactly was he?
Was he a shutdown defender, as Williams bemoaned in 2005 when Strawberry missed the last half of the season with an ACL tear?
Was he a point guard, as he was throughout the 2006 when the Terrapins didn’t have any other credible options to run the offense?
Was he a top scorer, as he was as a senior when he helped Maryland become the first team in ACC history to overcome a 3-6 league start and still finish with a winning conference record?
He was, to a degree, all of them. And granted, Strawberry the Scorer and Strawberry the Defender enjoyed more success than Strawberry the Point Guard.
He was, to be certain, a second-team all-ACC pick his senior season. Williams has had only 13 of those, and all of them managed to crack the top 20 of this list.
Strawberry rolled up 1,126 points, 316 assists and 202 steals, joining Steve Blake, Juan Dixon and Johnny Rhodes as the only members of the 1,000-300-200 club in school history. Without the knee injury, he’d probably have been good for another 125 points or so, enough to nearly jump into the top 25 on the school scoring list.
Those are sturdy accomplishments, ones that certainly weren’t envisioned when Strawberry arrived in College Park with much more buzz about his bloodlines than his basketball ability.
Ultimately, D.J. Strawberry’s career stands up pretty well. He was a multifaceted guard who averaged 14.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals for a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
He played enough defense to be viewed as a draftable commodity, especially in a year in which an NBA team with a defensive stopper won the league title (San Antonio). And he logged time in Italy last year after a cup of coffee in the NBA.
None of that makes Strawberry’s college career easy to evaluate. But he got better each season, turned out to be easily the best player in his five-man recruiting class and enjoyed a senior season most players would happily take.
For that, No. 16 seems about right for a guy who handled as many roles as anyone during Williams’ tenure.
* No. 20: Exree Hipp
* No. 19: James Gist
* No. 18: Obinna Ekezie
* No. 17: Evers Burns
—- Patrick Stevens