As early as his team’s media day —- nearly a month before the season began —- Maryland coach Gary Williams talked about how a senior class is remembered for its final season.
He found himself with three seniors sliding into larger roles in their final year with the Terrapins. More importantly, he found himself with out the security blanket of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne.
All three left College Park with at least 95 starts. This year’s seniors —- Adrian Bowie, Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker —- entered their last year with 45 starts between them.
Vasquez and Co. already had a legacy, even before sharing an ACC regular season title in 2010. Bowie, Gregory and Tucker were complementary pieces their first three years and, fairly or not, their script wasn’t yet written.
But now, it mostly is. Their final fling with the Terps (18-12, 7-8 ACC) is merely games from its conclusion. There’s Saturday’s regular-season finale against Virginia, then the ACC tournament and then probably some postseason event. With four wins in Greensboro, it will be the NCAA tournament. If not, the NIT seems the most likely destination.
It’s the way no player wants to whimper out, especially three guys with the memory of an NIT appearance as freshmen. And it also prompts the question of just how Bowie, Gregory and Tucker will be remembered in College Park.
“Whether it does or not, that’s the way people are,” Williams acknowledged. “I’m talking about the outside now. Coaches certainly look at things a little differently. People will say last year was Greivis’ team, Eric Hayes’ team, Landon Milbourne’s team. That’s how that team will be remembered. That’s the way it goes.”
Of the three, Gregory probably etched out the most good memories as a senior. After earning insignificant playing time as a freshman and not rolling up substantial statistics in his next two seasons, he’s blossomed into a capable complement to Jordan Williams as Maryland’s starting power forward.
Gregory is averaging 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, with a scoring average of 9.5 points in conference play.
“I’m not really sure,” Gregory said. “I just want people to remember me as a hard worker and someone who progressed every year and got better and better. That legacy thing, I’m not sure. I just came to play hard every day and that’s pretty much it.”
Bowie started all but four games this season, averaging 9.2 points and logging a career-best 25.2 minutes per game. His 15-point outing Wednesday at Miami was his most prolific scoring day since a 22-point night at Virginia and was his fourth-largest scoring total of the season.
Many of his better moments came after the Terps began relying on Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard to run the offense, shifting Bowie into a more comfortable role on the wing.
It wasn’t necessarily how he envisioned the season unfolding, but he remains optimistic the Terps can salvage something in the next few weeks.
“I have no idea right now,” Bowie said. “I think we’re still writing it right now as we finish the season out. After the season, it’ll be a lot easier to say what our legacy will be.”
Tucker has struggled for the last month, averaging 5.6 points over his last 10 games. Perhaps more pointedly, he’s earned only 19.9 minutes per game, including a season-low seven minutes off the bench in Wednesday’s 80-66 loss at Miami.
That isn’t the sort of legacy the Texan was looking for, though he’ll always have a 22-point game against North Carolina as a sophomore and a game-winning shot against Georgia Tech in 2010.
And those highlights are the ones Gary Williams will evoke in the coming weeks, particularly Saturday.
“Adrian, Cliff and Dino have all had their minutes,” Williams said. “I think Dino has had a great year this year, in terms of what he’s done with his game and how he’s helped us this year. Adrian and Cliff have both had their moments where they’ve been really important to the team.”
In the end, all three played in the NCAA tournament, were part of a team that shared an ACC regular season title and (as Williams noted) and are on track to graduate.
But in terms of lasting legacy, it will (by varying degrees) be difficult for any of the Terps’ seniors basketball careers to be recalled without 2011 quickly getting mentioned —- whether or not it’s all that fair.
“You look at a guy like Dino Gregory, he has to be very proud of what he’s done,” Williams said. “I’m sure Adrian and Cliff wish it would have been a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean anything long term. What’s important is I think they’re both going to be successful when they leave here. When you look at the basketball part, yeah, they would have liked to have scored more points. But what’s that really mean when it comes right down to it? What’s important? The important thing is they’re ready to go. That’s why you go to college.”
—- Patrick Stevens