- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Juan Dixon was a unanimous first-team All-ACC selection yesterday, becoming only the second Maryland player to be chosen all-conference three straight seasons. Terrapins great John Lucas was All-ACC from 1974 to '76.
Dixon and Duke's Jason Williams were the only unanimous first-team picks by the 84 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Writers Association. The Blue Devils, who finished second to the Terps in the ACC regular-season standings, had three first-teamers with Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. N.C. State's Anthony Grundy also made the team.
"It's great for Juan," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who celebrated his 57th birthday yesterday. "He deserves it. He had four great years. Making the team three years in a row is special."
Dixon, who help guide Maryland to its best regular-season record at 25-3 and first outright ACC regular-season title since 1980, was named first-team All-American yesterday by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and is a favorite to become the Terps' first Associated Press first-team All-American since Joe Smith in 1995. The senior averaged 19.5 points in the regular season and needs 69 points to pass Len Bias as Maryland's all-time leading scorer. The 6-foot-3 Dixon also leads the ACC with 2.9 steals per game and was selected to the conference's all-defensive team.
"It's exciting," Dixon said in a statement about making the All-ACC team. "Especially after Senior Night and all the activities surrounding Cole Field House last week, I'm proud to be mentioned with all the great players in Maryland's history."
Maryland, which went 15-1 in the conference and snapped Duke's run of five straight regular-season championships, defeated Virginia 112-92 on Sunday in the final game at Cole Field House to finish the season 15-0 at home. Maryland enters the ACC tournament as the top seed and will play the winner of Thursday's first-round game between Clemson and Florida State on Friday at noon at Charlotte Coliseum.
Other than Dixon, the second-ranked Terrapins didn't get the accolades usually afforded the regular-season champion. Center Lonny Baxter got the sixth-highest number of votes and was the only Maryland player on the second unit. Terps point guard Steve Blake and power forward Chris Wilcox made the third team; small forward Byron Mouton was an honorable mention.
"Lonny Baxter should be on the first team," Gary Williams said. "He helped us win as much as anybody. That's what they told me was the most important thing last year."
Baxter, averaging 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, shooting 54 percent and leading the conference in blocked shots, also was a second-team pick last season when Maryland finished third in the conference. The 6-foot-8 senior made the first team as a sophomore.
It's unlikely that the All-ACC voting will have much of an effect on Maryland, which has done an incredible job of ignoring outside factors all season. This season's Terps have thus far been more resilient than last season's group, which went all the way to the Final Four despite trying times like squandering a 10-point lead to Duke in the final 54 seconds to start a stretch of five losses in six games.
"We have the ability to adapt to those situations this year as opposed to last year," Maryland reserve forward Tahj Holden said. "Last year when things didn't go our way, we kind of folded up. This year we are going to play to the end, knowing anything can happen because it happened to us before. Take for example the [90-89 win against] Wake Forest. We weren't playing well at all. It's games like those where we couldn't win that game last year. This year we have the team and the maturity to win those games."
The Terps appear even more talented this season despite losing three members of the rotation, including starting power forward Terence Morris, and adding only powerful rebounder Ryan Randle to the mix. The seven players back from last season's rotation are more mature and playing better, with Chris Wilcox becoming an impact player. The powerful sophomore has shown he can dominate games, like on Sunday against Virginia when he scored 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Mouton has became an all-around player with more endurance over the second half of the season. The fifth-year senior who transferred from Tulane now finishes games as strong as he starts. Junior Drew Nicholas has evolved into a dependable contributor off the bench, particularly when the team needs outside shooting to bust a zone. Blake also has become more consistent, while Holden and junior college transfer Randle give Maryland four effective big men. Wilcox is the only underclassman who regularly plays.
"Nobody is young," said Holden, who jokes about his teammates' ages being in their 30s. "Juan and Lonny have been playing basketball here for four years. Juan redshirted and Lonny went to Hargrave [Military Academy for a year after high school]. I see them as super seniors, guys who are older than the regular seniors. Myself, Steve and Drew have been here for three years playing. Byron has been in the system for three years. When you have guys that have been here three, four, five years, it really helps out."
It helped the Terps overcome the emotion of Senior Day to complete the season undefeated at Cole. It helped them rebound from their most recent loss to Duke on Jan.17 and go on their current 12-game win streak, including an impressive comeback win at Virginia. It also is why Maryland believes a repeat trip to the Final Four is in order.
"That's something we planned on doing the whole season going undefeated here at Cole and also winning the ACC regular season," Dixon said. "We had a great season last year and we knew we would have a better season this year because we remember what it takes to get back there."
Notes Dixon is a candidate for ACC player of the year, but likely will finish second to Jason Williams when that vote is tabulated next week. Gary Williams is a favorite to be the conference's coach of the year but could get edged out as the North Carolina-based media are pushing Herb Sendek, whose N.C. State team was 9-7 in ACC play and 20-9 overall.

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