The 40th anniversary of Maryland Midnight Madness starts tonight at the Comcast Center at 9:30PM, and while most occurred under Gary Williams’ tenure at College Park, Mark Turgeon is ready approach his first as basketball coach of the Terps.
Festivities include the Alumni Game, featuring several prominent members of the 2002 National Championship Team including Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, and Byron Mouton.
The game is set to honor the ten year anniversary of the National Championship-the school’s first in program history.
Terps from other squads include Steve Francis, Greivis Vasquez, Johnny Rhodes, Eric Hayes, Dave Neal, and Eric Hayes.
“We’ll be having a really good list of players playing,” Hayes (2006-2010) said to Thyrl Nelson Wednesday. “With guys like Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Wilcox, Steve Francis…I’ve heard Greivis is coming to play…it should be a pretty star-studded alumni game.”
“It’s definitely going to be great going back to see those guys,” Chris Wilcox (2000-2002)-a key piece of the National Title team-told Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Thursday. “It’s going to be a great re-union, and it will be a great time.
Some of them-like Wilcox and Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez-are current NBA stars, and with the league in labor limbo, this is the only basketball they’re able to experience at this point.
“It’s working out and getting better,” Vasquez said. “Obviously it’s affecting me, but all of us wants to play and unfamiliar…this is something that I’m not used to.”
“Tomorrow is going to be special,” Vasquez added. “I was there for Maryland Madness the last time and now I’m going for the first time not as a college player. It’s going to be fun, and I know it’s going to be a great environment.”
“It gives me an opportunity to work on my game more, so I won’t complain,” Wilcox said. “But at the end of the day, I definitely wouldn’t mind playing and getting the season started.”
Hayes meanwhile,-who has played overseas in Lithuania and Spain since leaving College Park-it’s an opportunity to come home.
“It’s one of those nights that you look forward toward participating in,” Hayes added.
While in College Park, all of them have been asked by new coach Mark Turgeon and some of the current Terps to pass on his knowledge and insight of the game having been in the league for 11 seasons.
“I’ll be down here for a couple days so I can get a chance to just go in there,” Wilcox said. “They’re going to have a couple practices and maybe I can get in there and just work out with them. I need to work out too…so maybe I can help them out.”
Wilcox was also one of those who felt like it was important for the old players to maintain close relationships with Turgeon and the new regime as opposed to holding a grudge or taking time to develop a relationship.
“They have invitations set up at Walt Williams’ house for everybody to come in and greet the new coach,” Wilcox explained. “I had a lot of time on my hands from this lockout that I was like, ‘Well, hey, let me go up there and meet the new coach’.”
Wilcox said with the pressure of replacing a legend in Gary Williams, Turgeon already has his hands full and Wilcox felt like he needed all the help he could get.
“I wanted to give him our support,” Wilcox said, “to let him know that we were backing him.”
Eric Hayes agreed, and sees good things out of the new coach.
“I am real excited,” Hayes said. “He has a great first couple months at Maryland recruiting-wise. He has done a great job and in a short period of time we’ll end being a good team.”
If anything, bringing a compilation of the 22-year run of Gary Williams at Maryland all at once should be quite the tribute to their former Coach Friday night.
“It’s about time,” Hayes said. “I think with him retiring and all the things he has done for the school…I think it’s only fitting.
There probably isn’t a player coming back Friday night that doesn’t love Gary more than Greivis Vasquez.
“I hope to see Gary there,” Vasquez said. “I haven’t seen Gary in a long time. I want to talk to Coach and say, ‘what’s up?’ I want to see the fans and everybody there. It’s going to be a big time and I’m really excited about that.”
“Gary is the most legendary character in Maryland to me, so that’s big time. I’m happy for him. Gary and I are always friends, and he’s like a dad to me. I’m always going to support him no matter what.”
And playing in the game will allow guys like Wilcox to dust off the championship rings and show them off one more time.
“I usually just keep it tucked away,” Wilcox said. “I don’t even wear it…just in case someone starts talking trash.”
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