Ranking the Gary Williams Era Terps’ NBA Careers, and Where Might Greivis Vasquez Fit on the List?
As the sun sets on the football season and the inevitable tumult of baseball approaches, the Terps basketball team has thus far provided more than a convenient distraction in between, and may also be proving that this season is a little more than just the Greivis Vasquez traveling NBA audition that we feared it could become. As Vasquez goes though, so go the Terps, for better or for worse, as he refines his trade and attempts to solidify his value for scouts on the next level.
When Vasquez arrived at Maryland to begin the 2006/07 season, the accolades were easy to come by. The scouts were touting him as 6’5” with the potential to grow to 6’7” by graduation, and he would supposedly benefit from the presence of what appeared to be another budding albeit more traditional style of point guard in classmate Eric Hayes. After a prolonged stretch of Terps teams lacking in NBA caliber talent, Vasquez appeared poised to break that trend in a big way. In fact, given all of the hoopla, it was easy to envision at least the possibility that Vasquez could mature into the best Gary Williams era Terp in the NBA. His style after all, even from day one, always seemed better suited for a one-on-one style of game.
Three and a half seasons later, 6’5” seems debatable, 6’7” out of the question, and maturation is a relative term as well as a work in progress where Vasquez is concerned. Still, it’s not beyond possibility, that by the time all is said and done, Vasquez could be the best Gary Williams era Terp in the NBA anyway, maybe more due to a lack of impact by Gary’s Terps in the league than any great potential of Vasquez’ own.
The Terps athletics’ web site lists 17 former Terps, who spent at least one season under Gary Williams as having played in the NBA. For some, played is a relative term too. Here are my unofficial rankings on the Williams’ era Terps, ranked based solely on their NBA careers. Looking over the list, Vasquez won’t have to aim very high to get into the top 5.
The Honorable Mentions
#17. Cedric Lewis – There are lots of players who came and went through the hallowed halls of College Park that would’ve loved to have been the last guy on this list, but that distinction goes to Lewis. Inherited from the Bob Wade regime, Lewis played 2 seasons under Gary Williams, and tallied 137 blocks in 1990/91. Never a commensurate rebounder with his leaping ability, Lewis managed just 4 NBA minutes in 3 official games with the then Washington Bullets in the ’95-’96 season.
#16. Chris McCray – McCray came to the Terps as part of their first post-national championship class and played 4 seasons between ’02-03 and ’05-06. A starter since his sophomore season, McCray came right out of the gates as a double-digit scorer, averaging 11 ppg as a sophomore, and topping out at 15.1 ppg as a senior. Largely ineffective in other stat categories, McCray managed a total of 12 NBA minutes over 5 games with the Bucks in 2006-’07.
#15. Evers Burns – Burns a carry over from Wade’s last recruiting class played 4 seasons under Williams. As a senior, Burns took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him because of defection and disinterest to the tune of 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per game. He was drafted in the second round by Sacramento and played just 143 minutes in parts of 23 games for the Kings in ’93-94.
#14. Keith Booth – The current Terps’ assistant, largely credited with opening the door back up for the Terps to Baltimore recruiting, Booth started all of his 126 games as a Terp and managed double digit point production right out of the gates, averaging 10.8 points and 6 rebounds per game as a freshman and steadily increasing those averages to 19.5 points and 8 boards per game as a senior. Drafted 28th overall by Chicago in 1997, Booth earned a ring as a member of the Bulls, but not much playing time. Largely limited by injuries Booth managed 2.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, playing an average of 10 minutes per over the course of 2 seasons.
#13. Laron Profit – Profit played four seasons under Williams and started for three. Appearing poised for stardom, the athletic Profit, leveled off stats-wise after his sophomore season, and never really became the player that many had envisioned in his first 2 seasons as a Terp. Drafted in the second round by Orlando in 1999, Profit never suited up for the Magic, but did manage to play parts of four NBA seasons, ’99-’00, ’00-’01, and ’04-05 for the Wizards and ’05-’06 for the Lakers. For his career Profit averaged 3.3 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in an average of 11.4 minutes per.
#12. Terence Morris – Arguably a lottery pick after his sophomore season, one in which he averaged 15 points and 7 boards per game, Morris decided the money could wait and stayed in school. As a junior he saw his averages go up slightly, but his draft potential begin to drop, he followed it up with 12 points and 7 ½ boards as a senior and went to the Rockets by way of the Hawks in the second round of the 2001 draft. He played 117 games and started 12 for the Rockets in ’01-’02 and ’02-’03 and then made a comeback with Orlando in ’05-’06 for 22 games. For his NBA career, Morris averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in just under 14 minutes per game.
#11. Obinna Ekezie – A starter from the midway point in his freshman year, Ekezie used his big body and brilliant mind to overcome the late start that he had on the game of basketball in general. He averaged a steady 12 points and 6 boards per game as a junior and senior, and then managed parts of 4 seasons with 5 NBA teams before finishing his NBA career in ’04-’05 with the Hawks. Ekezie played for Vancouver, Washington, Dallas, the Clippers and Hawks, managing 32 starts and 10.8 minutes per game in a 143-game career. He finished with career averages of 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. A noted scholar, Ekezie was probably always destined to earn a better living outside the NBA than in it, but still almost makes the top ten.
The Top Ten
#10. D.J. Strawberry – Son of Darryl, D.J. Strawberry played 4 seasons under Williams between ’03-’04 and ’06-’07 in a variety of roles. Strawberry’s development was debatably either hindered or enhanced by the fact that he was called on to play a number of different roles for the Terps in his four seasons. He finished his Terps career averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game, and was drafted by Phoenix in the second round in 2007. In one NBA season, Strawberry averaged 8 minutes with 2.2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist per game in parts of 33 games. Strawberry currently plays for Reno of the NBA D-League, as a designee of the Rockets so the book may not yet be closed on his NBA fortunes just yet.
#9. Lonny Baxter – You could call Lonny Baxter the evolution of Evers Burns. Baxter was reluctantly awarded a starter’s role, late in his freshman season of ’98-’99 and never relinquished it. Baxter was a pretty steady 15 points and 8 boards per game as a sophomore, junior and senior and was a second round selection of the Bulls in the 2002 NBA draft. He managed 4 seasons in the NBA with the Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, Hornets, Rockets and Bobcats before going off to play in Europe. For his NBA career Baxter managed 162 games, averaging 11 ½ minutes, 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest, but may be best remembered for shooting a Glock randomly into the air while driving in the vicinity of the White House for no apparent reason.
#8. Sarunas Jasikevicius – Williams foray into the European talent market brought him Jasikevicius, and all of his 3-point range. A four-year player and two-year starter, Jasikevicius averaged 12 and a half points per game as a senior while shooting nearly 40% from three-point land. Overlooked by the NBA, Jasikevicius retreated to Europe, and became the shooting star of the Lithuanian National team, before surfacing with the Pacers in ’05-’06 and then splitting time between the Pacers and Warriors in ’07-’08. One of the most decorated pros in Europe and around the globe, Sarunas averaged 6.8 points and 2.9 assists per game in 138 NBA contests over 2 seasons.
#7. Tony Massenburg – A holdover from Lefty Driesell to Wade to Williams, Massenburg spent just one season playing for Gary. He averaged 18 points and 10 boards per game in that season, although no one could likely verify it since the Terps were in struggling in exile. Longevity and the ability to adapt were skills that served Massenburg well over his NBA career too, holding on for 13 seasons while playing for an NBA record 12 different teams including Houston and Vancouver twice each. Never averaging more than 28 minutes or 11.2 points or 7 rebounds per game, Massenburg finished his career with averages of 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18 minutes per game, over a total of 683 NBA games.
#6. Juan Dixon – There’s little debating that Juan Dixon was the most storied Terp of the Williams era as far as college careers go, the lightly recruited Baltimore guard who became a three time first team all ACC player, a first team all American, culminates his career with back to back Final Fours, a National Title and a Tournament MOP award. At 6’3” though, Dixon’s NBA potential was in doubt, but not enough to drop him from the first round as the Wizards selected him with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the 2002 draft. Over 7 NBA seasons, Dixon has gone from Washington to Portland to Toronto to Detroit back to Washington, and most recently to Greece. A part time starter, in 436 NBA games over 7 seasons, Dixon averaged 8.4 points, 1.8 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game.
Totally Depressed Yet? The Top 5 is a Little Better
#5. Chris Wilcox – Only at Maryland for 2 seasons total, Wilcox didn’t find his way into the starting lineup until midway through his sophomore, and final season. His numbers are largely unimpressive, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds and over a block per game, but his athleticism was unquestionable. Wilcox gave the Terps a gigantic boost down the stretch in their run to a national title, and rode that momentum into the draft lottery, going 8th overall to the Clippers in ’02. In his 8 NBA seasons, Wilcox, currently with the Pistons, has played for 5 different teams, but may have peaked with the Sonics between 2005 and 2008. He’s playing 13 minutes per game for a bad Detroit team right now, averaging 4 ½ points and 3 ½ rebounds per.
#4. Walt Williams – Another Wade holdover, Walt the Wizard is adored as much or more by old school Terps fans for hanging around and giving us anything to cheer for as the Williams regime settled in, than for the wonderful memories he left us on the court. In his 3 seasons under Gary Williams, Walt Williams was called on to do everything from banging in the post to running the point. As a senior Williams averaged 27 points 5 ½ rebounds and 3 ½ assists per game for an otherwise anonymous team. He was drafted 7th overall in 1992 by the Kings, and played 11 NBA seasons between Sacramento, Miami, Toronto, Portland, Houston and Dallas. At his best he was good for 15 points and 4 rebounds per contest, for his career he averaged 12 and 4.
#3. Steve Blake – Blake, the point guard from the national title squad and last significant pro the Terps have produced is currently playing, and often starting, for the Portland Trailblazers. A four-year starter for the Terps, Blake finished his Maryland career averaging 8 points, 7 assists and 3 ½ rebounds per game as a Terp. This season with Portland he’s playing 28 minutes per game averaging 7 ½ points and 4 assists per; pretty much right on his career averages. In a league rich in young point guards, but devoid of true traditional pass first floor leaders, Blake remains a niche commodity and his placement on this list a work in progress.
#2. Steve Francis – Only sticking around for one season at Maryland, Francis was probably the biggest recruit of the Williams era. After flirting with the NBA out of Alleghany Community College, Francis brought his wares to Maryland for one season, and averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game before bolting to the NBA. Drafted by Vancouver with the second overall pick of the 1999 NBA draft, Francis refused to report and was subsequently traded to Houston where he became Stevie Franchise. In 5 seasons with the Rockets Francis averaged 20 points, 6 ½ assists and 6 rebounds per game, living up to his Franchise moniker. Disgruntled after the trade of his pal Cuttino Mobley, Francis spent the next 3 seasons with the Magic, and Knicks before returning to the Rockets to end his career in ’07-’08. Francis finished that career as a 3 time All-Star with averages of 18 points, 6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game over 9 total seasons.
#1. Joe Smith – Joe Smith burst onto the scene for a Terps team in need of a jump start in ’93-’94 as a freshman averaging 20 and 12 per game. After putting up nearly identical numbers and capturing the Naismith Award as a sophomore, Smith wisely bolted to the NBA, while the getting was good, and before Allen Iverson or Tim Duncan had a chance to steal his money. As a result, Smith was chosen first overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1995 NBA draft. As #1 overall picks go, Smith could be considered a disappointment, but hardly a bust. In 15 seasons since that pick, Smith has been through 10 teams and a variety of roles, but remains vigilant. At his best, you could pencil him in for 15 and 8, for his career, he averages 11.3 and 6.6. In addition to his 10 unique NBA stops, Smith has enjoyed 2 stays each in Philly and Minnesota, and is currently logging 9 minutes per game and putting up 2.8 points and 2.8 boards per for the Hawks. He’s also providing veteran leadership to one of the NBA’s most exciting young frontcourts, increasing his overall NBA impact still. Disappointing for a #1 overall perhaps, but as Gary era Terps go, Smith is easily the cream of a not so lovely crop.