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Maryland assistant Hill resigns; Clark, Dixon added to staff

Posted on 27 November 2013 by WNST Staff

Maryland Announces New Additions to Coaching Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Head coach Mark Turgeon and the Maryland men’s basketball program has announced multiple personnel moves to the staff Wednesday to include the promotion of Dustin Clark to assistant coach, while adding Juan Dixon as special assistant to the head coach. Additionally, the program has announced the resignation of assistant coach Dalonte Hill.

“Dustin is very deserving of this promotion,” Turgeon said. “He has been an integral member of my staff at both Maryland and Texas A&M.  Dustin is a tireless worker and talented coach who will thrive in his new role and help our program continue its ascension to the next level.”

Clark served as the program’s director of basketball operations overseeing all administrative duties since joining the coaching staff alongside Turgeon in 2011. Prior to Maryland, he spent five seasons at Texas A&M, including four under the tutelage of Turgeon.

One of the most decorated players in Maryland history, Dixon returns to the program as special assistant to Turgeon. In addition to leading the Terps to the national title in 2002, he garnered numerous accolades including Associated Press consensus First Team All-America, ACC Player of the Year and NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Dixon also spent seven seasons in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.

Dixon’s responsibilities will include scouting and film breakdown, academic support and mentorship and additional administrative duties.

“We’re excited to welcome Juan back to College Park,” Turgeon said. “He is one of the most decorated and celebrated player in Terrapin  history.  Juan’s diverse experience playing professionally in the NBA combined with his passion for Maryland basketball makes him a very strong addition to our program.”

Hill spent two full seasons on the Maryland coaching staff. His resignation is effective immediately.

“We appreciate Dalonte’s contributions to our program the past three years,” Turgeon said. “We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

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Stoglin Named Maryland Basketball MVP

Posted on 05 April 2012 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Terrell Stoglin was given the Len Bias Award as the most valuable player on the team Tuesday at the University of Maryland men’s basketball awards banquet held at the Riggs Alumni Center.

Senior Sean Mosley earned three awards at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 250 people. Mosley got the Steve Blake Award for most assists, the Walt Williams Coaches’ Award and the Greivis Vasquez Award for most inspirational player.

James Padgett earned the Len Elmore Award for most rebounds, while Nick Faust won both the Juan Dixon Award for most improved and the Buck Williams Award for most valuable defensive player.

Sophomore John Auslander earned the Tom McMillen Award for academic achievement.

Awards for MVP and Most Inspirational Player were voted on by the players.

Mosley, Berend Weijs and Jon Dillard received special recognition as seniors on this year’s team.

Maryland finished 17-15 overall this season, extending its string of consecutive winning seasons to an ACC-best 19 years.

– Terps –

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Juan Dixon Looks Back on Maryland Championship 10 Years Later

Posted on 29 March 2012 by WNST Audio

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Nets Select Maryland’s Jordan Williams in Round 2

Posted on 23 June 2011 by WNST Staff

Williams Picked by Nets in Second Round

Maryland center led ACC in rebounding in 2010-11

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Jordan Williams, who earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference recognition after leading the league in rebounding as a sophomore, was chosen by the New Jersey Nets in the second round of the NBA Draft Thursday night.

Williams, a 6-foot-10 center, was the 36th selection overall in the draft and was the Nets’ second selection of the night.

I’m excited for Jordan that he realized a longtime dream of his to have his name called in the NBA Draft,” said new Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. “It’s a testament of his hard work and the great opportunity he had to play college basketball at Maryland.  We wish Jordan the best as he begins his professional career, and we will follow him closely as he adds his name to the long list of Maryland alumni to play in the NBA.”

Williams averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for the Terrapins, who went 19-14 in the 2010-11 season. He set a school record with 13 straight double-doubles this season and ended the year with 25, which was second in the nation.

With 388 rebounds, he finished second on the single-season rebounding list at Maryland and was only the seventh sophomore in the history of the ACC to grab at least 600 career rebounds (672). He finished third nationally in rebounding and was the first Maryland player to lead the ACC on the glass since Joe Smith (1993-94).

He was a third team All-America pick by Yahoo! Sports and FoxSports.com, and earned honorable mention All-America consideration by the Associated Press.

Williams’ selection gives the Terrapin men’s basketball program picks in back-to-back seasons for the second time since 2007. Greivis Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year in 2010, was selected on the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies and was the 28th pick overall in last year’s NBA Draft.

D.J. Strawberry (2007) and James Gist (2008) were the most recent back-to-back picks, while Maryland had players taken in 2001 (Terence Morris), 2002 (Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter) and 2003 (Steve Blake).

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Turgeon Formally Announces Maryland Staff

Posted on 20 May 2011 by WNST Staff

Here is the official release, courtesy of the Terps’ Sports Information Department…

TURGEON ANNOUNCES COACHING STAFF

Spinelli, Hill join Ranson as assistant coaches

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Head men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon announced Friday that Scott Spinelli, Dalonte Hill and Bino Ranson will be the assistant coaches on his new Terrapin staff. In addition, Dustin Clark has been hired as the director of basketball operations.

“I feel good about the talent of the assistant coaches we have assembled,” said Turgeon. “They all have their own unique abilities as coaches that, as a group, will make us complete. They all have been successful recruiting this part of the country and will be a big part of the resurgence of Maryland Basketball.”

Spinelli will join Turgeon for the sixth straight season, having worked with him during each of Turgeon’s four years at Texas A&M and for one season at Wichita State. He was the Aggies’ associate head coach and helped direct the program to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Hill, a native of Washington, D.C., will join the Terrapins’ staff after six seasons at Kansas State. Long noted for his recruiting ties to the D.C. area, Hill helped a resurgence in the Wildcat basketball program that had Kansas State hit the 20-win plateau for a school-record five straight years.

Ranson will be retained as an assistant after he spent last season on the staff of retired coach Gary Williams. A native of Baltimore, Ranson has strong recruiting ties in that area and aided in the recent recruitment and retention of shooting guard Nick Faust.

Clark has been an athletics assistant for three years and, last year, moved into the role as team administrator on Turgeon’s staff with the Aggies. A graduate of Texas A&M, he has played an important role in recruiting and in the recent success of the Aggies’ basketball program.

Bios on the new staff members follow:

SCOTT SPINELLI

Hometown: Leominster, Mass.

Education: Boston University ‘89

Following five seasons on various staffs for head coach Mark Turgeon, Scott Spinelli comes to College Park to be part of the coaching staff at the University of Maryland.

“Scott is a bulldog recruiter with tremendous connection up and down the east coast,” said Turgeon. “He is also an excellent coach with a tremendous basketball mind.”

Spinelli sent four seasons with Turgeon as the associate head coach at Texas A&M, and was in the same position with Turgeon at Wichita State in 2006-07.

Prior to that, he was an assistant at Nebraska for three seasons, when he helped land two nationally-ranked recruiting classes. He was the Cornhuskers’ associate head coach in 2005-06. All-Big 12 center Aleks Maric was among the players he signed at Nebraska.

From 2001-03, Spinelli was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Loyola-Chicago. He helped the Ramblers to 32 wins over two seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03) — the program’s most in a two-year span since the mid-1980s — including a berth in the championship game of the 2002 Horizon League Tournament.

Spinelli recruited and developed Paul McMillan, a junior-college transfer who won the Horizon League’s Newcomer of the Year Award in 2003. His first recruiting class for the Ramblers also included Terrance Whiters, who was ranked among the top 70 overall prospects in the country and among the top 20 point guards by ESPN.com.

Spinelli has been recognized by several media outlets as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches. Before joining the Ramblers, Spinelli spent one year as a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, evaluating players in the Big East and Atlantic 10 conferences, along with high school players from the Northeast.

Spinelli served as an assistant coach for Cincinnati of the International Basketball League (IBL) in 1999-2000, helping the Stuff to an Eastern Conference regular-season championship.

Prior to his work in the IBL, Spinelli spent two years as associate head coach (1997-99) at American University in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for two nationally-recognized recruiting classes. Spinelli’s first collegiate coaching stop came at Wyoming in 1996-97.

He began his coaching career on the prep level in 1990 at the Milford Academy, where he spent three seasons as head coach. In 1993, Spinelli started the basketball program at The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass., where he produced several Division I players. The school remains one of the top prep school programs in the Northeast.

The Leominster, Mass., native earned his bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 1989. As a student-athlete, Spinelli initially walked on with the Terriers before earning a scholarship as a point guard under Mike Jarvis, who went on to a successful stint as head coach at St. John’s.

Spinelli and his wife, Lynn, have three children: Gianna, Gabriel and Joseph.

SPINELLI CAREER

2007-11 – Associate Head Coach, Texas A&M
2006-07 – Associate Head Coach, Wichita State
2005-06 – Associate Head Coach, Nebraska
2003-05 – Assistant Coach, Nebraska
2001-03 – Assistant Coach, Loyola-Chicago
2000-01 – Scout, Philadelphia 76ers
1999-00 – Assistant Coach, Cincinnati Stuff
1997-99 – Associate Head Coach, American University
1996-97 – Assistant Coach, Wyoming
1993-96 – Head Coach, Winchendon (Mass.) School
1990-93 – Head Coach, Milford (N.Y.) Academy

DALONTE HILL

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Education: Charlotte ‘01

Noted as one of the top coaches and recruiters nationally, Dalonte Hill is coming home to the Washington, D.C., area to join the staff of head coach Mark Turgeon.

“It was great to be able to bring Dalonte home,” said Turgeon. “He is a terrific recruiter and will be a great addition to our staff. His relationships on the east coast will be huge for the growth of our program.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Hill was hired as an assistant coach at Kansas State by former head coach Bob Huggins in April 2006 after three seasons at Charlotte.  He was elevated to associate head coach and recruiting coordinator just over a year later upon the promotion of Frank Martin to head coach.

Hill played a significant role in helping to revitalize the K-State program, which has tallied five consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history.  With his help, the Wildcats have posted 118 wins the past five seasons, including 50 in Big 12 play, and have advanced to the postseason in an unprecedented five straight seasons, including trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

The 118 wins are the most in school history in a five-year span, shattering the previous mark of 107 wins set from 1957-62, while the 50 conference victories are the most since the squad posted 56 from 1971-76.  K-State is one of four Big 12 schools (along with Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M) in that span to total five 20-win seasons, while the Wildcats and Jayhawks are the only teams to finish in the top-4 in the Big 12 and receive a bye at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in each of the past five seasons.

Hill has also played a major role in helping Kansas State land some of the country’s best recruiting classes, including the nation’s top-rated class by Scout.com and Rivals.com in 2006, which included No. 1 recruit Michael Beasley and No. 6 recruit Bill Walker.  In 2008, he helped the Wildcats pull down their second top-20 class in the past three seasons, including their fourth McDonald’s All-American (and second in last four seasons) in Wally Judge.  The four-man class was rated 17th by Scout/ESPN.com and 18th by Rivals.com.

Hill spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Charlotte under Bobby Lutz.  He helped guide his alma mater to a 61-30 (.760) overall record and three consecutive postseason appearances from 2003-06, including a pair of trips to the NCAA Tournament (2004, 2005).  He also helped the 49ers to a share of the 2004 Conference USA regular-season title as well as runner-up finishes in C-USA in 2004-05 and the Atlantic 10 in 2005-06.

During his tenure at Charlotte, Hill helped coach two All-Americans, one C-USA Player of the Year and seven all-conference players. Two 49ers earned All-America distinction as Eddie Basden and Curtis Withers were named to SI.com’s third team and honorable mention lists in 2005.  Withers was also named to Basketball Times’ All-America third team in 2004.  A two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year, Basden was selected as the 2005 Conference USA Player of the Year as well as the national Defensive Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com.

Prior to joining the college ranks, Hill served two years as the head coach of the AAU’s DC Assault.

A three-year letterman at Charlotte from 1997-2000, Hill played on three postseason squads for the 49ers under head coaches Melvin Watkins and Bobby Lutz.  As a true freshman in 1997-98, he averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 26 games with one start for the 49ers in helping the squad to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 20-11 record.  As a sophomore, the 49ers captured the 1999 Conference USA Tournament title and once again advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round with a 23-11 record.  During the 1999-2000 season, he averaged 6.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 23 games with 11 starts in helping Charlotte earn a Postseason NIT bid with a 17-16 record.

Hill transferred to Bowie State for his senior season where he averaged 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in helping the Bulldogs to a 19-9 record.  He returned to Charlotte following the season to complete his bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2001.

Hill and his wife, Tish, have three daughters: Danae, Dakotah and Daeja.

HILL CAREER

2007-11 – Associate Head Coach, Kansas State
2006-07 – Assistant Coach, Kansas State
2003-06 – Assistant Coach, Charlotte
2001-03 – Head Coach D.C. Assault (AAU)

ORLANDO “BINO” RANSON

Hometown: Baltimore, Md.

Education: Southern New Hampshire ‘99

Orlando “Bino” Ranson was hired as an assistant coach at Maryland in the summer of 2010, and the halls of Comcast Center immediately lit up with energy. He has been retained on the staff by new head coach Mark Turgeon.

“Bino is a young man I have known for a long time, and I have watched him grow as a coach,” said Turgeon. “He is a grinder when it comes to recruiting and he has many connections all over the east coast.”

Ranson has strong ties to the Baltimore-Washington area, having coached for two seasons at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. He came to Maryland after one season as an assistant at Xavier, during which the Musketeers went 26-9 and reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. In his lone season on the staff of Maryland head coach Gary Williams in 2010-11, the Terrapins went 19-14.

Ranson said he’s followed the Maryland program for a long time and is familiar with its national reputation and rich history. He spent two years as an administrative assistant at Loyola University on the staff of long-time Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos.

Prior to Xavier, Ranson was an assistant coach at James Madison for one season, helping the Dukes to a 21-15 mark, the most wins by JMU in a season since 1992-93. The Dukes advanced in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament for the first time since 2003 and their berth in the College Insiders.com Tournament marked their first postseason appearance since 1994.

Ranson also worked for Matt Brady at Marist University for three seasons. The Red Foxes were 62-33 in those three seasons and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season in 2007. That season, Marist won at Oklahoma State in the Postseason NIT.

Considered an outstanding recruiter, he helped bring in excellent classes at James Madison, Marist and Xavier. Ranson helped land Jay Gavin at Marist, who went on to become the MAAC Rookie of the Year.

Ranson coached at St. Frances Academy for two seasons before joining the Loyola staff. He handled St. Frances’ junior-varsity program, directing the 2003-04 team to a 24-5 record, titles in the MIAA and the Baltimore Catholic League. He also founded Team Baltimore, one of the top AAU programs in the Northeast.

Among the players Ranson worked with at the AAU level are Sean Mosley and Juan Dixon of Maryland, Ricky Harris of Massachusetts, Jermaine Dixon of Pittsburgh and Donte Greene of Syracuse.

A 1999 graduate of Southern New Hampshire with a B.S. in sports management, Ranson completed his collegiate career as one of the top players in the history of the school. He ranked seventh in career scoring (1,899 points), fifth in assists (598) and fourth in 3-point field goals (226) after lettering for four seasons. He was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in January 2007.

Ranson and his wife, Shannon, have two sons: Orlando and Bradshaw.

RANSON CAREER

2010-11 – Assistant Coach, Maryland
2009-10 – Assistant Coach, Xavier
2008-09 – Assistant Coach, James Madison
2004-05 to 2006-07 – Assistant Coach, Marist
2003-04 & 2004-05 – Administrative Assistant, Loyola, Md.
2001-02 to 2002-03 – Coach, St. Francis Academy

DUSTIN CLARK

Hometown: Waxahachie, Texas

Education: Texas A&M ‘07

Dustin Clark comes to the Maryland men’s basketball program as the director of basketball operations on the staff of head coach Mark Turgeon. In that role, Clark will be in charge of the administrative duties in the men’s basketball office, including scheduling, operations and travel.

“Dustin is one of the bright young coaches in this business,” said Turgeon. “He has tremendous passion for his job and will build great relationships with our current players. His understanding and experience of how I want the office and program to run is big in our transition.”

Clark spent five seasons with the Texas A&M basketball program. After serving as an athletics assistant for three years, he was the team administrator in the 2010-11 season. During his five seasons, the Aggies won 124 games, produced three NBA draft picks and had Turgeon earn back-to-back Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.

His duties included on-campus recruiting, coordination of recruiting correspondence, academic quality control and student-athlete affairs. Clark was the director of the Mark Turgeon Basketball Camp, as well as a coordinator for the Texas A&M Elite and Junior Elite camps. He has played a key role in helping the Aggies land multiple nationally ranked recruiting classes.

In 2008, the Aggies won the Preseason NIT and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they lost in the closing seconds to top-seeded UCLA. A&M closed the next regular season on a six-game winning streak and again reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In 2010, Texas A&M reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament despite playing the second-toughest schedule in the nation. A year ago, the Aggies exploded to a 16-1 start, the best at the school in 91 years and earned its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.

A native of Waxahachie, Texas, Clark received his degree from Texas A&M in 2007. Clark graduated from Avalon High School, where he was a four-year letterman in both basketball and baseball.

CLARK CAREER

2010-11 – Team Administrator, Texas A&M
2007-10 – Athletic Assistant, Texas A&M
2006-07 – Student Assistant, Texas A&M

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Garyland no more: Terps coach Williams retires after 22 seasons

Posted on 05 May 2011 by Luke Jones

What felt like turbulent waves running through the Maryland basketball program with the official departure of Jordan Williams on Wednesday registered as little more than a drop of a pebble in a pond 24 hours later.

After 22 years at the University of Maryland that included the 2002 national championship and 14 NCAA tournament appearances, legendary head coach Gary Williams announced his retirement Thursday afternoon, sending seismic waves through College Park and the landscape of the college basketball world.

“It’s the right time,” Williams said in a statement on Thursday. “My entire career has been an unbelievable blessing. I am fiercely proud of the program we have built here. I couldn’t have asked any more from my players, my assistant coaches, the great Maryland fans, and this great university. Together, we did something very special here.”

Special, indeed, as Williams returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1989 with the ashes still smoldering from the tragic death of Len Bias in 1986 and Maryland on the verge of being leveled with NCAA sanctions from violations committed under former coach Bob Wade’s tenure. Facing a mountainous climb back to respectability, Williams did that and much more.

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Largely thanks to the arrivals of Joe Smith and Keith Booth, the Terps became a consistent Sweet 16 program beginning in 1994 and climbed to greater heights several years later. With local products Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter leading the way on the court, Maryland advanced to its first ever Final Four in 2001 despite losing five of six from late January into mid-February of that season.

However, the following season would be the stuff of fairy tales as Williams, the coach who suffered through two-year postseason and one-year television bans in his first three seasons at Maryland, led the Terps to a second consecutive trip to the Final Four in 2002. This time playing at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the impossible became reality as Maryland won its first ever national championship, defeating Indiana 64-52 in a moment supporters couldn’t even dream just 10 years earlier.

As Dixon and Baxter collapsed to the floor in a warm embrace, Williams stood in the background, pumping his fist while taking satisfaction in knowing what he had rebuilt and taken to incredible new heights.

Williams retires as the fifth-winningest active coach in the nation and third all-time in ACC wins behind Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith. In his 33 years as a head coach — including stops at American, Boston College, and Ohio State — the 66-year-old compiled an overall record of 668-380. Williams finished with a 461-252 record in his 22 years at Maryland.

Always dealing with basketball giants Duke and North Carolina, Williams guided the Terps to three ACC regular season titles (1995, 2002, 2010), an ACC tournament championship (2004), and seven Sweet Sixteens. He was named National Coach of the Year in 2002 and ACC Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2010.

“Gary Williams is a legend,” said athletic director Kevin Anderson, who will utilize the retiring coach as an assistant athletic director and special assistant. “His accomplishments on the court have earned him a place among the elite in college basketball history. But Gary’s legacy here at Maryland goes far beyond basketball. From his philanthropic efforts to his tireless work with fans and alumni to his impact with our students, Gary has left an indelible mark of excellence on this university.”

Despite a 22-year run that dwarfed the accomplishments of longtime, high-profile coach Lefty Driesell, Williams was often a polarizing figure among Maryland supporters. After rebuilding the Terps into a consistent top-25 program in the 1990s, detractors argued he couldn’t lead Maryland past the Sweet 16. He responded with two consecutive national semifinal berths and a national championship.

But in the years following the closing of Cole Field House with a national championship season in 2002, Williams was unable to maintain the same level of success with the opening of the glitzy Comcast Center. After a Sweet 16 appearance led by Steve Blake and a few other championship holdovers in 2003, the Terps have failed to make it past the second round ever since.

Frustrations continued to grow as Maryland failed to make the NCAA tournament in 2005 — snapping an 11-year streak — and missed the tournament in three of the next six years, including this past season when the Terps missed the postseason entirely for the first time since 1993. In recent seasons, his critics — ironically feeling entitled thanks to the accomplishments of the very man — began calling for Williams to step down due to the struggles on the court and in local recruiting efforts.

Those attacks came to a climax two years ago when then-athletic director Debbie Yow was front and center in a not-so-subtle attempt to conclude the coach’s reign before an underdog squad scratched together a strong conference tournament run to make the NCAA tournament in 2009. Williams ultimately remained as head coach, but the final damage had been done to his frigid relationship with Yow.

In what amounted to Williams’ final season in the spotlight in College Park, senior Greivis Vasquez led the Terps to a share of the ACC regular season title with Duke after an exhilarating victory over the Blue Devils on Maryland’s senior night in 2010. The win clinched conference player of the year honors for Vasquez — a player with whom Williams still shares a deep bond — and helped earn the coach his second and final ACC Coach of the Year award.

Following the Terps’ heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament later that month and losing Vasquez and two key seniors, Maryland stumbled to a 19-14 record in Williams’ final season. Unbeknownst to anyone, the Terps’ 87-71 loss to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals on March 11, 2011 not only turned out to be Maryland’s abrupt season finale and the swan song of all-ACC forward Jordan Williams, but ultimately marked the end of an era.

When the news broke on Thursday, comments immediately began flooding in from various players via social media. Having a reputation as a sometimes-surly coach who disliked the over-the-top recruiting tactics prevalent in today’s college basketball environment, countless players voiced their affection for the Maryland coach.

“I love Gary Williams, and I support him [no] matter what!” said Vasquez, who labeled him his coach for life.

The timing of Williams’ retirement leaves the program in flux, a day after learning leading scorer Jordan Williams would not return for his junior season this fall. Speculation has already started regarding incoming freshmen Nick Faust and Sterling Gibbs and their likely intentions to re-open their recruitment. Both will need a release from their signed national letters of intent to do so.

However, players come and go in the collegiate game. Even coaches are hired and dismissed with more and more frequency as the societal movement toward instant gratification provides shorter leashes for college coaches with every new season. Williams’ retirement signals a dramatic end to a mostly-wonderful period in College Park, especially to those who suffered through the heart-rending loss of Bias and the wretched cloud that rested over the university in the years that followed.

Numerous top names have already been tossed around as potential successors for one of the more attractive coaching jobs in the country, with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Villanova’s Jay Wright just two of many that will be discussed, but the dust will settle all too quickly and only time will reveal the future of Maryland basketball. The memories of the perspiring, jacket-throwing Williams screaming on the sideline or offering the fist pump as he’s introduced, however, will last as long as they play basketball at the University of Maryland.

As I casually pointed out in March when Williams celebrated his 66th birthday, he had reached the same age at which Smith stepped down from his brilliant career in Chapel Hill. The end was coming sooner rather than later.

But as is often the case in life, loyal supporters and critics alike may have envisioned the likely Hall of Famer’s farewell, but you’re never quite prepared when the moment finally comes.

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Questions abundant as Terps tip off practice at Maryland Madness

Posted on 15 October 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The lavish, smoky spectacle of Maryland Madness tipping off is always full of surprises, from the over-the-top dancing to the unpredictable entrance of coach Gary Williams, this year as a fighter pilot right out of “Top Gun.”

The event always provides conflicting feelings of optimism and uncertainty. The distinct absence of departing seniors and the premiere of freshman faces is an annual ritual in mid-October, but through all the smoke and pyro, Williams faces a much thicker cloud of questions this season.

The graduation of ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne leaves behind a 43.6-point hole in the offense and an even bigger void in leadership after guiding the Terps to a share of the ACC regular season championship. You just don’t replace one of the more decorated senior classes in the Gary Williams era without significant doubt and tempered expectations.

“What we lose [in the three seniors] is guys who know how to play,” said Williams, beginning his 22nd season at Maryland.

Of course, Williams is not starting from scratch, returning five players who averaged more than 14 minutes per game a year ago. Junior guard Sean Mosley (10.1 points per game) and sophomore big man Jordan Williams (9.6) — the only returning starters — will feel the most pressure to help replace the 55 percent of the scoring pie vacated by the graduated trio.

Mosley has shown the ability to score at times, like in his 26-point effort in a loss to Villanova last December, but the Baltimore native must show more consistency from the perimeter and better ability to finish near the hoop to take his game to the next level where the Terps need it to be.

Williams, on the other hand, appears destined for stardom after a wildly successful freshman campaign in which he averaged nearly a double-double and often looked like one of the most dominant big men in the ACC. The 6-foot-10 center looks leaner and more muscular after providing a powerful presence in the paint as a frosh.

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In terms of leadership, Maryland will look to three seniors who have spent their entire careers as role players. Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, and Dino Gregory have all had their moments in College Park, but none have provided enough consistency to instill confidence that they can fill the shoes left behind by Vasquez, Hayes, and Milbourne.

Among the three seniors, the wildcard who could potentially see the biggest scoring increase is Tucker (5.7 per game as a junior), an enigmatic player who admittedly has spent more time in Williams’ doghouse than in the spotlight of the hardwood. Of course, Tucker has had his moments of brilliance, with his 22-point performance in an overtime win over North Carolina two years ago and his electrifying game-winning three-pointer to top Georgia Tech last season, one of the most exciting moments in the history of the Comcast Center.

“That’s helped me out a lot,” said Tucker about his heroic shot in the 76-74 win on Feb. 20. “It gives coach [Williams] more confidence in me.”

While Maryland will initially lean on its experienced players to start the season, Maryland Madness and the start of fall practice is largely about the newcomers, which include five freshmen and a junior-college transfer.

Guard Pe’Shon Howard has made the bold decision to wear Vasquez’s No. 21 jersey and has already earned praise for the heart with which he plays. Early signs point to him being an emotional player and potential fan-favorite, but will that translate to freshman success?

Mychal Parker’s athleticism and Terrell Stoglin’s quickness appear promising, but how will they translate to the college game?

Can 6-foot-9 forward Ashton Pankey provide help in the frontcourt despite spending the spring and summer recovering from a stress fracture in his left leg?

Is Haukur Palsson — a forward from Iceland — an ACC-caliber player?

All remain question marks with answers we won’t begin to uncover for several more weeks. However,  Williams is eager to unwrap his new presents when practice officially begins on Saturday.

Within the group, perhaps there is a Joe Smith, Juan Dixon, or Vasquez who will shine from Day 1 and pacify concerns over the loss of so much scoring and leadership.

“That’s what’s fun about [starting practice Saturday],” Williams said. “You’ll get some surprises. … You want to stay open to everybody — no preconceived notions.”

Notes: Juan Dixon, Johnny Rhodes, Byron Mouton, Rodney Elliott, and Dave Neal were among the notables present for the annual alumni game. Dixon hit a myriad of three-pointers in his return to College Park. … The basketball team sported their new black uniforms while performing the annual team dance for Maryland Madness. However, it is unknown whether the Terps plan to wear the uniforms due to their lack of success wearing black uniforms in recent seasons. The basketball team’s uniforms have been tweaked this season and are still supplied by Under Armour.

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Vasquez and Williams on Senior Night

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Terps’ Vasquez, G. Williams easy picks for ACC honors after not so easy years

Posted on 09 March 2010 by Luke Jones

The two embraced near center court at Comcast Center while thousands showered applause and earsplitting cheers upon the senior and his remarkable accomplishments after four years in College Park.

Vasquez and Williams on Senior Night

Just moments before their biggest game—and victory—of the season against hated Duke, Greivis Vasquez and Gary Williams stood alone on Senior Night, sharing a brief moment that no one could take away, chastise, or disparage. Despite three up-and-down seasons that saw both men experience intense—and sometimes malicious—scrutiny, the senior guard and veteran coach stood tall on the Comcast floor, basking in the accomplishments of a brilliant 2009-10 season that was about to get even better.

Now, less than a week after clinching a share of the ACC regular season title and currently preparing for the ACC tournament as the No. 2 seed, Vasquez and Williams added to those accomplishments on Tuesday, earning ACC Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors in a slam-dunk vote.

Selected by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, Vasquez received 39 of 53 votes (74 percent), overwhelmingly besting Duke senior Jon Scheyer (12 votes) and Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney (two).  The Caracas, Venezuela native is the fifth Terrapin to win the award and the first since Juan Dixon in 2002. The three others to win include Joe Smith (1995), Albert King (1980), and the late Len Bias (1985 and 1986).

Winning the ACC coaching honor for the second time in his career (2002), Williams grabbed 42 of 53 votes (79 percent), edging out Mike Krzyzewski (eight), Seth Greenberg (two), and Leonard Hamilton (one).

The juxtaposition of Vasquez and Williams is not only apparent with this year’s accolades but also to anyone that’s followed the tribulations of the Maryland basketball program over the last four years.

One has the “shimmy” and the uncanny ability to incite an entire crowd into a state of euphoria or utter disdain. No player in recent memory has tossed up as many inexplicable shots, only to have them fall at the most critical moments.

The other has the trademark fistpump and frequent eruptions in the direction of his own bench. He’s also been known to perspire a bit while outcoaching some of the finest minds in the college game.

Both were the obvious choices—and clearly the ACC media agreed—but neither man could describe the path traveled over the last four years as harmonious.

Vasquez came to the University of Maryland as a 19-year-old after playing at Montrose Christian, still adjusting to life in a new country when he first stepped foot in College Park. He will leave as one of the finest players in school history, becoming the first ACC player with 2,000 points, 700 assists, and 600 rebounds. His 2010 Player of the Year award was not only deserved for a brilliant senior season but also as a lifetime achievement award for becoming one of the better players in the history of the ACC.

“What he has done for himself—as a person, for his family, what lies ahead for him and his family—is a great story,” the coach recently said about Vasquez. “To see the guy that comes over here and can barely speak English at all and now he is going to graduate.”

But along the way, he was largely underappreciated by much of his own fan base and viciously targeted by opposing fans. The eccentric guard certainly brought much of the disdain upon himself, but not to the level of racist attacks and blatant prejudice encountered at several road venues.

The inconsistency in his play did little to ease the concerns with a struggling Maryland program that now found itself on the bubble annually after winning a national championship earlier in the decade. In many skeptical eyes, Vasquez was the poster child for the fall of the program, despite being the one player keeping it afloat.

It came as no surprise that Vasquez entered the NBA Draft following his junior season, only to return to school after being told again that he wasn’t good enough.

Not good enough.

The same words volleyed at Gary Williams throughout his coaching career. Even after resurrecting a Maryland program from the ashes to win its first national championship in 2002, the criticism had never been louder than in the last few years, culminating last season in a very public spat with athletic director Debbie Yow over recruiting tactics, graduation rates, and the program’s overall performance after missing the NCAA tournament in three of the previous four seasons.

Without drudging up these circumstances, Williams was clearly in a precarious position, needing to prove yet again that he was in fact good enough to lead the program. In one of the finest coaching performances of his career, Williams, with the help of a second-team All-ACC player in Vasquez, led an undersized and undermanned team to the NCAA tournament, appeasing the doubters—at least temporarily—and laying the groundwork for the current championship team.

A year later, there is no talk of being on the bubble as the Terps—and their coach—have no reason to sweat on Selection Sunday. Instead of needing two wins in the conference tournament to avoid the NIT, the Terrapins are eyeing three wins to cut down the nets in Greensboro, for no reason other than simply being good enough to do it—while improving their NCAA seeding in the process.

Williams was the unquestionable choice for the conference’s top coach, molding together a team that finished 13-3 in the ACC and won seven straight games to close the regular season.

Much like Williams turned to Dixon to form a partnership that resulted in a national championship in 2002, Williams and Vasquez coming together in these last four years was the perfect combination, each desperately needing the other, finally resulting in a championship team.

It’s hard to say how many coaches would have tolerated Vasquez’s inconsistent play and sometimes frustrating decision making before looking elsewhere for help. Would Vasquez have been a conference player of the year had he gone to Duke or Syracuse or North Carolina?

Would other coaches have endured the excruciating lows before enjoying the overwhelming highs?

“That’s part of the appeal [with Vasquez],” Williams said after the Duke victory. “You pull your hair out sometimes.”

That said, Williams desperately needed another player in the mold of Dixon, a diamond in the rough with the ability to blossom into a star through hard work while still maintaining that confidence in his coach. Vasquez was the unquestioned floor general to echo Williams’ message in the final moments of a close game.

“I just love him,” Vasquez said about his coach after the Duke win. “I love him. I will never leave him or anything like that. I will always have his back. And I’m gonna always come back to this place. Always.”

It’s no secret the school’s last ACC Player of the Year (Dixon) and Coach of the Year awards came in 2002, and it will undoubtedly cause Maryland fans to fantasize about the possibilities over the next four weeks, however realistic or unrealistic they might be.

The circumstances are far from identical, but the similarity between the two players’ relationships with Williams is enough to cause anyone to pause. The strong affection between the two is obvious, as seen during their warm embrace on Senior Night.

And while this season probably won’t end with the same national championship witnessed eight years ago, the two of them continue to author a memorable—if not totally unlikely—story with pages yet to be written.

The story may ultimately lack the resolution of the one witnessed in 2002, but the same theme will be prevalent.

Not good enough?

Not anymore.

The senior guard and the seasoned coach knew it all along.

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Terps no longer feeling like underdogs against Duke

Posted on 12 February 2010 by Luke Jones

Sitting with reporters immediately following a convincing win over North Carolina last Sunday, Greivis Vasquez spoke candidly—if not with a sliver of irritability—after several questions about the significance of beating North Carolina.

“Yeah, we won last year, and it was a huge win when everybody was against us,” the senior said after scoring 26 points against the Tar Heels. “But now it means a lot because we’re good. Everybody was expecting us to win, and that’s the way it should be.”

Vasquez reminded everyone that the Terps were 6-2 in the ACC while North Carolina was only 2-6 (now 2-7). It was a far cry from the unexpected 88-85 overtime victory over the eventual national champions a year ago.

To say Maryland (16-6, 6-2 ACC) has relished the underdog role in recent years would paint an incomplete picture. With deficiencies in the frontcourt and doubts surrounding Gary Williams’ ability to recruit top-notch talent to College Park in recent years, the Terps played the part out of necessity.

The mere thought of an upset against the Dukes and—until this season—North Carolinas of the college basketball world was more dependent on smoke and mirrors and near-perfect performances than the Terps simply playing their brand of basketball.

But this season, led by a triumvirate of senior captains (Vasquez, Landon Milbourne, and Eric Hayes) and the arrival of freshman Jordan Williams, arguably the best post player at Maryland since Lonny Baxter, the Terps expect to win every time they walk on the floor and have won quite convincingly at times with three 20-plus-point victories in the ACC.

When they do win, it’s business as usual. There was no celebration or surprise in the locker room after the blowout win over the Tar Heels. Instead, players were working out in the weight room immediately following the game in what has become a regular part of Maryland’s post-game routine.

“I’m not surprised [with the success] because I know how hard we’ve worked,” Milbourne said. “We deserve the right to do that. We worked so hard in the preseason, and we’re working hard now. We’re not changing anything; even though we’re getting wins, we’re not getting complacent.”

Complacency will be the furthest thought from the Terrapins’ minds as they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take on their biggest rival and ACC-leading Duke (20-4, 8-2 ACC). After the Terps dropped three games to the Blue Devils last season, including an embarrassing 85-44 debacle in Durham, Maryland has its eyes on a victory to seize control of the conference.

As if playing in front of the Cameron Crazies wasn’t already a daunting task, Saturday’s game will be Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000th game at Duke, as numerous former players will return to Durham to join in the celebration. And just for good measure, it’s also the Hall of Fame coach’s 63rd birthday.

No problem, right?

While the cancellation of Wednesday’s game against Virginia provided an entire week for Maryland to prepare for the Blue Devils, it now forces the Terps to play three games in five days, as they’ll make up the game against the surprising Cavaliers on Monday night before turning around to play at NC State on Wednesday.

The deck certainly appears stacked against the Terps on Saturday, but Duke forward Lance Thomas is doubtful after sustaining a knee injury in the Devils’ win over North Carolina on Wednesday night, a significant blow to their defense and an invitation for Milbourne to have a huge performance in Durham.

It will also be Vasquez’s final trip to Cameron, a place the eccentric senior calls “my house.” Despite the bold label, the last time the Terps won in Durham was 2007 when Mike Jones starred with 25 points and a vivacious freshman Vasquez did not flinch in contributing 13 points and 12 assists to the 85-77 victory. Vasquez would like nothing more than to add a second win at Cameron to his brilliant career, especially after an abysmal four-point performance there last season.

A sterling performance and a win on Saturday would not only catapult Vasquez into the lead for ACC Player of the Year honors but would also conjure up memories of Juan Dixon’s 28-point performance in a win at Cameron amidst the pomp and circumstance of Shane Battier’s senior night in 2001.

Shaking off an early-season slump, Vasquez has simply been brilliant this year, twice earning ACC Player of the Week honors and averaging a team- and career-high 18.1 points per game while playing more within the parameters of the flex offense. Maryland will need a huge performance from its leader to secure the win at Cameron.

This next week may very well determine whether the Terps are playing for a No. 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA tournament down the stretch or a more pedestrian seven or eight seed. Maryland still lacks a win against a top-25 RPI team (0-3) and was unable to secure any notable wins in its non-conference schedule. A road win over a top-10 opponent—and their biggest rival—would go a long way in validating the Terps’ claim as a top-25 team and a dangerous group moving into March.

Maryland may not pull out the victory at Duke on Saturday, but it’s a far more likely outcome than anything resembling last season’s 41-point loss. Williams’ team firmly believes it’s every bit as good as Duke—if not better—so don’t be shocked if it happens.

The Terps certainly won’t be.

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Bud Millikan’s legacy lives on at Maryland

Posted on 28 January 2010 by Luke Jones

Bud Millikan won’t be remembered for Final Four appearances, national championships, or multiple ACC titles during his 17 seasons (1950-1967) as men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland.

His 243-182 (.572) record and 1957-58 team’s ACC title and NCAA Elite Eight appearance is impressive but not overwhelming. Millikan helped usher in a new era of basketball in College Park as his Terrapins moved from Ritchie Coliseum to the legendary Cole Field House, but you won’t find a plethora of championship banners from his tenure hanging in the rafters.

Instead, the legacy of the late head coach can be found in the accomplishments of the players he coached.

Billy Franklin went on to coach Bowie High School.

Joe Harrington coached at George Mason, Long Beach State, Colorado, and currently serves as the director of men’s basketball student services at Maryland.

Terry Truax led Towson, and Billy Jones was the head man at UMBC.

And, of course, his point guard and team captain in 1967 was a young man named Gary Williams, currently in the midst of a Hall of Fame coaching career and 21-year tenure at Maryland that includes the school’s first and only national championship.

Coaches are ultimately—and understandably—judged by their win-loss records and number of championships won, but perhaps a more appropriate factor to consider is the impact left on the people they teach. Anyone who participated in a team sport at some point in their life can recall the influence a coach had—good or bad.

Most players take a coach’s lessons to improve their play in their respective sports and then move on with the rest of their lives, but a select few take these lessons with them to one day become coaches themselves.

That’s not to say the protege always becomes the carbon-copy of the mentor. Mike Krzyzewski will never be confused with the fiery Bobby Knight, but the lessons learned from his playing days at Army under the temperamental coach helped shape one of the finest coaches in the history of the college game.

Bill Walsh may always be defined by his three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, but isn’t it equally impressive to study the extensive coaching tree from his tutelage that has extended throughout the NFL over the last 20 years? Even former Ravens coach Brian Billick is a descendant and now finds his own former assistants making names for themselves as head coaches.

Millikan’s accomplishments as a head coach may not dazzle Terps fans of later generations, but his impact on Maryland basketball cannot be understated. To hear Williams speak about his college coach says it all.

“To have that many coaches come off one team shows that if you listened, you picked up a lot of good things. He was a tough coach and if you wanted to play, you did things his way.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

For any Maryland fan that’s savored the last 21 years under Gary Williams’ leadership that has lifted the program from the ashes of Len Bias’ death and NCAA probation to heights that once seemed unimaginable, Millikan deserves recognition for helping shape the coach that would one day guide a skinny underdog from Calvert Hall and a big kid from Silver Spring to the Georgia Dome in 2002.

And the rest was history.

In the final second, as Juan Dixon hurled the basketball toward the top of the Georgia Dome roof, Bud Millikan probably didn’t cross the mind of anyone watching except his former point guard—and the most important figure in the history of Maryland basketball.

When we reach the pinnacle of our respective careers, we cannot help but think of the people that helped us along the way. Undoubtedly, Williams had to be thinking back to the many lessons on man-to-man defense and tenacity acquired from his college coach in the mid-1960s.

And for that, Maryland fans should offer a few simple words to the late Millikan’s memory.

Thank you, Coach.


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