Tomorrow's 2pm game against Virginia isn't only the end of an average regular season: it's also Senior Day. Yes, it's the last time you'll ever see Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie, or Cliff Tucker in a Maryland uniform at the Comcast Center (NIT notwithstanding...my bad). Sad, in a way, right?
Hopefully there's a good crowd to send them off. More importantly, hopefully no one boos - there's been discussions of it and I can understand why. The 2007/2011 class hasn't been as good as we hoped for or expect, but they're three players who wanted to be Terrapins, are Terrapins, and will graduate as Terrapins. For that, they deserve a good send-off. If there's any luck, everyone will realize that. If you don't want to cheer, you're better off just doing nothing.
This also makes it the perfect time to do some reminiscing. Not about Gary, not about the recruiting problems, not about the root of Maryland's problems: no, about the seniors themselves.
Remember when you look at their careers the class with which they came in. There was Braxton Dupree, supposedly Baltimore's best big man in years. There was Gus Gilchrist, the star from DC. And hey, there was even Shane Walker, the 6-10 forward from Bishop Ireton who had a Georgetown offer.
These three weren't supposed to be the best of the bunch. They sure as hell weren't supposed the only three left on campus after two years. But Walker didn't like Maryland, Gilchrist got screwed by the process, and Dupree was...well, you know.
Gregory had three big men in front of him in this class. No, I don't think that Gary (or anyone else, for that matter) expected him to start over Gilchrist, Walker, and Dupree by his senior year. Still, he's turned out to be the favorite of the class, even with the transfers to help him. He's the epitome of the Gary way: a four-year player with average expectations who worked hard and blossomed in his fourth year.
For three years, Dino hardly made any impact at all, outside of a timely charge or a nice dunk: he never averaged more than 4.2 points or 3.4 rebounds a game, and he scored more than ten points only one time in his career (vs. UNC-G in his junior year).
In retrospect, the jump that he made was pretty remarkable. He's a legitimate ACC starter now, providing above-average defense, a solid jumper, and some much-needed leadership. He isn't a star, but his 8.8 points and 5.9 boards are much-needed. He's gotten better as the year's gone on, too, and has racked up three triple-doubles - the first three of his career, mind you.
Dino deserves a bit of stat-sheet recognition. It's been hard to come by for the first three years of playing, when he was more of a glue guy than an offensive weapon. He saved balls; he took charges; he battled on the block against bigger, stronger players. None of that showed up in the box score. In a sense, he's making up for lost time.
Two games stick out to me when remembering Dino. The first is of old Dino, the energy player. He only played 20 minutes in the NCAA tournament game against Cal in his sophomore year, but he had a huge impact on that game. He took multiple charges, saved at least two balls, and had two back-to-back dunks. (If memory serves (it may not), he was the catalyst for a 7-0 run that gave Maryland the lead in the second half, taking a charge when the game was tied at 51.)
The second is of new Dino: the N.C. State game. Dino played out of his mind in the second half of that game - check the GameThread and read through some of the comments. He had a stretch of about five minutes or so that might've been the best five minutes Maryland's had from any player all year. But instead of the normal lite box score fare, he ended up with 18 points and 10 boards in a Maryland victory, arguably the best performance of his career.
Bowie didn't have quite the same senior explosion. He hit his peak quick and early, starting as soon as his sophomore season in place of Eric Hayes. Frankly, he seemed like a future star at that point: relatively unheralded coming out of HS, he was averaging 25 minutes and 9 points per game; both stats were higher in the middle of the season. He dropped 23 in a two-point loss at Miami; two games later, he led Maryland with 17 in a win over UVA. Again, he looked quite like a future star.
He ended up missing a game in early February due to flu-like symptoms. Shortly after, his playing time dropped substantially. By the end of the year, he was averaging closer to 13 minutes than to 30. That slump continued through almost all of his junior year.
He broke out of a little one magical night against Wake Forest, during which Steve Martin (the Raycom play-by-play man) mistakenly called him "Anthony Bowie" all game long. For the rest of the year, Adrian was given the nickname "Anthony" in all the game threads, for better or for worse. That he scored 10 points and made a three was pretty nice, too.
Bowie looked his best down the stretch of his junior year, finally breaking out of a year-long slump. He shot 70% from beyond the arc over his final five games despite a line drive of a jump shot and averaged 8.5 points in Maryland's two NCAA tournament games. Honestly, it looked like he was destined to become Maryland's starter at point guard in his senior year, and a pretty successful one at that.
Of course, that isn't quite what happened. Bowie's had a solid senior year, even though it's been unspectacular. His averages are strong - 9.2 points, 35% shooting from deep - although he's received boosts from strong performances against bad teams (14 against Elon, 16 against UNC-G and Colgate) to cover up middling games against good ones (4 against Illinois and Penn State, 2 against Temple, 2 against VT). But he's had his share of good games, too, with 22 against Virginia and 13 over Clemson.
Is it terrible that my fondest memories of Bowie come from shouting "ANTHONY!" when he nails his no-arc jumper from three? Maybe, but it's true. That jumper...you never expect it to go in, but somehow it does, and at a pretty good clip at that. He wasn't ranked by any major service, except for the gratuitous three-star designation. He wasn't highly-touted or highly-regarded, but much like Dino, he fashioned a decent career.
Oh, and Cliff Tucker...yeah. I'm sure all of you already have (rather negative) opinions of him, so I won't go off on a long diatribe recapping his career. Tucker had every skill you could ask for, shined on the break, and was Maryland's best athlete (and maybe shooter, too). But with a few "doghouse" problems, he's had a rollercoaster of a career.
He doesn't have the "not highly recruited" excuse of the other two, either. He was a top 100 player, expected to become a starter. It just never happened, and it's disappointing. He's not a McCray-type villain, for sure, but he's not endeared by many.
There's been good Cliff: dropping 17 in a win over Pitt, putting up ridiculous numbers against UNC a few times, putting up 14 on BC. There's been quite a bit of bad Cliff, too: laughing during a loss, disappearing when his scoring is most needed, and - just the last time out - getting only 7 minutes of run in a crucial game. We were teased with his potential corner-turning, but a full-fledged scorer has never emerged.
If nothing else, though, Cliff has this:
That shot was the start of Maryland's long run during the end of ACC play, the one that gave them a share of the ACC regular season title and their best record since the national championship. Sure, others could've made the shot - Greivis Vasquez did, just seconds early - but it was Cliff that did make it. If for no other reason than that, Tucker has some kind of legacy here in College Park.
So go out tomorrow and cheer. I'll be honest: they aren't perfect, but they deserve it.
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