rom June 13th, 1989 until May 5th, 2011, the University of Maryland Men’s basketball program belonged to Gary Williams. In his time at Maryland, he accomplished a lot; 14 NCAA tournament appearances, including five Sweet 16s, two Final 4s and the 2002 National Titile, 3 ACC regular season titles, and 1 ACC Tournament championship. It took a lot of talented players to accomplish those feats and that got us thinking – who were the top players to suit up for Gary Williams at Maryland, now that the legendary coach has retired? In deciding who should make the cut, we looked at a player's career statistics while at Maryland, as well as team accomplishments achieved while playing for the Terps. We excluded things like professional career success, where a player got drafted in the NBA, etc. We selected 16 players that we felt were the best of the Williams era and then decided we’d seed them against each other in a "tournament" and have you all vote on each match-up and decide who should move onto the next round, until we eventually crown the best player of the Gary Williams era. Sound good?
Before we reveal the #1 seed vs. #16 seed match-up, we first have to determine who receives the final spot in our bracket. Ben B., Ben G. and I had a pretty good idea of who should fill the top 15 spots, but we all had differing views on who should receive the final spot in our tournament. So, we decided to do a "play-in" vote for the right to go up against our #1 seed and you all will decide who is worthy of moving on via voting in the poll below. Your candidates are:
#10, Duane Simpkins, PG, 1992-1996
For most Maryland fans, when you mention Duane Simpkins, you instantly think of his game winning shot in Maryland’s upset win over Georgetown in November of 1993, the game that announced Maryland was "back." In his time at Maryland, Simpkins averaged 9.4 points per game, 4 assists per game, and 2.1 rebounds per game. He started 90 games in his career at Maryland and is #5 on Maryland’s career assists list. The Terps made the NCAA tourney three times in Simpkins career, including two Sweet 16 appearances. Maryland’s run to the 1994 Sweet 16 included the Terps’ famous upset of UMass, when 10th seeded Maryland beat the 2nd seeded Minute Men behind the great performance of Simpkins (20 pts, 6 ast), Joe Smith (22 pts, 5 rebs), and Exree Hipp (19 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast).
Maryland beats Georgetown in 1993 (via JafarWilliams)
#22, Nik Caner-Medley, SF, 2002-2006
NCM was probably the most consistent player of the highly touted recruiting class that began their careers at Maryland in the 2002-2003 season. In his time at Maryland, Nik averaged 12.4 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 1.7 assists per game, and started in 113 of the 127 games in played in. He averaged 16 points per game his junior year and 15.3 his senior year. One of his best games came at Cameron Indoor against Duke on January 27th, 2005, when Maryland ran the #2 Blue Devils off their own court in the second half. Caner-Medley helped erase a 4 point first half deficit as the Terps outscoring the Blue Devils 45-32 in the 2nd half in route to a 75-66 victory. Nik finished the game with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 1 block. And, who could forget NCM’s famous "I’m from Maryland and no one can beat me" quote. Caner-Medley is #14 on Maryland’s all-time scoring list and in his career he helped Maryland get to the NCAA tournament twice, including a trip to the sweet 16 his freshman year. He was also part of the 2004 team that captured their first ACC Tournament title since 1984.
#5/#2, D.J. Strawberry, G, 2003-2007
When I think of D.J. Strawberry, I’ll always remember his awesome defense. He’s #5 on Maryland’s all-time steals list with 202 and considering that he only played for half of his sophomore season due to a knee injury, that’s pretty impressive. He was also Maryland’s de facto point guard after the strange, early ending of John Gilchrist’s career left Maryland with no one to run the show. You could say D.J. did a little bit of everything in his time at Maryland and he did a pretty good job with each. He finished his career at Maryland with a great senior year, averaging 14.9 points per game to go along with 4.4 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. In his career, D.J. averaged 10.1 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, and 2.9 assists per game.
Maryland went to the NCAA tournament twice in Strawberry’s career at Maryland, including D.J.’s senior year, which included a rare season sweep of Duke. His best game might have been against #5 UNC in 2007, when the Terps upset the Tar Heels at Comcast Center. D.J. scored a career-high 27 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
DJ Strawberry Mini-Mix (via BrazilOwnsYou)
So there you have it. Who deserves to move on? We'll leave voting open for the next day or two and the winner will face off against our #1 seed later this week. Let the discussions/debate begin!