Maryland women's basketball greatest player: Vicky Bullett or Alyssa Thomas?

dcbasketcases - by permission

It comes to this. My final two. Vicky Bullett and Alyssa Thomas. No doubt most of you think it's a slam dunk. I don't and I hope this will provide some food for thought.

We started with nine and now we have two. Today I will layout the argument for Vicky Bullett as Maryland's Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). In my next article I'll do the same for Alyssa Thomas and render my verdict. Before we look at Bullett's accomplishments, let me address the obvious problem comparing Bullett to Thomas. Bullett was a 6'3" post-player and was a player of her era. Thomas is a 6'1" guard / wing and a player of her era.

When I write of a player being of her era, keep in mind that Bullett played for Maryland more than twenty-five years ago - from 1986 to 1989. Those of you who have read this series from the first story know that I assume that given the same opportunities in training, nutrition, medicine, and such, a great player from an earlier time would translate to being a great player in the present. So, what do I mean when I write that as a player Vicky Bullett was a player of her era?

Some of you may be unaware that before Magic Johnson came along in the late seventies, no thought would have been given to a player of his size playing on the perimeter. Johnson opened the door for all of the tall perimeter players - think Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, or even LeBron James - who have followed. Before Magic, other players his size may have had some of his skills but no one thought of allowing them to develop those skills and they would have simply been slotted as power forwards.

While the women's game hasn't evolved to quite the same degree as the men's game, the men's game has served as a model. Thus the women's game today can feature players like 6'5" Elena Delle Donne or 6'4" Breanna Stewart or even 6'1" Alyssa Thomas who have and develop perimeter skills. When Vicky Bullett played this simply wouldn't have been the case. Her size would have pegged her as a "five" who could occasionally move to the "four" but no further simply because the game wasn't as positionally fluid then as it is now. Perhaps Bullett would have always been a post player for Maryland. Certainly, Crystal Langhorne at 6'2" never moved off the block. With Bullett, we can only speculate.

When she graduated, Vicky Bullett had scored 1,928 points, averaged 16.9 points per game, made 816 field goals, had a .563 shooting percentage, and had grabbed 968 rebounds all of which placed her atop Maryland's all-time list. As a senior, Bullett scored 686 points averaging 21.4 points per game both records that still stand at the best single season in Maryland history. Her rebound average of 8.5 per game was third all-time but first among players who played all four years at Maryland.

Lest you think Vicky was only a scorer, let me disabuse you of that notion as well. On a defensive minded team that also featured guard Deanna Tate who still stands third in career steals with 293, Bullett picked up 220 of her own a number that placed her fifth at the time of her graduation and that remains in the top ten as I write this. As a post player, you might also expect her to have picked up a blocked shot or two. The actual number is 170 and is good enough for third currently. When she finished her Maryland career, Bullett was second to Kris Kirchner. She led Maryland in blocked shots in three of her four years.

An interesting anecdote about Bullett's defensive prowess comes from her trying to earn a spot on the 1988 Olympic squad. Prior to the tryouts, one of Vicky's brothers advised her to focus on playing defense because as a defensive player not only would she be more likely to make the team but she would also get more playing time. So focused was the then Terrapins junior that at one point Coach Kay Yow stopped a practice and asked why she wasn't shooting. Bullett told Yow of her brother's advice. The coach laughed. Needless to say, Bullett became the youngest member of the gold medal winning team. Clearly, Vicky played both ends of the floor.

Still, no player, however great, does it alone and Bullett had some accomplished players to complement her. Notably, these were Christy Winters-Scott and Deanna Tate. Winters-Scott (then just Winters), who finished in Maryland's top ten in scoring, rebounds and blocks (among other statistical measures) played with Bullett for three years. Tate, who played all four years with Bullett was also a strong complementary scorer who averaged 16.5 points per game and still stands third on the Terps' all-time assist list with 500.

Still, individually, Bullett was named to the All-ACC first team in 1987, 1988, and 1989. In 1989, her senior season, she was named ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, and was selected as a Kodak All-American.

How did the Terps fare as a team in Bullet's four years? They won 87 and dropped 26 winning 77 percent of their games. They won one ACC regular season championship and finished tied for first in another. In the ACC Tournament, the Bullett led Terps won three titles in four years. They had one Elite Eight and one Final Four appearance.

In all, not a bad four years. And I hope you now agree that Vicky Bullett certainly had a career worthy of consideration for Maryland's GOAT.

Ed. note: We will have a poll tomorrow with all of the options.

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