In part one of the effort to name one player the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in Maryland women's basketball, I looked at some history and eliminated some very talented players who, for one reason or another, didn't make it through Vegas Week. Based on decisions made by the women's basketball program to honor a player's jersey, I started with a list of nine and narrowed that list to what I called my starting five: Vicky Bullett, Marissa Coleman, Crystal Langhorne, Alyssa Thomas, and Kristi Toliver. I think I could make an argument for any of these five but my charge is choosing one. Who will meet the challenge? Who will survive the cut? Read on, friends. Read on.
A freshman fills a need
At a gathering of the Rebounders (UMD WBB support group) prior to the 2005-06 season, I said to several people, "This team will go as far as Kristi Toliver can take them." I never expected the comment to be as freakishly prescient as it became. I knew the team had a solid base beginning with Doron and buttressed with the addition of the subsequent class that included Harper and Langhorne among others. I believed what the Terps needed to push them to the next level was a top flight point guard and, "the shot" notwithstanding, over her career Toliver certainly became a top flight point guard.
Scoring and facilitating
While it was clear from the outset that she would be the Terrapins' floor general, Toliver didn't arrive at Maryland as a pure point guard - one with the mindset of facilitator first and scorer second. Her 2,078 career points, now fourth in career scoring, provide ample evidence of that. In her senior season, as she mentored Anjale Barrett, her average of 18.4 points per game led the Terps and contributed to her selection as ACC Player of the Year.
But certainly she was a facilitator as well. Her 751 career assists are not merely the most in Maryland history but are more than a full season's worth ahead of Debbie Lytle's 583 which is good enough for second place all-time. As a junior, she dished out 275 assists passing the previous single season record of 249 held by Tara Heiss. However, her career assist to turnover ratio of 1.56 to 1 shows that she never became the impeccable decision maker you want your point guard to be.
And now we reach "the chicken or the egg" point of evaluating a point guard. In this case, the question is: Does a great point guard make her scorers better or does having great scorers make the point guard better? For three of her four years, Toliver was passing the ball to Crystal Langhorne who not only graduated as Maryland's career scoring leader but who still holds the top spot with her .652 career field goal percentage. For all four of her years with the Terps, Toliver also had Marissa Coleman on the receiving end of many of her passes. Until Alyssa Thomas passed her, Coleman's 2,205 points stood second all-time at Maryland. Toss in two years with a top ten scorer in Doron and three with another top twenty scorer in Laura Harper and as a point guard, you're bound to register a lot of assists. On the other hand, if your point guard gets you the ball when you're open and in good position, your scoring numbers are bound to increase. So which is it?
Kristi Toliver is one of only two players in Maryland history to graduate with both a national championship and an ACC championship. She's the only one to have also won an ACC Player of the Year Award. And, of course, she made "the shot." Put these together with her individual achievements and she is certainly a worthy candidate to be named Maryland's GOAT. But three main factors made me withhold my vote. The first is her assist to turnover ratio. I think that to elevate her to GOAT status from the point guard position that number not only needs to be better, but when scorers as capable as Langhorne, Coleman, and Harper are receiving your passes it should be better. The second is that Toliver played more games than all but two players on this list thus diminishing some of the raw numbers. Finally, despite the great team achievements, it's too difficult to isolate her contribution from those of her very prolific teammates. Kristi, with nothing but respect, you won't be performing on the live shows.