Oh, Senior Night.*
One of college sports' most heartwarming, bittersweet, stirring, occasionally sappy, and sometimes ridiculously awesome traditions is rolling into College Park this weekend, as Maryland seniors Sean Mosley and Berend Weijs will play their final ever regular season contests in the Comcast Center against Virginia on Sunday. While there are plenty of storylines to follow for the Terrapins' finale against the slumping Cavs - like Maryland's quest for the good side of the NIT bubble and Virginia's for the good side of the NCAA bubble - Mosley and Weijs should, and likely will, be among the biggest discussion points, both before and after the game.
No matter the player or their career, it's always nice to see seniors be honored for making it through to the final game, almost like a basketball graduation of sorts. (Remember, for Maryland, that's less common than you'd think. Between the 2007, 2008, and 2009 classes, they brought in 12 players to the program. Half of them left before ever making it this far.) It's also a great chance to take some time and look back at the careers the seniors enjoyed and will leave behind in College Park, usually a fascinating process.
This is especially true for Sean Mosley. Put as succinctly as possible: Sean Mosley was Nick Faust before Nick Faust. A super-hyped Baltimore swingman who lit up the MIAA, Mosley was largely considered the best player in the city and in the state in his class (as proof, his number two choice was Syracuse, which at the time owned Charm City thanks to the Melo connection). A consensus four-star prospect, his hype might not've exceeded Faust's but his resumé undoubtedly did: the list of Mosley's prep accolades are a mile long. We'll limit them to the three most eye-opening:
- Baltimore Sun Player of the Year and Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year in his senior season
- One of only two players in history to be named Baltimore All-Met all four years of his which school career
- Most impressively, he finished as the second-leading career scorer in Maryland high school basketball history (the #1 scorer, Barry Young, graduated from Mt. Hebron in the '80s and was a role player on the UNLV national championship winning team in 1990)
It wasn't hard to look at his history, see his consensus top-50 ranking, and think he was going to come to Maryland as a canny swingman who would put up a lot of points on the wing, taking the mantle as the team's talisman once Greivis Vasquez moved to the greener pastures of the NBA. In fact, it was a little tough not to think that.
Fast-forward four years, and we know that didn't exactly work out.
Mosley quickly made a name for himself as a tough, hard-playing glue guy, someone who could be a lockdown defender and wasn't afraid to mix it up on the glass despite being only 6-4. He was the Terrapins' primary perimeter defender right away - he was always given the assignment of checking walking matchup problem Kyle Singler**, and always acquitted himself well. What he brought on defense and on the glass was never really full appreciated, and approached Byron Mouton levels of scrappiness.
The problem was, the guy who scored more points in Maryland high school history than anyone else, save one guy from Ellicott City in the late '80s, just couldn't score. His jumper from deep was flat. He missed open layups in his freshman year routinely, so many in fact that it became a bit of a running joke. He ended up averaging only 5 points per game in his freshman season on just 37% shooting, despite averaging 20 minutes a night. Things improved, but only in fits and starts, and never as much as fans wanted them to.
I could point you to about a dozen times when people thought that Mosley was thisclose to turning to the corner. His 19 point outburst against UNC in his freshman year. His 12-point second half in Maryland's upset of 9th-ranked Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament later that year. The first four games of his sophomore year, during which he averaged 15 points a game. His 26-point game against Villanova on 11-14 shooting later that season, a showing so spectacular it lead me to errantly proclaim him the next star of the team. The 21-point game in the season opener of his junior year. But these showings were never sustained.
It even happened again this year. ACC play started, and for a three-game stretch he was putting up 15 points per game. I wrote up a draft for a post on Mosley's much-awaited emergence, finally coming in his senior year, just waiting for one more good showing before putting it up. It never came: over the next three, he scored a grand total of 12 points. Unsurprisingly, the Terrapins lost all three.
And yes, I realize I just got a little depressing there. Here's the thing, though: that just isn't what Mosley is. It isn't him. Don't believe me, go back and look at his high school scouting reports, all of which talk about his basketball IQ, his toughness and competitiveness, his "old-school" style. Mosley was a high school four-year starter who was able to use his smarts to get buckets, and so he racked up a lot of points, but when you look deeper than the stats you realize that, regardless of the numbers he put up, his biggest value was always going to be elsewhere. And so it was.
Mosley's career may've been disappointing to some, but it was disappointing through no fault of his own. He wasn't made to be a primary offensive option in the ACC, or any other high-major conference. He was made to be the new Byron Mouton, a hustle guy and fan favorite on a talented team of scorers, who made all the little plays that ensured victory. Stick Mouton on a team where he's supposed to be a big scorer, and the result would be similar to what we saw with Sugar Sean. Likewise, stick Sugar Sean on the national title team - or, for that matter, in some of the talented-but-goofy teams of the mid-2000s - and everyone would love him.
None of that should discredit what he did at Maryland, which largely did include making all the little plays. Diving for loose balls, playing lockdown defense, playing hurt - which, by the way, he did do a lot of this year - scrapping for rebounds, calling timeouts to save possession, and so on. He was good for all of these things. He just wasn't good to be a 15 ppg scorer on top of all of that. Kicker is, he shouldn't have needed to be one.
But in case you feel burned by Mosley for some strange reason (as a side note, if you do, I probably don't like you), here's an exercise for you. Mosley was ranked as the #50 consensus player in the country, right? Head over to that link, look at the players ranked from 40th to 50th, of which Mosley theoretically would be the worst, and tell me how many had a better career than he did.
Done? Good. If you didn't do it, I'll tell you: exactly one player, Kevin Jones at West Virginia, had an undoubtedly better career. You could make an argument for either Kenny Frease or Travis Releford as well, but I'd probably call those ties. (Frease playing at a lower level, Releford surrounded by more talent; all three have similar statlines.) At the very worst, he had the fourth-best career of that bunch, and nearly the second-best. And of those ten players, there's a surprising number of washouts: Tony Woods, who squandered his ridiculous talent and got kicked off Wake Forest; Mookie Jones, who left Syracuse last year for personal reasons after doing almost nothing on the court; and, of course, the immortal Larry Drew II, of awful Carolina point guard fame.
Was Mosley the 20 point per game scorer you may have (errantly) expected him to be? No. But he was the toughest and scrappiest guy every second he was on the court, the best defender for Maryland for all years, and a great representative of the program and the university. (Front porch theory, and all.) For that, I'll undoubtedly miss him.
For his part, Berend Weijs has occasionally been accused of similar shortcomings. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. Weijs was a last-second addition for Maryland, a lanky JuCo transfer from Harcum Community College who impressed a few current Terps when he was playing pickup ball in College Park. He was able to parlay that into a late scholarship offer as an emergency post option after Steve Goins transferred, committing to Maryland over Longwood.
Weijs, who averaged only 20mpg at Harcum CC, was expected to add depth, length, and take up a few minutes every game, influencing it as much as he could through pure height, length, and athleticism. That ... is exactly what he did. Heck, he even made a few starts this year, which is a few more than I ever expected him to make. Likely to be overlooked in Weijs' short, two-year career, was that he actually did make a pretty huge impact for Maryland in at least one game: giving 21 minutes, 7 points, and 6 boards in the Terrapins' upset win over Notre Dame earlier in the year.
It is unlikely that Weijs would have a chapter in even the most extensive of chronicles on Maryland basketball. But I'm okay with that. The Flying Dutchman came to College Park in about the most unheralded way possible, influenced a few games, and did just about everything you could've reasonably expected him to do.
He wasn't Boom Osby, no. But then again, there's only one Boom Osby. But then, he wasn't Braxton Dupree either, and there's something to be said for that.
There will be a measure of bittersweetness in the departures of Weijs and Mosley. I will be the first to admit that a future filled with more NCAA Tournaments is one that I'm looking forward to, and it's something that the next few years will likely bring. But whoever's at fault for the fact that Maryland hit a dry spell over the past two years, it certainly isn't the fault of Weijs or Mosley. While discussions of the future and the past have their place, so, too, do discussions of the present, and in the present Maryland is bidding adieu to two idiosyncratic but devoted Terps who did everything in College Park the right way.
With any luck, they'll mark the occasion by knocking Virginia onto the bubble and securing themselves an NIT spot. Not the most romantic of Senior Nights, perhaps, but that wouldn't make it any less fun.
* And yes, I know that in this case it's Senior Day. That just sounds lame though.
** "Walking" pun most definitely intended.