Vicky Bullett. Crystal Langhorne. Alyssa Thomas. Meet my three final house guests for the Greatest of all Time (GOAT) in Maryland women's basketball. As head of household, my task now is to evict one more great.
Leading a powerhouse freshman class
After Shay Doron and Kalika France committed to Maryland and played as freshmen in the 2003-04 season, coach Brenda Frese brought in a truly powerful four player class the following season. That class included Laura Harper, Ashleigh Newman, and Jade Perry. Harper barely missed making my starting five. Newman and Perry both had productive careers at Maryland. Newman finished in the Terrapins' top ten in three point field goals made and assists. She also holds the record of playing in 141 consecutive games. Perry finished as a top twenty rebounder and in the top fifteen in career free throw percentage. But the real gem of the class, who appropriately chose to wear number 1, was a quiet unassuming young woman from Willingboro, New Jersey - Crystal Langhorne.
Shay Doron was the glue and grit of the Terps' only national championship team. Marissa Coleman was the most versatile player on the squad and a frequent matchup nightmare for Maryland's opponents and Kristi Toliver was the point guard who conducted the orchestra. But, the player who was the focus of every foe's game plan was the 6'2" center / forward who wore that number one jersey.
Langhorne by the numbers
By the time of her graduation, Lang held the program record for points scored with 2,247 and her career scoring average of 16.6 was second only to Vicky Bullett's. She was the all-time leading rebounder with 1,229 and her per game average of 9.1 was also second - in this instance to Kris Kirchner - who played three years at Maryland. True, Langhorne spent most of her time in the low post but her career field goal percentage of .652 is nearly seventy percentage points better than Jessie Hicks who is second in that measure. Think about that for just a moment. Maryland's career scoring leader when she graduated made nearly two shots for every one she missed over a four year period.
As a junior, she made nearly 71 percent of her shots. In fact, her career field goal percentage is nearly twenty-five points higher than her career .628 free throw percentage so it comes as no surprise that she finished her career having made more field goals - 889 - than any other Terrapin woman. All of those were from inside the three point arc. Langhorne was 0-2 in three point shooting for her career.
Until Alyssa Thomas passed her, Langhorne's sixty double doubles were also a Terrapins record. In fact, in one game at Miami, Lang actually recorded two double doubles - one in the first half and another in the second.
Stepping up in big games
In the drive to the national championship, the Terps faced the defending champion Baylor Bears in the Sweet Sixteen. Baylor featured the Big 12 Player of the Year, senior forward Sophia Young. Young played 39 minutes, scored 26 points on 11-25 shooting and pulled down 9 rebounds for the Bears. Langhorne played 34 minutes for Maryland. She took 18 shots and made 14 of them. She added 6 of 8 from the free throw line and finished with 34 points. Oh, and she pulled down 15 rebounds including 7 off the offensive glass.
We know that Laura Harper was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. But Lang had a good weekend, too. In the semi-final against North Carolina, she had only two rebounds while Harper had nine. Harper led the Terps in scoring with 24 while Langhorne added 23 making ten of her twelve shots. In the title game, Langhorne took only six shots but still managed to be one of five Terps to score in double figures with 12 points. A most impressive career and arguably GOAT-worthy.
Barely missing the cut
Still, so many factors enter this process. Among them, as I set out at the beginning of the series, is the difficulty of comparing players who play different positions. How do you compare a point guard to a center? Without the three point shot, Kristi Toliver would have scored 1,778 points and Langhorne would have still scored 2,247. On the other hand, without the threat of a three point shot, defenses might have been more willing to collapse on Langhorne and she wouldn't have had that .652 shooting percentage. Still, as I said, I think teams facing the Terps focused on stopping Langhorne and they couldn't. So that lands Lang in my top three.
Why is Langhorne not my GOAT? One area I return to is that free throw percentage. Based solely on the number of attempts, had she been a 70 percent shooter she would have surpassed 2,300 points. And I have no way of knowing the number of the front ends of one and one's she missed. Also, there's that team accomplishment thing. Langhorne played much of her career with two others in my starting five and another two in the top nine. Since all of those players were so accomplished, is it possible to say that this is the one player from those squads who is the best? And if I were to include team titles as a factor in determining individual greatness shouldn't that decision be between Coleman and Toliver who have the ACC championship that Langhorne lacks? My apologies, Lang. You have thirty seconds to say your goodbyes.