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The Maryland men’s basketball 2002 National Championship team media roundup

Here’s what the 2002 national champions had to say ahead of Maryland men’s basketball’s last game.

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Ahead of Maryland men’s basketball’s game against No. 22 Ohio State this past Sunday, Testudo Times had a chance to speak with a few of the former Terps that were on the 2002 National Championship team, along with other notable figures that presented in the “Legends Chat” portion of the event.

Here’s the best of what they had to say.

Former head coach Gary Williams:

On coming back together with the 2002 team: “You don’t get this opportunity very often, everybody has responsibilities... the greatest thing about coming back together is, things don’t change. What happens in your life changes, things like that, but not the way it was as a team.”

On the 2002 team: “When you look at this team, we were very talented. I mean we had... as talented of a team as I ever coached. We had that thing that changes teams that makes teams special. We had that willingness, whatever our talent was, we were willing to give that to the team first... when you get to that level with a talented team, you’re going to be a tough out. Teams are going to have to play really well to beat you and we were tough to beat that year.”

On the 2002 postseason: “We were determined. We were determined that we could win the NCAA Tournament... we thought we could win, we thought we could win every game they played that year. It was just great to be a part of that.”

Juan Dixon:

On what made the group special: “We were coached hard. We were mentally tough and realized we had to earn it. Every member on our team had to earn their role, had to earn their keep with Coach Williams team and we did that and that’s why we were able to win a national championship.”

Drew Nicholas:

On being back together with the team again: “It’s almost like we haven’t missed a beat. Like it almost feels like when we’re all together as a group, it seems like we’re walking into Cole Field House, walking into the locker room and everybody’s joking. Everybody is, you know, it’s just a little bit different now that everybody’s got families and, you know, after today we’re all gonna go our own separate ways, but like even though it’s been 20 years, as soon as we see each other, it’s like we pick right back up. I think that’s part of what made us who we were, you know, we were such a close group and that’s something that gets kind of it gets overlooked when you look at great teams.”

On his favorite memories from the 2002 season: “Tons of them, I’d probably say the last game at Cole when we beat Virginia. If I remember correctly we beat North Carolina by like 40 at our place that year. And then obviously, you know, the Final Four, getting back to the Final Four, even the whole NCAA Tournament run because you take a look back at some of those teams that we had to beat, Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, UConn in the Elite Eight, I mean number of pros on both of those teams and then to play Kansas and then cap it off against a pretty good Indiana team... it wasn’t a cakewalk. But you know, we handled our business.”

Calvin McCall:

On being back together with the 2002 team: “It’s awesome, man. But it’s funny because we were talking about it last night and no matter how long we spent apart, no matter how many months we go without talking, when we get back together, it’s like we’re college kids again. It’s like we’re in the locker room, we’re ragging on each other. It’s amazing... we have a tremendous brotherhood.”

On his favorite memories from that season: “I mean there were so many. I think just every day was something new. Every day was something new, something different. Just the way we interacted with each other. You know, Juan Dixon was a megastar, right? He never acted as if he was better than anybody. And you know, I was talking to my wife and telling her like, everyone has their own personality and we all meshed somehow. We all from different places and everyone’s personality matched. We just had a blast, every day was a blast.”

On his specific season-defining moment from 2002: “It wasn’t in a good way, it was a loss. The first game of the season we lost to Arizona. I remember that year being the 9/11 year. And so Coach Williams was so... everything was about right now today, not tomorrow, doesn’t care about tomorrow. And when we lost Arizona, it was a way for us to really dig in and see like we want to win this all? We got to be better. We got to come together, we got to pay attention to detail. So it wasn’t a good thing, you know, it was a loss that actually that I think everything turned around.”

Lonny Baxter:

On being back with the 2002 team: “It’s great just to see everybody. Everybody's doing well. Whenever we get together it’s just a lot of laughs, a lot of high fives, a lot of smile, a lot of joy so it’s just great to be around this group of guys.”

On how being at Xfinity for the reunion was different than stepping to the building any other time: “It’s definitely more emotional this time. You know, because of the things we did. I mean, the ups and downs we had of playing here and to be able to have one common goal and accomplish it in winning a national championship was like no other.”

On a memory that sticks from that season: “The greatest memory I have is Juan throwing the ball up in the air when the clock hit zero and then we were on the ground celebrating. Coach Williams, he actually gave me a poster of that celebration, and it’s just embedded in my head forever, will always be stuck in my head.”

His message for current players: “Everybody goes through adversity, even our team we had to fight through a lot of adversity. It’s just a part of life. So you have to just dig deep and, you know, keep fighting, you know, keep working. You know, like I said, we were able, we lost the game to Duke that we were up 22 at halftime the year before. And we felt like we should have won a National Championship that year. But we didn’t but we had to pull back a lot of resilience, a lot of reserve to come back and just like I say, to accomplish our common goal that we all had set in our mind.”

Mike Grinnon:

On being back at Maryland and what it means to share the moment with family: “A lot of memories coming back all at once. Just the team getting back together. It’s like you don’t miss a day. Yeah, just overnight, the conversations pick back up and it was just that brotherhood that we had as a team but with my daughter here, you have her to get a chance— first time here. Coming back and and seeing all this is probably a little overwhelming but proud moment for Dad too.”

On the difficulty of winning a national title: “I didn’t realize how hard it was to actually win a championship, especially as a freshman. I got to learn to appreciate it as time went on. By my senior year, I really understood how hard it was. But even just years later, about any team getting a chance to do that. Just something that I’m very proud of and how many people it’s affected, you know, for Maryland fans and what’s done for the university. It’s very special.”

On emotions surrounding the day: “I’ve moved with my family a few times across the country. And we forget, I forget some of the old Maryland stories and fans and friends and coming back just getting the chance to relive it for a little bit is something very special...we’re just very blessed to be back and happy to see your Terp fans and friends.”

On the significance of the celebration: “In a way I feel like we have a lot of responsibility. You know that the alumni, us, having a chance to be back part of the university. The teams that are coming up as they’re changing over now and finding a new coach and being able to shape the minds of those younger student-athletes. And so it’s fun to come back and relive the stories, but at the same point, I think we’re coming back in a little bit of a different way where it’s it’s been 20 years and then being able to give back to the university that gave us so much.”

Chris Wilcox:

On moments from that season that stick 20 years later: “What I take with me is cutting down the nets, you know. Cause that just, that just solidified the whole moment...That was the ending to it all, you know, cutting down in there. So it was something that we always when we, we always wanted to do, who’s able to achieve it, and it was just the greatest moment ever.”

Steve Blake:

On what made the 2002 team so special: “It’s a combination of the group, our character off the court. We all got along so well, a group of guys that loved to be around each other. And then really, our styles of play. I know each one of us brought a different type of playing. You know, I was really high passer, defender. Juan was a great scorer. Byron could do a bit of everything. Our two bigs complemented each other well.”

On what it was like to relive the memories 20 years later: “It’s been good. Pretty much the whole time we reminisce more about things off the court than on the court, so it’s interesting because we all had that strong bond like that. It wasn’t just basketball that held us together.”

Andre Collins:

On getting back with the team 20 years later: “Honestly, it doesn't even seem like 20 years. We always pick right up where we left off, lots of jokes. You know, reminiscing over the time, all the great memories, great plays. it’s always great to be back here around these guys, we’re all brothers. It just picked right off, man, like it was still 2002.”

On what made the 2002 team so special: “We were resilient, we all had each other's back. Our best games were always in practice, just the battles that we had that year. The second string pushing the first string and making sure those guys were prepared. And then everybody being ready when their number was called.”

Scott Van Pelt:

On moderating the pregame event: “To be able to sit here and listen with this team is amazing.”

On professional sports titles in the area: “If you’re of a certain age, and you grew up in this area as I did, then you’re really lucky as sports fans because you saw that there was a Bullets back in the day, you saw them win a title. You saw they were then the Redskins win some titles, you’ve seen the Ravens win, you’ve seen the Caps win... we’ve seen people win titles. But nothing, and I don’t speak for y’all, but nothing, in my life meant more to me as a sports fan than the night when these guys cut down the nets.”