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Who’s the best center in Maryland basketball history?

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Let’s finalize the starters.

JOE SMITH MARYLAND

Last summer, we ran a series of polls to determine the best players in Maryland football history by position, which gave us a fan-voted all-time Terps team. We’ve been running it back this summer, but with basketball. Steve Blake was voted best point guard, Juan Dixon was chosen at shooting guard, the late Len Bias was picked at small forward, and Buck Williams earned the power forward vote. Now it’s time for the centers.

For the purpose of this poll, we only considered players that played center in college. We’ll provide some clarity on who was and wasn’t considered, as well. Now we’ll look at Maryland’s best anchors, and the Terps have had some elite players hold down the paint over the years.

Here are our nominees, ordered alphabetically. Vote and let us know your favorites in the comments.

Al Bunge

Bunge was a member of the first-ever Maryland team to make it to the NCAA Tournament in 1958. The 6’8 center helped lead the Terps to an Atlantic Coast Conference championship the same year. He’d go on to average a double-double over three seasons with the Terps, averaging 12.4 points and 10.5 rebounds over 75 games. His career rebounding average sits fourth in program history, and Bunge earned First Team All-ACC selection in 1960.

His senior year, he averaged 16.7 points and 12.6 boards a game; the latter still stands as the third-best single-season rebounding average. Bunge also holds the program’s second-highest single-game scoring output, dropping 43 points against Yale on Jan. 4, 1960. He’d get selected by the then-Philadelphia Warriors, but wouldn’t play at the NBA level.

Len Elmore

A three-time All-ACC selection and a 1974 Second Team All-American, Elmore arrived in College Park fresh off a 1970 New York City Championship. Spending three years next to Tom McMillen and two alongside McMillen and John Lucas, Elmore was never tasked with being an elite scorer. Instead, he was a voracious rebounder and third scorer on those teams. He held down the paint next to McMillen en route to the 1972 NIT crown and later helped lead the Terps to the Elite Eight in 1974.

He was a 1,000-point scorer, but Elmore stands alone as the only player in Maryland history with 1,000 rebounds, totaling 1,053 boards. He also holds the record for both single-season and career rebounding average, posting 14.7 boards a night during Maryland’s ACC Championship season in 1974 and 12.2 per game over his 86-game career. He also holds the record for most rebounds in a game, grabbing 26 against Wake Forest on Feb. 27, 1974. Elmore would become the Washington Bullets’ first-round draft pick in 1974, going No. 13 overall to kick off an eight-year pro career. He’d later begin careers in both law and color commentating.

Cedric Lewis

The 6’10 Lewis was an enforcer for the Terps, serving as an elite shot blocker off the bench for his first three seasons. His 239 career blocks rank third in Maryland history. The Washington, D.C., native worked his way into the starting lineup his senior year and blossomed. He’d average 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocks in 1991, the latter a program single-season record. His 12 blocks against South Florida on Jan. 20, 1991 also remain the highest single-game total in program history. He’d go undrafted and play just three NBA games for the Washington Bullets in the 1995-96 season.

Joe Smith

The only Terp to ever win the Naismith Award, Smith had a meteoric rise to prominence in just two seasons. Smith is also one of just two Maryland players ever drafted first overall, going No. 1 in 1995, along with point god John Lucas. He was the ACC Rookie of the Year and a Third Team All-American in 1994, and the conference and nation’s Player of the Year, as well as a First Team All-American, in 1995. Smith averaged 20.7 points, 10.7 boards and 3.0 blocks in College Park, which rank second, third and first in program history, respectively. His 16-year NBA career saw him often traded, and he’d end up as a professional, but fairly reliable, journeyman.

Chris Wilcox

A 6’10 post player, Wilcox played next to 6’8 big man Lonnie Baxter in his two years with the Terps. Where Baxter was the more polished post operator, Wilcox was the more athletic of the two. After averaging just 3.6 points and 2.1 boards as a freshman, Wilcox averaged 12 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as part of the Terps 2002 Championship team. He’d earn a Third Team All-ACC selection and turn pro after the season. He was the first Maryland player from the championship team off the board in 2002, going No. 8 overall to the Los Angeles Clippers. He’d become a quality bench player over an 11-year NBA career, last playing in 2013 for the Boston Celtics.

By the way...

Lonnie Baxter

Can’t have this list without the center for the 2002 National Champions. We’ve been paying attention to your comments and saw it come to a head last week with Baxter’s inclusion among the power forwards. This is our way of saying sorry.

A lot of these players were harder to position in retrospect without having seen them play or concrete positional listings in databases. In turn, much of this exercise turned into making judgement calls in an attempt to be as accurate as possible, then being wrong on some. Thanks for putting up with the misses and sorry if it at all took away from the experience. Stay tuned for one last poll next week.

Honorable mention: Alex Len, Ekene Ibekwe, Ben Coleman, Tom Roy
Considered power forwards: Jordan Williams, Obinna Ekezie

Poll

Who do you think is the best center in Maryland history?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Al Bunge
    (5 votes)
  • 36%
    Len Elmore
    (684 votes)
  • 0%
    Cedric Lewis
    (14 votes)
  • 55%
    Joe Smith
    (1037 votes)
  • 1%
    Chris Wilcox
    (26 votes)
  • 4%
    Lonnie Baxter
    (91 votes)
  • 0%
    Other—comment your answer
    (13 votes)
1870 votes total Vote Now