When most people hear the phrase “South Pole,” they think of the region in Antarctica.
But for No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball, the South Pole is the collection of the lively crew of bench players. The towel faithful. The spirit of the team. A prideful bunch determined to uplift the Terps with sparks of energy coming from the sidelines.
”The South Pole celebration is just as important as the three point shot being made,” senior Travis Valmon told Testudo Times. “Without the three, there’s no celebration. But without the celebration, there’s no three points going up on the board. It’s all cohesive, it’s all one thing.”
And while it might sound a little odd, there’s no denying how much the crew down the bench uplifts the team with its wild celebrations and positive reassurance.
The group prides itself on how many bench violations it can get from referees for excessive celebrations, as well as counting points per warmup and towel flicks. But more importantly, each guy serves as an extra advisor, telling teammates certain tendencies of opponents and also giving them pointers.
Andrew Terrell, a 2019 graduate of the program, known for his outgoing personality and antics, always with a towel around his neck, coined the South Pole name back in his freshman season and the tradition lived on since.
“The South Pole is cold and we always wore warmups, so there had to be a reason other than you know, we don’t get in the game,” Terrell told Testudo Times. “So I just thought of the South Pole. I just thought of somewhere cold...and we were at the south end of the bench.”
But now Terrell has graduated and the South Pole is under new leadership. Before leaving, he gave Valmon permission to bestow the elusive and ever-iconic towel, telling him “to do it wisely.”
He said Valmon was hesitant, not wanting to take over his teammate’s signature, but Terrell said very strongly hopes he wears it and carries on the tradition.
Valmon will be leading the group with junior Reese Mona. Senior Will Clark, who joined the team last year, looks to have a bigger role this year as well.
“Personally, it’s too big of shoes to fill for one person,” Mona told Testudo Times.. “It’s got to be a group effort between the three of us. We all bring something to the table that I think we could add up to close to [Andrew], but it’s going to be tough. Andrew was such a special guy, just a personality so out there, but I think we can all come together and try to bring something to the table that we miss from Andrew.”
And on Monday, Reese announced freshman Chol Marial will be joining the squad while he continues to rehab from surgery. You’re likely to see a mix of freshman Hakim Hart and junior Joshua Tomaic on that side of the bench as well.
View this post on Instagram
PSA: Basketball is Back in College Park!! Also... for the next few weeks the South Pole has added a new honorary member (@kingbeny15). It’s obviously tough to match the skill level of one of the greats @a.terrell4 but boy does Big Chol bring the energy #SouthPole #RIPTowel
With the team boasting such high national expectations this season and the pressure that comes with that, having a group of guys to keep things light is especially important.
Whether it’s being in a tough road environment, or a home crowd is displeased with the play of the team, Maryland players know they can look to the end of the bench to get the boost they need.
Sophomore Aaron Wiggins said it can be especially helpful when he’s having a bad game and needs to get back in his groove. What better way than some crazy teammates jumping up and down, waving towels and continuing to clap you on.
”Knowing that you’re on a team with a great group of guys who always have your back and who are always there to support you, I mean, that’s always a plus when it comes to confidence, being comfortable and stuff,” Wiggins said. “So I mean, good game, bad game, having those guys who are telling you, ‘next game, next play, you’ll be all right.’ I mean, it’s always really comfortable and cool to have.”
And Valmon says the South Pole’s finest can battle any team’s bench in the nation.
“Ours is genuine. Ours is real, it’s cold, hard, pure energy,” Valmon said. “And that’s what we do down there. You know, it’s not fake, it’s not just for the cameras, it’s pure, you know. I’ll take our South Pole for any [bench] in the country, and you can quote that.”