Maryland basketball seniors Ivan Bender and Andrew Terrell still vividly remember walking onto Gary Williams Court at the Xfinity Center for the first time.
When Bender first came to the program in 2015, he got goosebumps when he first stepped onto the court. During that redshirt season, he never got to play, but every time he let his feet touch the plywood he would once again get goosebumps.
“I can’t wait for next season when I dress, when I go out there and warm-up,” Bender would think to himself.
Terrell didn’t know much about Maryland when he joined the program as a walk-on from Indiana, but he still remembers walking into the gym for the first time and being completely stunned by the almost 18,000-person arena. He couldn’t believe that it would be his home for four years.
But now, the end of those years is approaching for both. On Friday, Maryland will celebrate the two seniors in the team’s last regular game of the season against Minnesota.
Neither have had a significant impact on the court this year, but they’ve been essential pieces to the Terps’ bench and leadership.
“They’ve just been great teammates,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They’ve always put the team first, the program first.”
When Terrell walked into practice at Xfinity Center this week, he took some extra time to soak in the environment, knowing his senior day and last home game was approaching.
“Man, I’ve got one more of these things,” he thought to himself as he looked around the stands, up into the rafters and back to the court.
At every Maryland basketball game, win or lose, one thing is constant: Terrell lighting it up on the bench. Look over during any game and you’ll find the guard jumping up and down and waving his towel around like a madman, hyping up his teammates to keep the energy high.
“I try to keep things as light as possible. I think that’s kind of how I’ve played my role throughout these entire four years,” Terrell said. “The towel will be retired after the season.”
Towards the end of blowout games, Maryland’s student section starts to chant for the senior to enter the game. Over the years, he’s won them over with his bench celebrations and hilarious Instagram posts. This season, he even launched a blog, Tilted Bench, to give the fan base more of a glimpse into his life as a Maryland basketball player.
“That’s awesome,” Terrell said. “I try not to react to it too much, but I do hear it. I enjoy it, I really like it, how could you not, you have a whole fan base yelling your name.”
Terrell said he knows Turgeon likes the chants too, and when the game is willing, he’ll oblige. While Terrell doesn’t get many minutes, he’s clearly become a favorite of the coaching staff as well. In December, Turgeon surprised the walk-on with a full scholarship in a team meeting.
As soon as he finished reading the letter, Terrell’s teammates flocked around him, eager to celebrate the accomplishment. He said that moment was probably one of his favorite personal memories at Maryland, but of course it doesn’t top when the Terps made the Sweet 16 in 2016.
As a senior, Terrell has evolved into a strong leader both in practice and off the court, in addition to his in-game enthusiasm. Freshman guard Eric Ayala said Terrell is always there to give him motivation for practice or some advice before a big game. He values the senior’s experience from observing Maryland teams with the likes of Jake Layman, Melo Trimble and Kevin Huerter from the bench and in practice for four years.
“Everything he says is genuine and it’s from his heart,” Ayala said. “I always take this advice and we look at him as our leader.”
Those friendships with his teammates are what makes Friday so special for the senior.
“I’ve grown relationships that will never be taken away from me and that’s all I can really ask for,” Terrell said. “I came here knowing nobody and I left here with a whole giant family.”
Bender’s Maryland basketball journey has been one of trials and tribulations, to say the least.
When he came to the program in 2015 after playing for a team in Croatia, Bender barely knew any English. It was difficult for him to understand instructions from Turgeon with his limited vocabulary. He was also fresh off of two ACL surgeries and very much still in the rehabilitation process, so he had to redshirt that year.
“It was hard [the] first few months of 2015 when I came here, but I told myself they all make mistakes when they talk and I’ll just make mistakes,” Bender said. “I came from another continent, from another country, didn’t even speak the language and they all accepted me like I was their son, and that was huge.”
Bender got a lot of help from teammates and coaches to familiarize himself with the language. He also used to watch the TV show Supernatural with subtitles on to get a better grasp of English. Whenever he didn't understand a word, he would pause the show and look it up.
And though his English got better over time, Bender didn’t see much minutes through his first two eligible seasons. Then, in his junior season in 2017-18, Bender began to get more playing time and even started seven games with an injured Justin Jackson out of the lineup. On Dec. 21, 2016, against Fairleigh Dickinson, he had a career-high 12 points. But in a game against UMBC on Dec. 29, Bender tore his right meniscus, abruptly ending his season.
“I got more minutes on the court and I was really feeling better, but then that happened,” Bender said. “It [was] tough being with the guys, around the guys and not being able to help them because of the way our season ended.”
Now as a senior, the Bosnia native’s playing time has remained limited, with just 88 minutes in 30 games so far. He had a season-high six rebounds against Rutgers in January.
“Unfortunately for Ivan, he’s been hurt a lot,” Turgeon said. “Ivan is not close to the player he was before he got hurt last year at Christmas. It takes a while, but his attitude’s been great all year.”
And just like his senior counterpart Terrell, Bender has taken a leadership role in stride. Turgeon said he never sees him in a bad mood, and with everything he’s given to the program, he hopes his team can send him and Terrell off with a win on Friday.
“These last four years have been amazing,” Bender said. “It means a lot ... I’m going to leave tomorrow and I’ll never come back to play, to warm up, to be with teammates, so it’s going to be really emotional.”