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Anthony Cowan Jr: The point guard’s legacy through the eyes of Maryland greats

Here’s what others had to say about the Terp’s career in College Park ahead of his senior day.

Anthony Cowan Jr, at Michigan State, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

When head coach Mark Turgeon recruited Anthony Cowan Jr. to play for Maryland men’s basketball, he wasn’t entirely sure what his role would be in his first year. But by the summer of his freshman season, Turgeon said he quickly realized that the Bowie, Maryland, native would be an essential piece of his starting five.

Since then, Cowan has started a program record 129 consecutive games for the university that most of his family attended. With a constant chip on his shoulder after being doubted his whole life for his size, the 6’0’ guard has made his mark on Terp history.

Heading into his final game at Xfinity Center in Maryland’s finale to the regular season against No. 25 Michigan Sunday, the senior is seventh on Maryland’s all time scoring list with 1,861 career points. He holds the fifth-most assists (576), third-most made three-pointers (306) and is tied with Albert King for the fourth-most double-figure games (106) in program history.

As his senior day approached, I couldn’t help thinking about the resounding legacy Cowan has already left on Maryland — though he has expressed much bigger goals of earning a ring and raising a banner. So I talked with five Terp greats, as well as Turgeon, to get their thoughts on the guard’s evolution over his four years and the mark he’s made on the program.

Anthony Cowan Jr, Michigan State, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Walt Williams

1988 to 1992: Most 30-point games in program history (14), 12th in all-time scoring (1704)

On when he first saw Cowan play: “I had heard about him in high school as well. I hadn’t seen him play, but I heard a lot about him, especially when the Terps started recruiting him. I saw him first when he played for Maryland [as a freshman], and I just thought he was very quick. People mostly talked about what he could do offensively, I was impressed by his defensive prowess — how intense he was. And that kind of shined — that was the biggest thing that was shining through about him.”

On his evolution: “The difference I’ve seen or the growth I’ve seen in him is when you when you’re young, you just try to do what you can to be a part of the team or to show that you belong. And then you kind of settle into your role and start to see what you can do offensively, the impact you can make. And now what he’s done in his senior year is just a concerted effort to zone in on his ability to elevate his teammates around him — being more of a facilitator, especially early in games. And then being that closer for the team late in games.”

On his legacy: “When you’re talking about a kid who started as a freshman and then just the ability to stay healthy and stay at a high level, from the very beginning, it was ultimately inevitable that he would pass a lot of the greats on the all-time list. He has been someone who’s been consistent his whole career and has gotten better. So he certainly deserves all the accolades that he’s receiving. And I’m sure for him it’s a great honor to pass the greats and just being in the same sentence as the greatest greatest players to play at the University of Maryland, because it has such a great tradition of having great players.”

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Len Elmore

1970 to 1974: 3-time ACC All-Conference selection, second for career double-doubles (44), tied for second-most double-doubles in a season (22)

On when he first saw Cowan play: “It was in his freshman year and I can’t say specifically [when], but he had what I call — he had a lot of moxie, certainly you could see he was driven. As far as what type of talent that he had, it was hard to tell. He was a penetrator, he could shoot the ball. But there’s really nothing that you could put your finger on, to be able to say that he was going to absolutely be a superstar.”

On his evolution and what stands out about his game now: “There’s a certain toughness about him, sometimes to a fault when he’s trying to battle with some of the bigger players and when they try to isolate him and post him up. I take a look at how he doesn’t back down. I also think he usually wants the ball in critical times. I think he learned that, obviously from playing with [Melo] Trimble. And more than anything else, for the most part, he’s got high basketball IQ, understands how to get people involved, sometimes I think he could probably be even more assertive. He kind of gives into the ‘team game’, but there are times when they need him to be a little more selfish. And I think that’s something that you learn, and he’s for the most part playing that role.”

On his legacy: ”The legacy he’s leaving behind is that he’s among the premier guards in the program. I mean, I go all the way back to the guard that played with me, John Lucas, and obviously you have Juan [Dixon], you have Greivis [Vasquez], guys like that who put their imprint on the program with a particular style and a particular leadership. Now my hope is that in the postseason, they can do enough damage where that imprint will be absolutely indelible, but nobody’s going to forget the kind of effort and the kind leadership that Anthony has provided over the years.”

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Keith Gatlin

1983 to 1988: third in career assists (649), holds program record for best three-point percentage in a single season (49.6)

On when he first saw Cowan play: “I saw him play at the Under Armour All-American camp in Charlotte, North Carolina. I actually had a chance to coach him at that particular event. He was very, very, very skilled with the ball, a very tenacious defender. And I knew he had a lot of ability. And that’s when I really started following his game.”

On his evolution: “He’s pretty much been the same from what I saw when he was in high school. He’s always been a guy that can get to the basket. And he’s very confident in how he plays. The game is totally different now than when we played it. So the things that guards are doing now, you know, we couldn’t do back then, so I think he came along at the right time to play the position.”

On his legacy: “I think an awesome legacy for him. From the college standpoint, for the way that he assists the ball, scores the ball and defends the ball, I think he’s obviously had a great career there. And he picked the right school for him.”

Anthony Cowan Jr. vs Oakland, Maryland men’s basketball Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Kevin Huerter

2016 to 2018: Tied for fifth all-time for most triples made in a season (73), holds record for most three-pointers made as a freshman (65)

On Cowan’s evolution: “There’s not huge changes. ... Just as you become a senior, you obviously mature and everything just gets a little bit better. He can get by anybody. He’s so quick and he gets to the basket, he gets fouled. I think he’s gotten fouled a little bit more than what they’ve been wanting to give him this year. But he gets by anybody that’s in front of him, and they always need help defense.

“I think this year, he’s shooting it overall a lot better. I know again, the whole team as a whole has been struggling a little bit the past couple games, but he’s had a great shooting year. And I just think his development as a leader, being the alpha dog. And this year, it’s really kind of him and Stix, but you could say that Anthony is definitely the leader on that team. And I don’t know if you could say that in past years, and I think that’s a big reason why they’re so successful this year.”

On his legacy: “You’ve seen all the records he’s been breaking over the past couple weeks, and it seems like every game something that was tweeted out — his minutes, his starts, obviously he’s moving up the points ladder, assists, everything. And he’s going to go down as one of the best players, best point guards to play at Maryland.”

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Bruno Fernando

2017 to 2019: Tied for second-most double-doubles in a season (22), holds the second best career field goal percentage (59.5), tied for fourth-most rebounds in a single season (362)

On Cowan’s legacy: “Man, Anthony, he’s done everything he was set out to do. Everything he put it through his mind that he’s able to accomplish at Maryland, he’s been able to do that. Just for him to be a local kid and be able to do all these things he’s done — just that consecutive career stars and stuff like that, points he keeps climbing up the list and assists and everything like that. So it’s amazing to see him accomplish all that and being a a local kid, so I’m extremely happy for him.”

Maryland basketball Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan Jr. vs Indiana Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Mark Turgeon

Has been Maryland’s head coach since the 2011-12 season

On Cowan’s evolution: “He’s become an extension of me as his career has gone on, which has been great — it helps me coach. He’s been a really scoring point guard for us for four years. And I know he’s up there and assists and all that kind of stuff too, but he’s been a great all around player for us. It’s been fun to watch him grow. He’s a really quiet kid by nature, so just to be able to watch him grow and his leadership grow, and feel comfortable with it. You know, like last year he tried to lead, but it wasn’t comfortable. This year, you can tell it’s more comfortable for him. And just everything he’s done academically and just the way he’s represented us, he’s been really cool to watch.”

On his legacy: “Well, you know, you don’t want to think about that because you’re just kind of just grinding through the years and trying to make them better and trying to win games. And then this year, it kind of hit you. You started hearing, well he passed this guy in scoring. When he passed Walt Williams, I thought that was — and I don’t know if Walt did it in three years or what — but I was like, ‘Okay, this kid’s done some amazing things.’ He passed John Lucas in assists, and like John probably only played three years, but still I mean, that’s the No. 1 draft pick. It’s some really cool stuff that he’s done. So I guess this year kind of hit me that Anthony’s gonna go down as one of our all time greats.”

Anthony Cowan Jr, Illinois, Maryland basketball, Mark Turgeon Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times