Saturday, January 14, 2006

Terps: Heart and Character Do Count

Maryland's 2001-02 national basketball championship team was one the fans and alumni could take great pride in. It went well beyond the fact that they were good.

Gary Williams had put together a group of players that (with the exception of forward Chris Wilcox) weren't highly recruited, and stepped onto the College Park campus with something to prove. They were also athletes with great character. The struggles that star Juan Dixon dealt with growing up are well documented. Forward Byron Mouton lost his brother, who was murdered, early in that championship season. Even Coach Williams overcame adversity that season, losing his father on the eve of Duke's last visit to Cole Field House.

Those 2001-02 Terps were a team that any fan (except perhaps for those from Duke) would want to see succeed. As an alumnus, I was proud of the way that team represented my school.

Now we are in the midst of the 2005-06 season, not even four years later, and I find myself struggling to root for the team Gary Williams puts on the floor. The heart and character the championship team showed seem a distant memory, with this season's squad apparently lacking in both areas.

Questions regarding Maryland's heart seem appropriate after watching their abysmal performance during their 76-52 loss at Duke Wednesday night. Afterwards, senior forward Travis Garrison said, "This is our last go-round. We can't let this season be a season like last year."

Garrison has already accomplished that personally, getting himself suspended for Sunday night's critical game vs. Wake Forest. Garrison was charged with two misdemeanors on Friday relating to an altercation he had with a woman at a bar near the College Park campus back in October. The suspension is for Garrison's violation of a rule requiring members of the team to stay out of bars late at night. Coach Williams is reserving further action until the legal process plays out, a decision which I find completely appropriate.

The Terps' leading scorer, Chris McCray, said his team "came out flat" for the Duke game. WHAT! How can any basketball team come out flat when playing the #1 team in the nation, not to mention their bitter rival? It's easy to blame the coach, but as I told host Bob Haynie on WNST radio in Baltimore on Friday, all any coach in that situation should have to do is open the locker room door and send his players onto the court for them to be fired up.

McCray has dealt with his own issues over the past few months. In August, he was charged with resisting arrest and two other misdemeanors when police tried to break up a party he was attending. The charges were dropped, but McCray admitted he was drinking irresponsibly and entered an alcohol education program. Did he learn his lesson? I suspect not.

Earlier this season, McCray was replaced in the starting lineup after being late for a team meeting. He was also named as a witness in the complaint against Garrison, which could result in further disciplinary action.

I can't imagine ever rooting against any team with "Maryland" on their jerseys, but it's hard rooting FOR this group of basketball players. There are some Terp fans that will think I'm a traitor for saying that. I would disagree. I'm just holding my school to a high standard and believe all fans should do the same for theirs.


At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with this assessment. These seniors are the first batch of recruits in the Gary Williams era that I can't say with certainty are "good character kids". Caner-Medley, McCray and Garrison have all had run ins with the law and we know the problems that Gilcrist had.

As an alumn I'd rather be a borderline NCAA team with kids who are a credit to the University. Unfortunately the "Gary doesn't recruit well garbage" maybe has led to this


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