Will Maryland Ever Win a Championship Again?
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of Maryland’s first and only national title in men’s basketball. For a long time, College Park was a basketball powerhouse. In 2002, the Terps were widely favored to win the championship because of returning starters Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox. Critics said that these guys were the key to a title run. But as someone who witnessed Maryland’s season (and championship) in person, I can tell you that these four stars weren’t the key to winning the title.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys were a huge factor in Maryland’s dominance that season, but there was one unsung player that made things happen that year: Byron Mouton. Mouton brought the intangibles that don’t make the stat sheet. Mouton transferred to Maryland after playing for Tulane. He played two years for the Terps: one team went to a Final Four and the other won a championship.
Words can’t describe Mouton’s play his senior year. I loved going to Cole just to watch him. (I’m the nerd who also attended practices at Cole to “study” the team.) I’d have to go back and re-watch every game just to tell you how many balls he kept alive or turnovers he forced.
He might not have scored all the points, blocked a ton of shots, led the nation in assists or had a ton of rebounds, but he had heart and is the reason Maryland won a title. Just go back and watch the national championship game. The stars were not shining that night. It was Mouton’s intangibles that kept the Terps in the game.
Maryland hasn’t come close since 2002. Yeah, there was an ACC Tournament title, some Sweet Sixteen’s and NCAA tournament berths, but Maryland hasn’t gotten back to 2002 form. This year’s team reminds me a lot of the late 90s/early 2000 teams. The team is young, and that is something to build upon.
Stoglin is already emerging as a star, Howard (if he can stay healthy) can be a solid point guard, and Faust has the skills to mature into a great shooting guard. But if this team wants to go anywhere, they need a Byron Mouton. They need heart and they need intangibles.
I, admittedly, don’t know the first thing about recruiting that kind of player. Maybe Mouton just fell into Gary’s lap and he got lucky. Maybe Gary went out looking for that kind of player. Either way, Turgeon needs to find that kind of player: a guy that puts his heart and soul into the game and whose effort is seen on the floor and not necessarily in the box score.