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SportsTerpsTracking the Terps

Exploring the Terps' jersey policy, Dixon's controversial remarks and the true impact of a blowout

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Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.


Should Maryland begin permitting basketball players’ numbers to be formally retired?

Jeff Barker: I think in rare cases — such as a Juan Dixon or a Len Bias — Maryland should consider retiring numbers. That would have eliminated the uncertainty over whether to permit Dixon’s old No. 3 to be assigned to freshman Roddy Peters.

Without his number being retired, Dixon had no claim to his old number. I credit coach Mark Turgeon with reaching out to Dixon before proceeding with the initial plan — later scrapped — to give Peters No. 3. That was both a sensitive and a politically astute move by the coach. But it wasn’t required.

Look, we know there would be an outcry if Maryland assigned a new player the No. 34 worn by the late Bias.

So why not make it official and declare No. 34 off-limits? Other schools (Virginia, Duke) manage to retire numbers and still have plenty to go around. You won’t find any Cavalier wearing No. 50 (Ralph Sampson).

Actually, why not go further at Maryland and more clearly delineate the criteria even for having numbers honored, but not retired, by raising them to the Comcast Center rafters.

When Ernie Graham had his number honored with a banner in 2012, some Terps fans wondered why others had not been similarly cited.

It wasn’t that the critics were necessarily objecting to Graham. They just wanted to know exactly why Graham was getting the honor over, say, former Olympian Steve Sheppard, guard Brad Davis and swingman Adrian Branch.


What should Maryland do about Juan Dixon's jersey number, in particular?

Don Markus: Unlike many schools that retire the jersey number of its most celebrated basketball players, Maryland has long kept its policy of honoring its former stars by hanging their jersey numbers from the rafters while allowing others to wear those jerseys as well.

That's why Johnny Rhodes got to wear the No. 15 made famous by John Lucas and why current standout Dez Wells wears No. 32, the number Joe Smith wore during his two remarkable seasons in College Park. Which brings us to the saga of Roddy Peters, and why he is not wearing No. 3.

And to Juan Dixon, one of the most beloved and, perhaps, accomplished players in Maryland history.

When it came out during Tuesday's media day that Dixon had turned down a request last summer from Mark Turgeon to let his top incoming freshman wear No. 3, I thought it was a selfish move on the part of the school's all-time leading scorer. But after talking with Dixon on Thursday, I understand why he feels the way he does.

In fact, I'll take it one step further: Maryland should expand its policy of honoring jerseys and start retiring a few of them. While there are many who seem deserving, there is one who might be the most deserving: Dixon. There is also another number that should never be worn again for a different reason: Len Bias' No. 34.

It's hard to separate Dixon from Lonny Baxter and the rest of the Terps from the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 teams that reached the first two Final Fours in school history and won the school's first national men's NCAA title. But without the scrawny kid from Calvert Hall, there would be none of those banners or memories.

As for Bias, there's been a lot of debate over the past 27 years about how to honor a player who died from a cocaine overdose a couple of days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. He's not even in the school's athletic Hall of Fame. Nobody has worn No. 34 since, and I doubt anybody ever will.

You can make a strong case for others whose numbers have been honored and reworn.

There's Gene Shue, who led the Terps to their first ACC title in 1958 and whose number (25) has been worn by everyone from Ernie Graham to Steve Blake to Alex Len. There's Walt Williams, who helped keep Maryland competitive by staying in College Park after NCAA sanctions in the late 1980s all but gave the  Terps the death penalty.

There's Keith "Boooooooth," who helped Gary Williams open the door to recruiting in Baltimore after it was closed by those city petty power brokers who thought Lefty Driesell had done wrong by Graham and who thought Bob Wade got a raw deal when he was fired after only three years. Adrian Bowie wore 22, too.

But none of them did as much as Dixon, who made grown men cry in the stands of the Georgia Dome after leading Maryland past Indiana in 2002. According to those who know Dixon, there's not a week that goes by without a total strranger walking up to him and saying, "Thanks."

Dixon's No. 3 is arguably the most iconic number in modern Maryland history. Hundreds, if not thousands, of kids chose it for their rec basketball teams. I know this firsthand, since my younger son wore it for years on his basketball and soccer uniforms.

I can understand how Turgeon might not fully understand what Dixon means to Maryland, since he came to College Park nearly a decade after the championship. I also know that Turgeon is doing his best to embrace Maryland's past, as evidenced by the move to Cole Field House for Maryland Madness.

But a big part of that past happened nearly a dozen years ago in Atlanta.


What does a 63-0 loss do for a team's recruiting efforts?

Jonas Shaffer: It's not nearly as helpful as a 63-0 win, I can tell you that much. But then, you already knew that. It's common sense: You win, recruits take notice. You lose, recruits lose interest.

But how much does a shellacking, even a historic one, actually matter to high school seniors? At this stage in the cycle, I think it's easy to overstate just how much a rout can rejigger a recruitment.

Consider: Blue-chip offensive line target Damian Prince probably first heard from the Terps during or after their 2-10 2011 season. Then he probably heard from them more after their 4-8 2012 season. He certainly was also hearing from blue bloods that had just won more league games in a single season than Randy Edsall had total victories in his first two years.

No matter. It is October 2013, and the Terps are firmly in contention for Prince, just as they are for big-time defensive back target Jalen Tabor. They are there because of the relationships they have cultivated with each.

If, say, Mike Locksley tells Prince that it's going to be all right, even after Saturday's loss at Florida State indicated just the opposite, you have to believe Prince will listen. When players commit to a school, they are also pledging to a recruiter who has laid before them a carefully manicured idea of how their next four or five years of college will go. One game doesn't often change a paradigm.

There are other considerations, of course. Just as recruits target schools with stability in their coaching staff, so, too, do coaching staffs target recruits with stability in their interest. To me, it says more about a player than a game's impact if one day he's smitten with the idea of attending a school, then the next is repulsed by the notion of going there. Talent can get you only so far with a mindset like that.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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