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Sports Terps Tracking the Terps

How have Terps basketball players fared after leaving early?

With Alex Len's decision to leave Maryland after two years for the NBA, it's interesting to see how other former Terps fared when making similar decisions. The majority never amounted to the kind of stars they might have become had they remained in College Park.

Brad Davis was the first Terp to leave early, after his junior year in 1977. A first-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Lakers (No. 15 overall), Davis took a few years to get his NBA career on track. After bouncing between the NBA and the CBA, Davis stuck with the expansion Dallas Mavericks in 1980 and 11 seasons later ended his career as the first player in franchise history to have his jersey retired.

Buck Williams left Maryland after his junior year in 1980-81 and might have had the most productive career of any Terp to leave college early. Picked third overall by the New Jersey Nets, Williams was the NBA's Rookie of the Year and went on to have a solid 17-year career in which he was a three-time All-Star. He averaged 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds playing mostly for New Jersey and Portland.

Jerrod Mustaf was the next Terp to leave with eligibility remaining. After leading the Terps in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore in Gary Williams' first season in 1989-90, the 6-10 forward was taken 17th overall by the New York Knicks. After being traded to Phoenix, teammate Charles Barkley said Mustaf was lazy. Off-court legal issues (involving a wrongful death suit against him for the murder of Mustaf's pregnant former girlfriend by his cousin) ended his NBA career after four seasons.

Joe Smith left Maryland after a remarkable two-year career in which he went from being a virtual unknown to national Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft. After being named to the All-Rookie team in Golden State, Smith never lived up to his billing. He eventually played for 12 teams over 16 years, retiring in 2010-11, with a 10.9 scoring average.

Steve Francis had the best numbers of any Terp to not finish his college career. The second overall pick in 1999 after spending one season as a sophomore at Maryland, Francis was considered among the game's most exciting players, known in Houston and Orlando as "Stevie Franchise." But the 6-3 guard eventually succumbed to knee problems and finished a 10-year career averaging 18.1 points a game.

John Gilchrist should have left Maryland after leading the Terps to the ACC tournament championship as a sophomore in 2004. Instead, he returned for a tumultuous junior year that essentially ended when Gilchrist told Gary Williams he was hurt during an ACC tournament game against Clemson in Washington, D.C. Gilchrist wound up going undrafted, and filled his passport with stops in Israel, Latvia, New Zealand and Australia before a knee injury ended his pro career.

Chris Wilcox averaged just 7.1 points a game as a sophomore at Maryland, but his play in the Final Four, particularly against Kansas in the semifinals, led to the 6-10 forward to be chosen eighth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002. In the 11 years since, Wilcox has been mostly a journeyman coming off the bench, as he is doing now for the Boston Celtics after undergoing open-heart surgery last year.

The last of the Terps to leave early might tell the most cautionary tale. Jordan Williams averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds as a sophomore in 2010-11, then stopped going to class to prepare for the NBA draft. Picked in the second round by the New Jersey Nets, the 6-10 power forward had conditioning issues even before training camp, was traded to the Atlanta Hawks late in his rookie year and was cut by the Hawks before the current season started. He did not play on a professional team -- anywhere -- this season.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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