Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Of the Maryland players drafted in the NBA between Joe Smith in 1995 and Alex Len in 2013, whose career has been the most surprising and whose has been the most disappointing?
Don Markus: There have been more than a dozen former Terps to have played in the NBA in the past 18 years, and only one – Steve Francis – has been an all-star.
That said, a handful of former Terps who have played during the past two decades have had long and fairly productive careers, such as the now retired Smith (16 seasons), Tony Massenburg (15), Walt Williams (11) as well as Steve Blake (9). A four-time All-Star, Francis had a mostly productive eight-year career cut short by injuries.
But there have been more than a few whose careers didn’t last as long as many thought, such as Juan Dixon (7), Lonny Baxter (3) and Keith Booth (2). A number didn’t even get their NBA careers off the ground, such as John Gilchrist and Mike Jones.
As far as the most surprising, a number of fans I’ve talked with over the years say it’s Blake, at least compared to Dixon and others on the 2002 national championship team. I always figured that Blake had a better chance because he was a true point guard while Dixon was more of an undersized shooting guard.
Still, who would have thought that a player that averaged no more than 11.6 points in college and has averaged double figures only once in the NBA (a little over 11 a game as a starter in Portland in 2008-09) could stick around this long, playing with the likes of Allen Iverson in Denver and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles?
Blake has not had the most productive stint during his three seasons with the Lakers, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that once he got over the adjustment of playing with Bryant in Phil Jackson’s Triangle offense, Jackson retired and the franchise has been in flux ever since.
Yet every time it seems that Blake is about to be passed in the rotation by another point guard – remember when the Lakers brought in Ramon Sessions two years ago? – he proves too solid and too steady to bury on the bench.
If he can stay healthy, I can see Blake playing another five years or more. Though it seems unlikely he will be a starter again, as he was in Portland and for a time with the Lakers, his reputation as a good guy to have in the locker room and a 15-to-20-minute sub at the point will probably keep him in the league a long time.
How about the most disappointing Terp since Smith?
Many believe it’s Smith, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft after being national player of the year as a sophomore. While he was never the main scoring option on any team he played – even when he averaged more than 18 points in Golden State his second season – Smith was a pretty good role player for a long time.
There are some arguments for Booth and Jordan Williams, too.
Booth, who was the No. 1 pick at the end of the first round by the Chicago Bulls in 1997, never developed a jump shot and really never was given much of a chance, appearing in only 45 games in two seasons. He was a great college player who got by on toughness and grit, a 6-5 power forward whose qualities never carried over to the pros.
I’m not sure you can say that Jordan Williams had the most disappointing career, since he was a second-round draft choice who many believed was not ready for the NBA when he left after his sophomore year in 2011. While he could surface again after getting cut by the Atlanta Hawks before last season (after he was traded there by the Brooklyn Nets) it seems doubtful.
Based on where he was drafted, and what he showed at Maryland, I might say that Wilcox has been the biggest underachiever. Had he stayed past his sophomore year, Wilcox had the kind of talent that could have made him an ACC player of the year candidate as a junior. Believe it or not, there were some who were comparing him to Len Bias when he emerged during the 2001-2002 season.
Drafted eighth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers after the Terps beat Indiana for the NCAA title in Atlanta, Wilcox has been the definition of an NBA journeyman nearly from the start. He had only one stretch of three years in Seattle when he was a regular starter and averaged respectable numbers (around 14 points, 8 rebounds a game).
Wilcox has had some health issues – the most serious coming when he underwent open heart surgery during the 2011-12 season – but he never really developed a game based around pure basketball skill rather than athleticism. He won’t approach either Massenburg or Smith when it comes to the number of teams he plays for – Wilcox is currently at six – but I doubt whether he plays as long as they did either.
So my choices are both from the 2002 championship team – Blake and Wilcox.
Who are yours?
What are some of the issues at the heart of the chill in the Maryland-ACC relationship?
Jeff Barker: It’s not just the obvious – that Maryland opted to leave the conference in favor of the Big Ten, effective in July 2014.
It seems to be more than that. I sense that both parties believe the other pushed too hard.
The ACC was clearly irritated that Maryland swiftly and directly challenged the validity of the conference’s $52 million exit fee. Maryland says the fee is random and punitive. Its president, Wallace Loh, is the former dean of the University of Washington law school and was proactive during the conference switch.
Not only did the ACC file suit against Maryland, but it began withholding shared conference revenues.
In December, the ACC withheld a distribution of about $3 million owed to Maryland as what it called an "offset" against the $52 million exit fee.
So the dispute escalated -- Maryland filed its own suit -- with each party apparently believing the other was overreaching.
I suspect additional factors have led to bruised feelings. Newsobserver.com in North Carolina reported in May that ACC commissioner John Swofford was stunned by Maryland’s departure.
Said the News Observer: "Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, and its defection blindsided Swofford."
I wrote a story this week about this ongoing, awkward situation. Here we have Maryland teams playing in a conference that is mired in a legal tangle with the school.
It's hardly ideal.
What will local recruiting look like for the Terps' basketball program in 2015?
Matt Bracken: Rivals.com came out this week with its Top 100 for the class of 2015. In that list of the 100 best rising juniors in the country, a grand total of four players from the greater College Park area were listed.
That's a far cry from 2014, when St. Frances forward Dwayne Morgan, St. James forward Obi Enechionyia, Mount St. Joseph guard Phil Booth and St. Maria Goretti forward Martin Geben all earned Maryland offers. Dion Wiley and Melo Trimble, of course, were also local top-100 prospects that committed to the Terps.
From a quick glance at the new Rivals.com list, it's probably reasonable to assume that the Terps will have to look beyond Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia when they fill out that 2015 recruiting class.
Maryland has already reportedly offered point guard Bryant Crawford (No. 26) from Gonzaga (D.C.), shooting guard Franklin Howard (No. 40) from Paul VI in Fairfax, Va., and power forward from Marcus Derrickson (No. 45) from Paul VI. But with Trimble, Wiley and Roddy Peters on the roster, Maryland faces a challenge convincing the 2015 local guards that playing time is available. Derrickson, meanwhile, also has plenty of options.
The final 2015 local prospect listed in Rivals' list is Milford Mill's Justin Jenifer. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound point guard checks in at No. 94 nationally. Rivals doesn't list any offers for Jenifer yet, and it's probably fair to assume with Peters and Trimble in back-to-back classes, Maryland will be picky with point guard offers and might not even take a 1 for 2015.
It's too early to identify who might seriously emerge as a 2015 target for the Terps, but for a coaching staff that has landed players from Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey, recruiting outside this area probably isn't a huge concern.
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