Is the University of Maryland's Kevin McLinton a vastly underrated basketball player? He may be.
Nothing suggests this more strongly than comparing McLinton statistically with Duke's Bob Hurley.
There's no question that Hurley is the king of Atlantic Coast Conference point guards. He's generally considered to be the best in the country -- if not one of the best ever.
Though Hurley is only 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, NBA scouts predict he'll be an outstanding pro beginning next year.
After Hurley directed Duke to a decisive 78-62 win at Maryland last Saturday, Terps coach Gary Williams reiterated his appreciation for the Blue Devil's play.
"Bob Hurley is everything people say he is," said Williams. "What I like about him is he worked hard to get there."
OK, so Hurley's the best. What about Kevin McLinton?
Nobody is predicting pro stardom -- or even a pro career -- for LTC McLinton. And yet the comparative stats for this season tell us this:
Scoring: Hurley, 17.5 points per game; McLinton, 16.2.
Field-goal percentage: McLinton, 47.3; Hurley, 43.5.
Three-point field-goal percentage: Hurley, 42.5; McLinton, 18.8.
Assists: Hurley leads ACC with 7.5 per game; McLinton is second with 6.2.
Steals: McLinton, 29; Hurley, 26.
Pretty close, huh?
In their head-to-head encounter at Cole Field House the other day, McLinton acquitted himself well. Hurley scored 17 points and dished off six assists; McLinton scored 18 and had five assists. Hurley was 3-for-8 on three-pointers; McLinton was 0-for-1.
"McLinton was outstanding in this game," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "He and [Maryland senior forward] Evers Burns have established themselves as big-time players in our league."
Hurley has an uncanny ability to come up with a big play when it's most needed. He's what some call a money player.
"Maryland got to within eight points of us and the crowd was really getting into it," Krzyzewski pointed out, "and Bobby hit a three to put us up by 11. That shot -- at that time -- was worth more than three points."
McLinton conceded that Hurley, who helped lead Duke to the last two NCAA championships, is an extraordinary talent.
"Hurley has talent," McLinton said, "but more than that he's a competitor. He'll be a great player in the NBA. He's a winner."
When it comes to being a competitor, McLinton takes a back seat to no one. He plays with intensity every moment.
Like Duke's Grant Hill, son of former Cowboys, Redskins and Browns running back Calvin Hill, Kevin McLinton is the son of a former NFL star. His dad, Harold McLinton, was a Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the Redskins who died in an accident in 1980.
Kevin was 9 years old when it happened. To this day, ex-Redskin Brig Owens looks after this son of his former Redskin teammate. Owens attends every Maryland home game.
Kevin McLinton has a better body than Bob Hurley. Kevin is 6 feet 3 and 215, much better equipped to take the NBA knocks. Yet you don't hear the pros talk much about him.
"You hear McLinton's name mentioned after he has one of those super, overachieving games like he had against Duke," said Paul Baker, who scouts college talent for the Washington Bullets.
"You have to love McLinton for the way he plays. He goes to the basket like a runaway Mack truck. The kid's got a lot of guts.
"But McLinton is not a true point guard, and he's not really a great enough shooter to be a shooting guard in the NBA. You see a lot of guards come through the ACC who are great college guards but that's it. They're not quite right for the pros.
"McLinton might have had a chance in the mid-'70s. Back then, teams were willing to take a player like him and keep him on the roster a year or two. Today, these teams want you to be ready to play right away."
Baker agrees that Hurley will be a good pro. He said: "Hurley has a crossover dribble and a stutter dribble that remind me of Bob Cousy."
Baker looked at another player Sunday, Delaware 7-footer Spencer Dunkley, who appears to be in McLinton's category. Dunkley, who is from England, does wondrous things. He had 19 points and 24 rebounds in a 71-67 win over Hartford that day. But that did not convince anyone that he is ready for the NBA.
"There were 14 NBA scouts at Delaware," Baker said, "and they all agree he's not ready. They can't wait for him. He'll probably wind up playing in Europe. The kid better brush up on his Spanish."
Kevin McLinton has no idea where he'll wind up. He's not worried about it either.
"Everybody hopes to play in the NBA someday," Kevin said, "but I'm not even thinking about that. Right now all I want to do is play each game as hard as I can and we'll see what happens. A team has to have intensity and desire for 40 minutes and we don't have that now. We're making strides, but it's taking longer than we thought."
With an attitude like that, he may surprise some experts.