As Maryland's current freshman class has gotten off to a strong start in 2014, it's a good time to look back at some of the best recruiting periods in the program's history.
1970- 1972: Lefty Driesell was starting his second season when he brought Sports Illustrated cover boy Tom McMillen to College Park along with Len Elmore, who would become Maryland’s all-time leading rebounder (1,053). Along with Rich Porac, they became the nucleus of a team that joined a year later by Tom Roy and Owen Brown, and eventually by John Lucas and Mo Howard in 1972. McMillen has the highest career scoring average (20.2 points a game) in school history, while Lucas averaged 18.3.
Record: Over a 5-year period, those three classes helped compile a 129-28 record, win an NIT championship, go to two NCAA tournament Elite Eights and help change the selection process of the NCAA tournament field by losing as the No. 4 team in the nation to No. 1 North Carolina State, 103-100, in the now legendary 1974 ACC tournament final in Greenboro, N.C.
1977-1978: Albert King was already a schoolyard legend in Brooklyn, N.Y., when he came to Maryland along with dead-eye shooting point guard Greg Manning. King became ACC player of the year as a junior and left as the school’s all-time scorer with 2,058 points. (He is now fourth behind Juan Dixon, Len Bias and Greivis Vasquez.) King was joined the following year by quiet North Carolina strong man Buck Williams, and their first names became as synonymous with Maryland as Elmore and McMillen’s last names. Williams left with King in 1981 as Maryland’s all-time leader in field goal percentage, with Manning ranking third in field goal percentage and second in free throw percentage.
Record: After starting slow with a 15-13 record when King was a freshman, the Terps made a steady climb to a 24-7 record and a Sweet 16 appearance in 1980 (losing to local rival Georgetown) before falling back to 21-10 when King was a senior and Williams was a junior in 1981, exiting the NCAA tournament with a 35-point second-round loss to eventual champion Indiana.
1981-82: After the Terps fell to 16-13 in 1981-82 with the departure of Albert and Buck, Driesell’s program was at something of a crossroads. The one bright spot that was 6-7 freshman guard Adrian Branch from nearby DeMatha, though it was clear he needed help. Enter Len Bias, a wildly athletic forward from another local school, Northwestern High. Bias eventually became most dynamic scorer in program history, developing a picture-perfect jumper to complement his 40+-inch vertical leap. Branch left for the NBA as the school’s second-leading scorer behind King (2015) and now ranks fifth.
Record: By the time Branch was a junior and Bias a sophomore, the Terps were giving Driesell his first ACC tournament title, Maryland’s first since 1958. Maryland went 69-30 over a three-year period and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 twice.
1992-1993: Following Bias' death, the firing of Driesell and Bob Wade's tenure, which ended with the Terps on the brink of NCAA probation, Gary Williams returned to his alma mater. It took Williams three years to clean up the mess and wait for the harsh sanctions to subside, and the recruiting of Duane Simpkins, Exree Hipp and Johnny Rhodes started the rebuilding of the program. The arrival of Dunbar star Keith Booth and an unknown skinny center named Joe Smith the following year was the catalyst to 17-year run in which the Terps made the NCAA tournament 14 times.
Record: The Terps went from having their only losing record under Williams when Simpkins, Hipp and Rhodes were freshmen to being a surprise Sweet 16 team with the addition of Booth and Smith in 1993-94. Maryland finished 44-20 during Smith’s two seasons in which he was named national Freshman of the Year and then ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore, and he became the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft after his sophomore year. Even after Smith left, Booth’s leadership kept the Terps competitive, though the next two years ended with losses in the first-round of the NCAA tournament. Booth remains No. 1 in free throws made (576) in school history and Rhodes is No. 1 in steals (344).
1997-1998: Coming in with Terence Morris, a skinny guard from Calvert Hall was redshirted as a freshman. Juan Dixon became eligible the following year and along with an undersized, overweight center named Lonny Baxter, grew into two of the most accomplished and beloved players in school history. By the time they were juniors, their inside-out game had helped the Terps to the first Final Four in school history (along with then-senior Morris) and Baxter won the first of his two straight regional final MVPs. It all culminated in 2002, when Dixon was the Final Four MVP in leading the Terps past Indiana in the championship game. Baxter finished seventh on the school’s all-time scoring list and second behind Elmore in rebounding. Morris was second all-time in blocked shots.
Record: The Terps were 110-31 during the Dixon-Baxter era, including 32-4 in 2001-02. The four-year run included two Final Fours and a Sweet 16. Even after Dixon, Baxter and transfer Byron Mouton graduated and rising star Chris Wilcox left early for the NBA following the championship, the Terps continued to churn out competitive teams, reaching the Sweet 16 the following season with senior point guard Steve Blake, the school’s all-time assist leader.