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Terps to honor their behind-the-scenes players — the managers

Terps to honor their behind-the-scenes players — the managers
Maryland senior managers Riley Hutchinson (left) Ryan Lumpkin, Jamal Gross and Mike Williams will be honored on Senior Day Saturday at the Xfinity Center prior to the team's game against Michigan State. (Don Markus)

Ryan Lumpkin looks back on the night of last year's NBA draft and laughs.

Lumpkin, having just finished his junior year at Maryland, was attending the draft party that Maryland forward Jake Layman's parents threw for their son, his friends and family members at their home outside Boston.

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"A lot of his friends who didn't know me thought I was his agent," Lumpkin recalled recently. "Every time I was on my phone, they would start looking up. It was just a fun night, something I'll never forget."

They didn't know that Lumpkin had spent his first three years at Maryland as one of the basketball team's managers, and that he and Layman roomed with two other players last year. It's part of the typical relationship that the Terps players have with the team managers.

"I think Coach [Mark] Turgeon really gets very high-character guys in his program and they treat us all with the utmost respect," Lumpkin said.

On Saturday, Lumpkin will be part of a large group of senior managers who will be honored along with Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill during the pre-game festivities at the Xfinity Center before the Terps play Michigan State.

Lumpkin, who is from Lumberton, N.J., has been a student manager since he arrived four years ago. Mike Williams, who grew up in Upper Marlboro, started the second semester of his freshman year while Baltimoreans Jamal Gross and Riley Hutchinson have done it for two seasons.

As much as he hates to lose the players who graduate, Turgeon feels a strong bond with his managers as well. It makes sense, since Turgeon's wife, Ann, is a former student manager at Kansas, where they met when the now-52-year-old coach was a graduate assistant.

Two of Turgeon's current staff members, assistant coach Dustin Clark and video coordinator Mark Bialkoski, were student managers when they were in college. Two former Maryland managers, Kevin Owens and Ben Eidelberg, now work for NBA teams.

"The managers do a lot more today than they did when I was playing," Turgeon said Thursday. "They get involved with a lot of things around the office. Most of them want to become coaches, so they try to get as much experience as they possibly can.

"Our guys come early, stay late, they do a lot. They're well-respected within our organization. They're treated as an equal. That's really important to me that our players and coaches do that with them. They help us be successful, there's no doubt about it."

Just as this year's players have complemented each other on the court, the senior managers seem to do that too. Hutchinson videotapes practices and games, working with Bialkoski to cut up the film for the coaches to go over. Williams and Gross are constantly shagging balls when players take extra shots.

Lumpkin is perhaps the most visible during games, trying to stay one step ahead of the coaches.

Said Lumpkin, "One of the things I hate is having to be told something twice. That's something we try to harp on with the young guys. You've got to make sure you're on your toes."

While the job can seem tedious at times, Turgeon has tried to compensate his managers as much as he can. Since there were no graduate assistants going into the season, that money went to the senior managers.

"They basically covered my tuition," Williams, 21, said. "It really helped my parents out."

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Said Turgeon, "We were able to move the money around and help these guys more."

The tight-knit relationships on the past three Maryland teams between players and managers extend to their living arrangements.

Lumpkin roomed last year with Layman, Dodd and Dion Wiley. When Layman graduated, Melo Trimble took his spot. Williams roomed last year with Trimble, Jared Nickens and freshman walk-on Andrew Terrell. This year, he and Gross are each with three freshmen.

"It's completely different, guys are used to being in school to guys trying to figure out their way," Gross, 22, said. "It's not parenting. But it's trying to help them along the way. Like teaching guys how to use the washing machine or dishwasher."

Lumpkin corrects him.

"It's parenting," Lumpkin, 21, said with a smile.

Gross, the only one of the four who played basketball in high school (Friends School), started at Maryland as a "regular student" who got his basketball "fix" playing pickup on campus his first two years.

"I missed it, and I missed it bad," Gross said.

Armed with his resume, Gross went to the basketball office at the start of his junior year and asked to become a manager.

When Turgeon offered him a job, Gross said "it was the highlight" of his four years at Maryland. Another highlight came when he found himself playing Juan Dixon one-on-one. Dixon, the school's all-time men's scorer, was a special assistant to Turgeon for three years until last summer.

"Even though I had never been to a Maryland game when I was a kid, you know who Juan Dixon was as a kid," Gross said. "The first few times we played, he destroyed me. I kept learning. There was a game that I beat him. ... I have a couple of witnesses, but he'll probably deny it."

As with Dodd, the only four-year player on this year's team, and Gill, who transferred in this season from Duquesne as a graduate student, the student managers will be trying to figure out their next career move when the season ends.

Gross, who was a communications manager as an undergrad and is now working toward a master's in business supply management, wants to combine business and basketball.

"If you asked me a year ago, I would have said coaching, but it's a tricky world, the more I talk to Coach Turgeon and the staff, especially [assistant] coach [Cliff] Warren, they're like 'Don't do it,"' said Gross. "It takes a special mind to coach and be ready for that grind."

Hutchinson, 22, a history major who played soccer and lacrosse at Loyola Blakefield, will either pursue a job as a video coordinator for an NBA team or perhaps try to take advantage of the connections he has made at Under Armour.

Lumpkin, a business major who played baseball in high school, has a pretty good in with his hometown Philadelphia 76ers: Not only does former Terp manager Owens work for the team, but Lumpkin's father, Allen, is the director of business administration.

"I definitely want to stay in basketball," said Lumpkin, who would like to be a NBA general manager one day. "Obviously I'd be open to it [working for the 76ers] but a goal would be to break outside of my father's footsteps and create my own way."

Then there's Williams.

"I want to coach. I really can't see myself doing anything else," said Williams, a multi-platform journalism major. "I kind of get drawn to the Xs and Os and helping guys develop and become better players."

If there's a sore point for the senior managers this season, it's their record in games against the managers of other Big Ten teams. After being one of the better Big Ten manager teams in Maryland's first two years in the league, this year's team has taken its lumps.

Nearly all the games have been on the road, when only five Maryland managers travel and are faced with teams that have as many as 18 managers.

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"We play a lot of the hard games," Williams said. "[The opponent's] identity is similar to the way their team plays and is coached. ... I don't think Coach Turgeon would be thrilled with our defense."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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