xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Anthony Cowan Jr. set to pass Keith Booth for most consecutive starts in Maryland history: ‘It’s a blessing’

Anthony Cowan Jr. stood on the Xfinity Center court, shortly after the Maryland men’s basketball team’s 76-67 win over Northwestern on Feb. 18, and was asked about passing Tom McMillen for eighth on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Cowan, staying true to form, showed little emotion as he prepared to respond before teammate Jalen Smith emerged from behind and interrupted the interview, wrapping Cowan in a bearhug.

Advertisement

“It’s super special. To be honest, my teammates are probably more into it, in terms of passing people and scoring and all that," said Cowan, who typically hasn’t shown any desire to get caught up in comparing his statistical feats with other Maryland greats.

When No. 9 Maryland (22-5, 12-4 Big Ten) takes on Minnesota (13-13, 7-9) in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, Cowan will continue to write his name in Maryland’s record books. Cowan will make his 127th straight start, passing Keith Booth (Dunbar) for the longest streak in school history. Cowan has started every game since his freshman season in 2016.

“It’s huge, to be in the same sentence as someone like Keith Booth is huge,” Cowan said Tuesday after the team’s practice. “Just the opportunity coach [Mark Turgeon] gave me to play so early and start so many games, it’s a blessing.”

That Cowan is in position to break the record is a feat in itself. At the time, Maryland still had Melo Trimble, who decided to return for his junior year, and the two former Amateur Athletic Union teammates had similar skill sets.

Turgeon admitted he “didn’t envision this” when Cowan first joined the team for practices in summer 2016, but knew that Cowan had what it took after about a week of practice.

“[Cowan] played in the [Washington Catholic Athletic Conference], which I think is the best high school league in the country,” Turgeon said. “He played for a great high school coach [Sean McAloon] who I think is going to be a great college coach someday. So he was prepared. His dad raised him with toughness, so he was ready for it. And he wanted it, but it’s still been a pretty amazing streak.”

Cowan might not have had the same mindset as his coach as a freshman. When asked whether he expected to break a record such as this, Cowan looked up perplexed, then responded, “Why wouldn’t I?” with a wide grin.

The Maryland sports landscape is no stranger to consecutive-starts records. Legendary Orioles infielder Cal Ripken Jr., nicknamed “The Iron Man,” started an MLB-record 2,632 straight games over 16 years. Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco started as a rookie in 2008 and played in 122 straight regular-season games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2015.

Advertisement

Cowan, who couldn’t recall a moment he came close to not suiting up, said his streak has taken “a lot of stretching” and “just knowing that your teammates need you on the court.”

This season, Cowan is averaging 34.4 minutes per game — a slight drop from his career-high of 37 as a sophomore — and leads Maryland in points, steals and assists.

This year has been different though, Turgeon said, since he’s rested Cowan more in practices between games to have him ready to take on a full workload. Turgeon added that a “warrior mentality” has pushed Cowan the last three-plus seasons to be a dependable player for the Terps, something that Booth, who started 126 straight games from 1993 to 1997, has noticed from afar.

“When you think about it, it’s a testament to [Cowan] himself, in regards to being a reliable student-athlete overall,” Booth said Monday in a phone interview. “That’s tough to do, especially nowadays, when guys leave school early for whatever reason. But [Cowan], being a four-year guy, and a very dependable guy from the moment he stepped foot on campus.

“You think about college athletics, kids twist ankles, they have colds, and I’m sure there was an incident there where he probably played games where you’re not feeling 100%, but you go out there and lay everything on the line for your teammates.”

Booth said he got the opportunity to speak with Cowan last season when the Terps held practice in Baltimore at Mount Saint Joseph High School, where Cowan’s teammates Smith and Darryl Morsell became prized recruits.

Advertisement

“You can tell, even back then from a distance, [he] seems really reserved, laid back, but at the same time you can tell that he’s a leader,” said Booth, who led the Terps to two Sweet 16 appearances. “And it’s always good to be a leader that leads by example instead of that ‘rah-rah’ guy.”

Though over 20 years separate Cowan and Booth from their respective streaks, their four-year careers have striking similarities.

Both were local products who decided to stay home and play for the state’s flagship university. Cowan starred at St. John’s College High School in Washington, and Booth starred at Dunbar before reopening the pipeline for Baltimore-area high school players to go to Maryland.

Both came into their final season as the sole senior leader charged with leading their respective teams. Booth’s senior season ended with a first-round loss to Charleston in the 1997 NCAA tournament. The Terps are hoping that their current season ends with Cowan leading them on a deep run into March.

“Whenever you can finish up your career as an individual that your teammates knew and your coaches knew that they can count on, that goes a long way in terms of your overall legacy,” Booth said.

“He’s always shown throughout his career that he’s a player that pretty much lives for big moments.”

No. 9 Maryland@Minnesota

Wednesday, 9 p.m.

TV: BTN

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement