Among the passengers waiting by Gate 21 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Tuesday morning were a handful of Maryland basketball fans who had been at Michigan the previous night for their team’s painful last-second loss to the Wolverines.
“A little Terp therapy session,” a female student who is a senior in College Park said as they contemplated how a late 10-point comeback capped by Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer ended with the Terps losing on a pair of free throws.
Sitting quietly in the group, Duane Morsell and his wife, Carolyn, felt some comfort in their newfound friends.
Just as their son, freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), had suffered through the team’s recent stretch of three straight Big Ten road losses, so had the Baltimore couple who had watched all of them from seats a few rows behind the team’s bench.
“When the team’s sick, I’m sick,” Carolyn said with a quiet laugh.
Though the Morsells might not go to the same extremes as Steve Blake’s father, Richard, who drove from his Miami Lakes, Fla., home to nearly every one of his son’s games as a Terp, they seem to be up for the challenge of breaking the unofficial team record for parental loyalty.
“When Darryl committed [to Maryland], we decided we were going to go to the games, because that’s what we’ve always done through [Amateur Athletic Union] and high school,” Duane said. “We never counted the miles. We just went. If it’s over an eight-hour drive, we’re flying.”
While the Morsells were the only parents of Maryland men’s basketball team members attending the game at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., they have had regular company this season from the families of sophomore guards Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr.
All three families are expected to be represented at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., when the Terps face Indiana on Monday night. Trips have already been planned for the remaining four road games as well as the Big Ten tournament in New York and, they hope, the NCAA tournament.
“You see kids that stay home, like Darryl and Anthony, and they’re parents really want to watch them play,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Sunday before the team left for Indiana.“Now they’ve carried it on the road. It’s great to see familiar faces. I know it’s great for the kids.”
Turgeon has had other parents follow the team on the road as religiously as this group, most notably Kaija Pack, who spent most of her son’s Richaud’s lone season as a graduate transfer traveling from her home in Atlanta both to College Park as well as to a majority of road games.
“They are good people that back the team in a very positive manner,” Turgeon said of the three families doing the bulk of the traveling this season. ”I’m sure it’s fun for them to watch their kids to travel around and play in these big-time games.”
The Morsells often travel in tandem with Anthony Cowan Sr. and his wife, Traci, as well as some of the Cowans’ family members and friends who have become part of the regular entourage following the Terps.
Tom Huerter, who played basketball at Siena and still lives in upstate New York, has been a fixture both on the road and at Xfinity Center. He also has an older son, Thomas, who now plays for Siena, as well as two younger daughters playing in high school.
Huerter and his wife, Erin, have to figure out how they can be at as many of their children’s games as possible. Huerter, who owns a marketing company, gave up his part-time job of doing color commentary on Siena games this season after 21 years.
“I was at the [Maryland-]Ohio State game and Siena played Iona that night,” Huerter said Wednesday. “Tomorrow night, we’re staying back [not going to Maryland-Minnesota] and we’re going to Thomas’ game at home. We’ll DVR Kevin’s game.”
Huerter said part of his son’s decision to play at Maryland was that it was closer than Michigan or Iowa, two other schools he was seriously considering coming out of Shenendehowa High in Clifton Park, N.Y.
What might’ve helped seal the deal for the Terps was a trip Huerter and his son took for the then-16-year-old rising high school senior to play in the Nike Skills Academy in Los Angeles. The connecting flight back to Albany was delayed.
“He was like, ‘This is a pain,’ ” Tom Huerter recalled. “I could just tell he was starting to think, ‘I’m not sure I want to fly this much just to get to school.’ What Maryland afforded was the ability to drive if we needed to, but he knew his family could get to his games.”
Said Kevin Huerter: “The distance was a big factor. Definitely my last five schools that it came down to, other than Villanova, Maryland was the closest school. I cut off all the West Coast schools early in my recruitment for that exact reason.”
The Cowans have missed just one game between them this season — at Michigan — because their two younger daughters both had games on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Their older daughter, 16-year-old Alex, is now being recruited to play college basketball.
“I went to Michigan State, [Traci] went to Ohio State, we just came up a little short on Michigan,” Anthony Sr. said. “We couldn’t stretch ourselves enough to get away. We usually try to send one. Last year, my brother-in-law went to Illinois. My in-laws are doing Indiana and Purdue this year.”
The elder Cowan, who like Tom Huerter coached his son growing up, said going to Maryland games is as much a part of the schedule as it was when their son was making a name for himself while being recruited.
“It just becomes a lifestyle,” said Anthony Sr., who works for the federal government and owns a couple of day care centers with his wife. “It factors into a lot of what we do in terms of our family in terms of our finances, in terms of vacation, leisure time.”
Anthony Sr. said his wife is the one who can usually pull their son out of a postgame funk if he doesn’t play well or the team loses, or both. There’s also reassurance, as happened Dec. 3 at Illinois when Anthony Jr. looked over at his mother, smiled and hit the game-winning free throw in overtime.
“I love that they’re there, they’ve been there all my life,” Anthony Jr. said after Thursday’s home win over Minnesota. “I love when they can come and see me play, especially on the road. We’re both living the dream of [them] seeing your son play in college in front of thousands of people. I’m glad we both can experience that.”
Duane Morsell asked his son whether it felt the same as it did when he was at Mount Saint Joseph, or playing AAU.
“I asked, ‘What’s the difference — is it the speed of the game, is it the strength of the guys?’ ” the elder Morsell said. “He said he’s used to that. He said, ‘The big difference to me is the importance. There are jobs on the line. It’s still basketball, but it’s more important.’ ”
Duane is fortunate to have the flexibility in his job as a Baltimore longshoreman for nearly 40 years to arrange his work schedule around the Maryland games. Carolyn Morsell retired in December 2016 after spending 39 years as an office manager at University of Maryland Medical Center, and now works part-time there.
“It just freed me up to do this,” she said.
The parents of the current Maryland players who attend the team’s road games are not typical of the team’s fans. Most don’t boo questionable calls that go against the Terps, or heckle opposing coaches or players.
“To be honest with you, I still think of parts of the game as if I’m coaching because I’ve done so much coaching,” Tom Huerter said. “When you’re a coach, you don’t cheer every play. You’re already moving on to the next step. … It’s hard not to get caught up in some of the bigger moments or bigger plays. … It means we care a lot.”
Said Anthony Cowan Sr.: “My personal rule is, keep it positive. Every cheer I give is to the color of the uniform we’re wearing that particular game. I went to Syracuse and I took seven or eight of Anthony’s uncles and godfathers, and a guy said, ‘I’ve had season tickets for 15 years and you guys are the most positive group of individuals cheering for your team that I’ve seen.’ ”
Anthony Sr. had to coach up one in the group as they drove to Syracuse, just as his son had to do with him when Anthony Jr. was in high school.
“I had to give Anthony’s godfather, Derrick Baily, a lesson on how to cheer on the ride up,” Anthony Sr. said. “I had to learn myself when Anthony was in high school because I was coaching the team from the stands. When he was a freshman, he said, ‘Dad, you’re not my coach.’ He was playing with a bunch of seniors and they were getting on him in school.”
In fact, the parents barely make eye contact with their sons.
“For Kevin, he obviously knows we’re there, so I do think there’s a moment when we might catch eyes, but it’s a fleeting moment and there’s not really communication,” Tom Huerter said.
Said Anthony Cowan Sr., “I’m a little superstitious, so I try not to. Usually I send him a text before every game with some positive reinforcement, helping him keep clear of what’s the goal.”
Even after all these years, Kevin Huerter is happy to see one or both of his parents in the stands.
“Everyone doesn’t want to say it, but everyone notices their parents wherever they’re sitting at any game you play,” Huerter said. “It is a comfort level. You’re really happy that they’re there.”
Said Darryl Morsell, “You only have two parents in your life; to have them so supportive, just to have them riding this out with you is a great feeling.”
Huerter knows his father is also still a college basketball fan. Assembly Hall, where the elder Huerter once coached an AAU tournament before his kids were born, has always been a place he wanted to witness in a different role — team parent.
“A lot these games are being played at some of the best venues in the conference — Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana — and are just bucket-list type things we used to watch in the living room,” the younger Huerter said. “Seeing the atmosphere and energy of these crowds, I know that’s important to him, too.”