Pete Holbert came to Maryland as a McDonald's All American in 1980, a big-time local recruit out of Fairfax, Va., who was expected to fill the gap — and the basket — after the eventual departure of star players Albert King, Buck Williams and Ernie Graham.
By the time he graduated four years later, Holbert was happy to end that chapter in his life. A 6-foot-6 swingman, Holbert had played sparingly as a freshman, and after seeing his role increase as a sophomore, was back on the bench watching two other rising stars, Adrian Branch and Len Bias.
The one highlight of Holbert's career came his senior year when Bias, with whom he roomed his last two years, led the Terps over Duke to win the 1984 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship. It would be the only ACC title for coach Lefty Driesell. Holbert and his teammates received championship rings.
"I was only 190 pounds when I got to Maryland and I said, 'I'm probably going to be 250, 260 pounds someday' — which I am now — so I got the ring a little big," Holbert recalled Wednesday.
Three years after graduating, Holbert was working in Virginia Beach, Va. He wore the ring one night when he went with friends to the Hampton Roads Coliseum to watch a pay-per-view presentation of the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvelous Marvin Hagler middleweight title fight in May 1987.
"We were up high at Hampton Coliseum and we're getting up to yell 'Go, Sugar Ray!' and my ring just went — oops — off my finger and down to the lower level," Holbert said. "I didn't even try to find it. The place was wall-to-wall people. It was crazy."
Once, somebody left a message saying they had it but balked when Holbert tried to reach them. Holbert didn't spend much time trying to solve the mystery.
"Not that I was bitter [about my career] — my situation didn't go that well at Maryland. I never really played that much," said Holbert, who averaged a little over three points a game over his career. "[Losing the ring] didn't bother me that much."
The ring made its way to another owner, who had it for more than two decades before using Facebook to find the original owner.
The man finally left a private message on Holbert's LinkedIn account.
The man told Holbert he obtained the ring from his father, who had found it while cleaning up around a gas station in Boykins, Va. For years the father kept it in a drawer, wrapped in tissue, and only recently decided he should return it to the owner.
Holbert plans to put the ring with other mementos from his high school and college careers: his McDonald's All America plaque and ring, as well as a piece of the Cole Field House floor.
"Having the ring now means more to me than it did then," Holbert said.