Retiring basketball jerseys not in Maryland's plans

Thirty-two years after setting Maryland's record for points in a men's basketball game, Ernest Graham has a wish.

"I would love to live long enough to see them retire my jersey," said Graham, a Dunbar graduate who played for the Terps from 1978-81 and whose single-game mark of 44 points, set against North Carolina State in 1978, still stands.

But Graham's number — nor that of any other Terp — isn't likely to be retired anytime soon.

That's because Maryland has a policy of not retiring basketball numbers. Instead, the school honors players by placing their names and numbers on banners hanging in the Comcast Center rafters.

The policy was debated by fans in online forums earlier this year when they learned that the No. 21 worn by Greivis Vasquez — who graduated after last season as Maryland's second-leading all-time scorer — is being worn this season by freshman Pe'Shon Howard. Some fans applauded Howard's audacity or were indifferent; others wanted to see the number taken out of commission.

"Greivis said he didn't mind," Howard said when he showed up on media day a few weeks ago wearing the number.

Maryland hosts an exhibition game against Florida Southern on Monday night before opening the season Nov. 8 against Seattle University.

Howard isn't the only current Terp wearing the number of a player who ranks among Maryland's all-time best.

Forward Ashton Pankey, a freshman from The Bronx, N.Y., wears the No. 42 of Walt "The Wizard" Williams, who went on to the NBA.

Forward James Padgett, a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y., sports the No. 35 of Lonny Baxter, who played on Maryland's 2002 national championship team.

Williams and Baxter are among the 15 players with Comcast Center banners honoring them. Point guard Steve Blake, whose final collegiate season was 2002-03, was the last Terp to be cited. Graham is not among the group of 15.

Vasquez is likely to be honored during a ceremony this season, according to members of Maryland's basketball program. No official announcement has been made.

Former Terp Johnny Rhodes, who set Maryland's single-season record for steals in 1996, said he agrees with the current policy of not retiring numbers.

"When I went to school I wanted to wear No. 15, and that was John Lucas's number," Rhodes said. He was permitted to wear the number.

Maryland's policy is designed to allow the school flexibility — and ensure it doesn't run out of numbers.

Other schools' policies vary widely. Some have procedures similar to Maryland's. Others, like Duke and Virginia, do retire numbers.

Duke's men's basketball roster this season won't include anyone wearing No. 4 or No. 23. Those were the numbers worn by J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams that were retired in 2007.

Kevin Anderson, who began as Maryland athletic director on Oct. 1, said he was not planning to change the school's approach.

"If that is the policy, I would support that," Anderson said. "There are other creative ways to support that and recognize great players and athletes without retiring their numbers."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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