He was a grinder, a horse, a blue-collar basketball player who’d park himself near the hoop and dare you to come near. For three years at Maryland and 17 more in the pros, that was Buck Williams’ style.
Time and again with the Terps, Williams — an undersized 6-foot-8 center — outmuscled the likes of Ralph Sampson, Virginia’s 7-foot-4 giant, and Mike Gminski, Duke’s 6-foot-11 post fixture.
“My parents gave me my work ethic and it transitioned over to basketball,” Williams, 58, said Monday. “I had talent but it was my ability to keep my head down and grind it out that made me who I was.”
On Tuesday morning, Williams and three others were named to the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame. The other inductees are LaMont Jordan, former Maryland and NFL running back who holds most of the Terps’ rushing records; Mark Greenberg, a four-time All-America lacrosse defenseman who helped Johns Hopkins to three straight NCAA championships; and Terry Hutchinson, a celebrated world sailing champion from Annapolis.
Begun in 1956, Maryland’s state hall now has 248 members, from Babe Ruth to Johnny Unitas.
This year’s class will be enshrined Nov. 8 at Martin’s West. In addition, Missy Meharg and Bill Boniface will receive the John F. Steadman Lifetime Achievement Award. Maryland’s field hockey coach for 31 years, Meharg is a nine-time national Coach of the Year who has won seven NCAA championships as a head coach and one as an assistant. Boniface, a longtime horse trainer from Harford County, won the 1983 Preakness with Deputed Testamony, the last Maryland-bred thoroughbred to capture that Triple Crown race.
Williams, for one, was touched to be selected, as he hails from North Carolina.
“That makes this [induction] more meaningful,” he said. “I wasn’t born here, but I became a young man in Maryland. I arrived at 18 and the school redefined my life and left a lot of impressionable memories.”
In Williams’ three seasons (1978-1981), when he teamed with Albert King and Ernie Graham, the Terps went 64-28, won one Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season crown and twice reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The ACC Rookie of the Year as a freshman, he twice led the conference in rebounding and gave rival coaches fits seeking ways to stop him. North Carolina State’s Jim Valvano called Williams “the most annoying player in the league.”
To Lefty Driesell, he was a godsend.
“Buck plays big, but he ain’t big. But he’s the best,” his coach at Maryland said.
“I was just a lucky country boy. Rebounding came easy to me,” said Williams, who lives in Potomac with his wife of 33 years. A Realtor, he is chairman of the board — just as in college, where his career rebounding average (10.9) ranks him second in school history to Len Elmore. Nearly four decades later, Williams — who developed a jump hook shot to offset taller centers — still holds the school records for field-goal percentage for both a season (.647) and a career (.615).
“I always took pride in my shooting, and in staying inside my skill set,” he said.
His best memories?
“Hearing the home fans chanting. … They really took to my talents and I became part of the fabric of the university,” he said.
One game still sticks in his craw: the 1980 ACC tournament final in which top-seeded Maryland was upset by Duke, 73-72, in Greensboro, N.C. With his team down by a point near the end, King took a shot that bounced twice off the rim. Beneath the basket, as he waited for the put-back, Williams went down, apparently undercut by Duke’s Kenny Dennard. No foul was called.
“He [Dennard] definitely submarined me; the referee just swallowed his whistle,” Williams said. “But looking back, if I’d gone to the line and missed the free throws, our fans would probably have wanted me to stay in Carolina.”
“It was hard to leave [Maryland], but it’s rare that you get to be among the top three players in the draft,” he said.
Williams still has his Terps jersey. Last year, he acquired one of the original seats from Cole Field House, where Maryland played.
“It’s in my basement while I figure out what to do with it,” he said.
Pikesville graduate who led Johns Hopkins lacrosse team to three consecutive NCAA titles (1978-1980). … Defensive standout and intimidator. … Four-time All-American (twice first team) and a member of U.S. Lacrosse National Hall of Fame.
One of the world’s top sailors, the St. Mary’s High graduate won his 15th world championship in July. … Heads the American Magic team, which will challenge for the America’s Cup off New Zealand in 2021.
From Suitland in Prince George’s County. … Maryland star running back (1997-2000). … Holds school rushing records for game (306 yards), season (1,632) and career (4,147) … played nine seasons in the NFL.
John F. Steadman Lifetime Achievement Awards
Longtime horseman who has trained more than 10 graded-stakes winners, including 1983 Preakness winner Deputed Testamony, the last Maryland-bred to win the race. … Head of 400-acre Bonita Farm in Darlington in Harford County.
Entering 31st year as Maryland field hockey coach. … Her teams have won seven national titles and 23 conference championships. … A nine-time NCAA Coach of the Year, she has a 545-135-9 (.797) record at College Park.