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When it Comes to Bold Predictions, I'll Take Dexter Over Daxter
by Andy Pollin
Mar 27, 2015 -- 2:13pm
ESPN 980

His name is Daxter, not Dexter, as in former Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley, who we’ll get to shortly.  Daxter Miles Jr. is a freshman guard for West Virginia’s basketball team, who has made a name for himself doing what Dexter Manley did back in the 1980’s.  But the results for Daxter were much different than for Dexter.


Prior to their Sweet 16 matchup with unbeaten Kentucky, Miles predicted that his team would make the Wildcats 36-1.  Uhh…it didn’t quite work out that way.  Kentucky doubled up the Mountaineers 78-39 with Miles missing all three shots he took and going scoreless.  If Kentucky didn’t score at all in the second half, they still would have won by five.  After the game, Kentucky’s Devin Booker posted an Instagram photo of himself being guarded by Miles with the words, “#36 and won.”


And Miles isn’t the only bonehead of this NCAA Tournament.  In fact, he wasn’t the first.  Prior to their first round game against Georgetown, Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford told CBS Radio’s Jim Rome, “If you’re still in a pool, you can fill it in, you want to put the Eagles (Eastern Washington) in.”


And just before Rome said goodbye to his bold guest, Hayford added, “We’re going to win.  Talk again Jim.”


As you know, Georgetown cruised to a relatively easy 84-74 win.  But the best was the postgame reaction from soft-spoken Hoyas coach John Thompson III, who said, “So he guaranteed victory.  Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of that, I think of Joe Willie Namath.  I think of Muhammad Ali.  I think of Larry Bird in the three-point shooting contest.  The kids brought it to me and said, ‘Their coach is guaranteeing victory.’  I kind of looked down at him.  He doesn’t fit the bill of guys who usually guarantee victory.”


Ooo, what a shot from the Princeton grad.  In other words, “You sir, are no Namath, Ali or Bird.”


Of course, few are.  The sports landscape is littered with Namath and Ali wanna-be’s, who failed miserably.  A few examples:


Matt Hasselbeck – In a January 2004 Wild Card playoff game at Green Bay, the Seahawks quarterback had to eat words he spewed after his team won the coin toss for the start of overtime.  Hasselbeck said, “We want the ball and we’re going to score.”  A short time later, the Packers’ Al Harris picked off a Hasselbeck pass and returned it 52 yards for a 33-27 Green Bay Victory.


Anthony Smith – Preparing to face the unbeaten New England Patriots as they were on their way to an 18-0 start in 2007, the Steelers defensive back let his mouth write a check he couldn’t cash.  Smith said, “We’re going to win.  Yeah I can guarantee a win.”  The Patriots won 34-13 to get to 13-0.


Carlos Zambrano – Ninety-nine years after the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series, the pitcher figured a good way to break the drought was with a bold prediction.  In 2007 Zambrano said, “I believe this year I will win the Cy Young and I will enjoy that.  And besides that we will win the World Series.  I guarantee you that.”  The Cubs did win 85 games and made the playoffs, but were swept in the divisional series by Arizona.  Zambrano won 18 games, but he didn’t win the Cy Young.  He finished fifth. 


As for Dexter, Dexter Manley, his bold predictions drove Redskins coach Joe Gibbs crazy, but he did sort of deliver.  Prior to the NFC Championship game against San Francisco in 1984, Dexter said he planned to, “Ring Joe Montana’s clock.”  Montana did throw three touchdown passes, but the Redskins won 24-21 to return to the Super Bowl. 


Better yet, was the exchange that took place between Dexter and Bears coach Mike Ditka before their January 1988 playoff meeting in Chicago.  It started with Ditka saying, “Dexter Manley has the IQ of a grapefruit,” after being told that Dexter thought he was a bum.


Dexter denied calling Ditka a bum, but said, “I’ve got something for him; I’ve got a case of grapefruit for him.  Mike Ditka is a broad, man, he’s a broad.”


The Redskins won the game 21-17, helped by Darrell Green’s 53-yard punt return for a touchdown.  A much better ending for Dexter than it was for Daxter.


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There's Maryland Magic in Number 21
by Andy Pollin
Mar 21, 2015 -- 10:58am
ESPN 980

There is no debating that Greivas Vasquez is the greatest Maryland basketball player ever to wear number 21.  Included in his accomplishments playing for the Terps from 2006-2010, is a triple double, 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in an upset of North Carolina in 2009.  He won the Bob Cousy award as the best point guard in the country as a senior in 2010 and has gone on to a solid NBA career playing for Memphis, New Orleans, Sacramento and Toronto.  Deservedly so, Vasquez’ number 21 hangs in the rafters of the Xfinity Center, where he performed so brilliantly over his career at Maryland.


While Vasquez made 21 famous in College Park, if you look at some of the others who have worn that number for Maryland, it takes on an almost magical quality.  And the performance of the current Terrapin 21 can only add to the number’s legend. 


Varun Ram played only 13 seconds in Maryland’s 65-62 NCAA Tournament first round win over Valparaiso, but it may have been the most important 13 seconds of the season.  Playing without fouled-out starters Jake Layman and Demonte Dodd, and leading by 3, Maryland coach Mart Turgeon sent in the 5-foot-9 Ram to try and prevent Valpo from scoring a game-tying three pointer.  Ram did his job, forcing Keith Carter into the corner and slapping the ball away from the Crusaders guard as the buzzer sounded, sending Maryland to a second round matchup with West Virginia.  Realize Ram had played only 55 minutes all season and hadn’t made a shot from the field all year.


Eleven March’s ago, another Terrapin 21 accomplished a similar feat.  Mike Grinnon had come to Maryland in 2001, expecting to learn from seniors like Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Byron Mouton.  He figured playing time would come when they graduated.  He figured wrong.  Maryland’s National Championship in Grinnon’s freshman year brought in a strong recruiting class.  Grinnon continued to ride the pine as a sophomore and junior.  But he never got down, hoping his time would come.


In the 2004 ACC Championship game, it did.  As the 6th seed, Maryland had made its way to the final to face perennial-winner Duke.  Down 10 late in the second half, the Terps managed to send the game into overtime.  But in OT, they started to run out of players.  Nik Canner-Medley and Chris McCray had fouled out and DJ Strawberry had sprained his ankle.  With nowhere else to turn, Coach Gary Williams sent in Grinnon, who’d played all of three minutes all season in ACC games.  With 50 seconds to go, leading 85-82, Grinnon found himself at the free throw line.  If he would have missed, he wouldn’t have been blamed.  It wasn’t like anybody else on that team could shoot free throws – Maryland ranked 318th nationally in that department.  But Grinnon knocked them both down and Maryland went on to win 95-87 for its third and last ACC Championship.  It turned out to be his one shinning moment as a college player.  He averaged only 11 minutes a game as a senior the following year.  But Mike Grinnon is the only player in Maryland history to be a part of a National Championship and ACC Championship team.


There is one other number 21 worth mentioning.  Billy Hahn played at Maryland from 1971 to 1975. 


Hahn was considered a key recruit for Coach Lefty Driesell as he built his program in the early 70’s.  Consider this ACC preview written by John Kilgo in 1972, before Hahn’s first year of varsity eligibility (prior to 1972, freshman were not eligible to play on the varsity):


“Maryland is regarded as the team to beat in this league this coming winter.  Coach Lefty Driesell recruited only two men.  Both are guards.  Howard White, a point guard, is a rising senior.  Billy Hahn is a sophmore and firebrand.  Lefty needs freshman help like he needs a bad press.”


As it turned out, those two guards that Lefty recruited were John Lucas and Mo Howard.  They not only became excellent college guards, both went on to play in the NBA, with Lucas taken number one overall in 1976.  Hahn sat behind both as a sophomore and a junior and went further down the bench as a senior behind another freshman, Brad Davis.  He too went on to the NBA.


A Google search doesn’t seem to bring up any Grinnon or Ram-like heroics from Billy Hahn.  He got some minutes here and there and was part of teams that went to the Elite 8 in ’73 and ’75.  However, he too, would emerge from the shadows as a hero – this time as a Maryland coach.


In 1995, Coach Gary Williams came down with pneumonia and was ordered to stay home for the annual game at Duke.  As Williams’ top assistant, it would be up to Hahn to coach the team.  Cameron Indoor Stadium is one of the toughest places in the country to play.  And though it wasn’t one of Duke’s best teams, they played well against the 6th-ranked Terps that day.  But sweating through his suit almost as much as his boss would have, Hahn coached the team to a hard-fought 94-92 win.  And it was a key victory as Maryland finished as co-ACC regular season champions with North Carolina.


It seems if you’re talking Maryland basketball, 21 isn’t just a good blackjack number.



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"Pot Roast" - Greatest Nickname Ever?
by Andy Pollin
Mar 13, 2015 -- 3:38pm
ESPN 980

Though he’s yet to play a game for the Redskins, newly-signed nose tackle Terrance Knighton may have already retired the trophy for the best nickname in D.C. sports history.  At 6-foot-3, 331 pounds, his nickname “Pot Roast” seems a perfect fit.  How does one pick up the nickname Pot Roast?  As he explained:


"It was on a flight coming back from Seattle my rookie year in Jacksonville,'' Knighton said. "It was a six-hour flight. Guys were tired. The plane was dark and the lady was walking down the aisle, saying, "Pot Roast? Pot Roast?'

"And I'm like, 'Right here.' My teammate behind me said, 'You say that like that's your name?'

"He said, 'I'm going to call you Pot Roast from now on.' I said, 'Yeah, whatever.'

"So it stuck to me.'''

Knighton paused before adding, "It was either that or Shrimp Alfredo.'''


For the sake of comparison, let’s see how Pot Roast stacks up to other great nicknames through the years on our pro teams.




“The Dancing Bear” – Ron McDole, defensive end 1971-78.  McDole was a less than muscular, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, but was quick on his feet and able to get around slower offensive linemen.


“Stink” – Mark Schlereth, guard 1989-94.  Schlereth grew up in Alaska where natives consider the heads cut off fish, a treat.  They call the heads, “stinkheads”.  After revealing this information to teammates, the nickname stuck.  His radio show with on ESPN with George Sedano is called “Stink and Sedano.”


“Whiskey” or “Furnace Face” – Billy Kilmer, quarterback 1971-78.  Kilmer answered to either one and after a night with the first one, he looked like the latter.  Kilmer didn’t have much of an arm, but was a heck of a leader and took the Redskins to their first Super Bowl in 1973.


“Riggo” or “The Diesel” – John Riggins, running back 1976-85.  Either one works, though “Riggo” seems to have endured long after his playing days ended.  The way he ran, looked like a diesel truck rolling down the road.


“The Squire” – Jack Kent Cooke, owner 1974-97.  Tony Kornheiser came up with that one during his column days at the Washington Post.  Cooke liked to dress in tweeds and lived on a big country estate in Middleburg.  It seemed to fit.




“The Big E” – Elvin Hayes, forward 1972-81.  Nothing too creative here, just the first letter of his first name.  However, fans who saw him play a the Capital Centre will never forget public address announcer Marv Brooks yelling “EEEEEE” when Hayes scored big baskets.


“Hot Plate” – John Williams, forward 1986-91.  Williams came into the NBA at a svelte 235 pounds, perfectly fine for his height of 6-foot-8. But during his fourth year, Williams suffered a knee injury which ended his season after 18 games.  While he was out, it was apparent that Williams spent more time eating than rehabbing.  With John “Hot Rod” Williams also in the league at the time, “Hot Plate” seemed the perfect way to distinguish the two John Williams.  Hot Plate’s career was over at the age of 28.  He had literally eaten himself out of the league.


“Earl the Pearl” – Earl Monroe, guard 1967-71.  Monroe never played in Washington, only Baltimore, but his retired jersey hangs in the Verizon Center and he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game.


“Mad Dog” – Fred Carter, guard 1969-72.  Another Bullet who only played in Baltimore, but you should know that before Sirius-XM personality Chris Russo had that nickname, Carter not only had it, but lived it on the court every night.




“Hondo” – Frank Howard, outfielder 1965-71.  At 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, the name fit his size.  He was the greatest player in the 11-year history of the expansion Senators and was one of the most feared home run hitters in the game.


“Super Jew” – Mike Epstein, first baseman 1967-71.  Epstein is in fact Jewish and in those less-politically correct times, a nickname like that was considered okay.  He’s a member of the Washington, DC Jewish sports hall of fame.


“Big Train” – Walter Johnson, pitcher 1907-27.  At 6-foot-1, Johnson was considered big by early 20th century standards.  He won over 400 games with a blazing fastball and may be the best athlete in the history of the DC area.




“The Chief” – Chad Cordero, relief pitcher 2005-08.  Some have considered this politically incorrect, since Cordero is not a Native American.  The reference was really to his command of closing out games for the Nats in their early days.  Arm trouble shortened his career.




“Ovie” or “The Great 8” – Alexander Oveckin, winger 2005-present.  Both are related to his last name and jersey number.  He has established himself as the greatest player in franchise history.


“Olie the Goalie” – Olaf Kolzig, goalie (of course) 1989-08.  In hockey just about everybody gets a nickname.  This one was low hanging fruit.


“Bugsy” – Bryan Watson, defenseman 1976-79.  Watson was short on talent, but long on toughness.  He was the enforcer, racking up over 22 hundred penalty minutes in his career.  That gangster aura and first name with a “B” made it a natural fit.

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A Win That Feels Like a Loss
by Andy Pollin
Mar 07, 2015 -- 11:22am
ESPN 980

A day before the Wizards turned a 35-point lead into a nail-biting two-point victory over the depleted Miami Heat, Bill Simmons, who made his bones blogging about the NBA, sat in on the Tony Kornheiser show.  Asked about Wizards coach Randy Wittman, Simmons said, “He should be fired.  He’s a terrible coach.  He just is.  He’s not a good coach.  He’s not good at coaching basketball.” 


Geez, no wonder Simmons was dumped from ESPN/ABC’s NBA studio coverage.  Even the examples of his point were simplistic, such as, “They’re the easiest team to predict what they’re doing down the stretch.”  And, “If you talk to any Wizards fan who just watches them, they’d drive [Wittman] to the airport.”  And, “There’s nothing more depressing right now than a Wizards home game.  The crowd is just sitting there like ehhh.”


Thanks Bill.  If I wanted that kind of insight, I could get it from any 5th grade rec league player.  I don’t quite understand how ESPN pays you millions, but they seem to be printing money in Bristol.


The good thing for Simmons, if he happens to be asked about Wittman again, is he now has something to point to.  The Friday night Miami game at home, which feels more like a loss than a win.  And Wittman has to shoulder a large share of the blame.


It wasn’t just that the Wizards nearly blew a 35-point lead against a sub-.500 team, it’s who was playing for that team that made the lead almost disappear altogether. 


Forget about the offseason departure of LeBron James and Chris Bosh being out for the year.  Dwayne Wade and Luol Deng didn’t even suit up for the Heat.  And Goran Dragic, picked up in a trade deadline deal from Phoenix, hurt his back after playing only 29 minutes.  While he was in, he kept it from being like a 50-point lead instead of 35 by scoring 18 points with seven assists and five rebounds.  Here was the group of comeback kids on the floor as the lead went from 35 to one:


Henry Walker – a D-leaguer on a 10-day contract

Tyler Johnson – a D-leaguer on a 10-day contract

Michael Beasley – a busted former No. 2 pick of the NBA draft, also on a 10-day deal

James Ennis – a free-agent rookie averaging four points a game

Shabazz Napier – a rookie averaging 5.3 points a game and shooting 38% from 3-point range


Here’s what they did Friday night on the Wizards home court:


Walker – 32 minutes, 8 points, 4 rebounds

Johnson – 36 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

Beasley -  22 minutes, 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Ennis – 29 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds

Napier – 31 minutes, 16 points, 4 assists and he was 4-6 on three pointers


The Wizards had all of their starters healthy with nobody in foul trouble and were outscored 58-32 in the second half.  John Wall had 12 assists, but when he needed to be aggressive down the stretch, he was invisible.  Wall scored only six points in the game, and even worse, made only one trip to the free throw line.  By the way, if you were watching, did you get a look at owner Ted Leonsis’ face when the ball bounced off Nene’s hands and out of bounds with the Wizards up only one with 23 seconds left?  Whatever the Greek term for “Oy vey” is, that’s what Ted had to be thinking.


Drew Gooden, playing 17 minutes with Kris Humprhies still injured, was solid with 11 points and four rebounds.  He said, “It doesn’t feel like a loss.  You lose the game and it feels like three losses because you’re up like 30-plus points.  But I call it a learning experience.”


Maybe it is, but for whom, the Wizards or the rest of the NBA?  As Gooden said further, “If I’m the opposing team right now and I’m down 20 points to the Washington Wizards, I’m thinking I’m still in the game.”


Yeah, it was a learning experience for the rest of the league.  This team likes to coast.  Wittman continues to criticize his players for not giving full effort.  But that’s been the case for more than two months.  Isn’t it the coach’s job to shake things up?


The Wizards, who started the year 31-15, are now 35-27.  They’re in the game as far as the playoffs are concerned, but with the kind of heart they’ve been showing lately, it’ll be a short postseason.

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Are the Wizards Back in "No-Man's Land"?
by Andy Pollin
Mar 02, 2015 -- 3:27pm
ESPN 980

My friend and colleague Thom Loverro opened his column in Monday’s Washington Times with this quote:


“The Wizards may be entering that no-man’s land that defined this franchise in the 1980’s – winning 40-plus games a season, always making the playoffs, but never being quite good enough to be elite, or quite bad enough to be in position to get the next young star to take them to that level.”


That quote came from Thom Loverro – last year.  Yes, he was quoting himself about the Wizards prospects as they prepared to face the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs.  In fact, the Wizards lost the series in six games and ten months later, they appear to be in that “no-man’s land” that Thom wrote about. 


Saturday the Wizards beat Detroit to get to 34-26, but they blew a 21-point before putting away the Pistons late.  And the win followed a six-game losing streak, which included back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Philadelphia, two teams that are a combined 26-91! 


Thom wonders if the Wizards over the last two years resemble the Gilbert Arenas teams that, “never won more than 45 games, made four consecutive playoff appearances from 2004 to 2008 and made it past the first round once.” 


Actually from an age standpoint, these Wizards may be more like those 80’s teams, who were then the Bullets.  In the 1970’s, the Bullets made the finals four times – the last three with Elvin Hayes teaming up with Wes Unseld.  But following the 1980-81 season, the most successful era in franchise history was clearly over.  Unseld retired and Hayes was traded to Houston.  Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry told owner Abe Pollin that the only way to get good again was to have some down years and load up with high draft picks.  Abe wouldn’t have it and told Ferry to keep a competitive team on the floor. 


Ferry did.  Over a seven-season period between 1981 and 1988, the Bullets made the playoffs six times, but won only one playoff series – a best-of-three gamer against New Jersey in ’82.  And check the names they did it with:


Player                                                        Seasons                                           Age in Last Year

Spencer Haywood                                   1981-83                                          33

Jim Chones                                                 1981-82                                          32

Kevin Porter                                              1979-83                                          32

Tom McMillen                                           1983-86                                          33

Gus Williams                                              1984-86                                          32

Dan Roundfield                                          1985-87                                         33

Moses Malone                                             1986-88                                         32

Bernard King                                               1987-91                                         34


Those are some great names.  Malone is one of the best of all time, but all had left their best years behind by the time they came to Washington.  Now check some of the names and ages on the current Wizards roster:


Paul Pierce, 37

Nene, 32

Marcin Gortat, 31

Kris Humphries, 30

Rasual Butler, 35

Drew Gooden, 34


Pierce, Nene, Gortat and Humphries either start or play significant minutes and Butler was a key contributor when things were going well at the beginning of the season. 


And it’s not just age that’s led to this post-All Star Game swoon.  Thom points to the loss of Trevor Ariza to Houston, where he signed a $32 million free agent deal and assistant Sam Cassell splitting for a job with the Clippers as problems.  Ariza’s 3-point shooting and defense have been missed and Cassell has been credited with developing John Wall and Bradley Beal. 


We can all sit and hope that Kevin Durant will come home when his contract with the Thunder runs out at the end of next season.  Of the thirtysomethings, only Gortat and Humphries are likely to still be here.  But if it doesn’t happen, if KD doesn’t show up, are we just in the middle of another era in “no-man’s land”?





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Melo Trimble. Best Maryland Freshman?
by Andy Pollin
Feb 21, 2015 -- 10:45am
ESPN 980

It started with a tweet from Comcast Sportsnet executive Joe Yasharoff (@jyash), who wrote “I’m thinking Melo Trimble could be the 2nd best freshman in Terps’ hoops history.  Joe Smith being #1 of course.  @kevins980 (Kevin Sheehan) discuss.”


Kevin responded with “@jyash Brad Davis and Adrian Branch in that conversation.”


I decided to butt in (@andypollin1) with “Fellas! Do you know how good John Lucas was?  Freshman year went to Elite 8.  Lost to Ernie D team (Providence) that went to Final 4.”


And so it went until all three of us, bucking the trend of twitter wars, agreed that if we had to pick one, Joe Smith would be the pick.  That got me interested in comparing Smith to the other great freshmen who played basketball at Maryland.


First you have to recognize three great players who never got the opportunity to play varsity as freshmen.  It wasn’t until 1972 that freshmen eligibility was reinstated by the NCAA.  Gene Shue, who played in the early 50’s and Tom McMillen and Len Elmore, who played in the early 70’s, weren’t allowed to play varsity as freshmen.  All three became All Americans and played at least a decade in the NBA.


Now let’s put up Smith’s freshman numbers:


1993 – 94  19.4 ppg, 10.7 reb, 73% ft


A year later Smith was the consensus National Collegiate Player of the Year and became the number one overall pick in the NBA draft.


Here are Trimble’s numbers so far as a freshman:


2014 – 15  16.1 ppg, 3.1 asst, 88% ft


Mentioned as being in “that conversation” by Kevin:


Brad Davis:


1974 - 75  12.6 ppg, 58% fg, 82% ft


Adrian Branch:


1981 – 82  15.2 ppg, 76% ft


Offered by me:


John Lucas:


1972 – 73  14.2 ppg, 54% fg, 70% ft

Lucas was the point guard on the team that included McMillen and Elmore as juniors.  In their senior year and his sophomore year, the Terps may have had their best team ever, but lost a classic overtime game to North Carolina State in the ACC Final.  Only the conference tournament winner went to the NCAA Tournament in those days.  NC State went on to win the National Championship.  Maryland stayed home.  The following year the rules were changed to allow at-large teams.


Now for some other names that should be included in the conversation.  If you’re thinking Len Bias and Juan Dixon, think again.  Though Bias is regarded as the best Maryland player ever, and Dixon isn’t far behind, both were role players as freshmen.  Each averaged just over seven points a game.  But here are some others who deserve a look for their freshmen years:


Albert King, who was the number one recruit in the country when he came out of high school in Brooklyn:


1977 - 78  16.7 ppg, 6.7 reb


Buck Williams, who joined King a year later, was the number three pick of the NBA draft in 1981 and went to an 18-year pro career:


1978 – 79  10.0 ppg, 10.8 reb


Steve Blake:


1999 – 00  7.0 ppg, 6.1 asst


Not much on the scoring end for Blake, but he quarterbacked a team that had plenty of scorers.  Juan Dixon, Terrance Morris and Lonny Baxter all averaged at least 15 points a game.  That team went 25-10, lost to UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and was ranked 17th in the final AP poll.


Finally, I’d have to agree with Joe (@jyash), who offered the final word in our tweet up: “Melo is definitely top 5.  As high as #2.  Smith has the top spot for me.”


But what about the rest?  Here’s how I’d go:


  1. Joe Smith
  2. Melo Trimble
  3. John Lucas (showing my age I guess)
  4. Buck Williams (double digit boards is a great stat)
  5. Brad Davis (played in a 3-guard offense with Lucas and Mo Howard)
  6. Albert King (didn’t quite live up to his hype, but really who could?)
  7. Adrian Branch (one of only two Maryland players with NBA championship rings)
  8. Steve Blake (the last pro left from the 2002 National Championship team)

Honorable mention:


1974 – 75  Moses Malone.  Attended only one class at Maryland, never played a game in college and broke Lefty Driesell and every Terps fans’ hearts by going to the ABA.  But hey, we can dream of what might have been.  Right?


Additions?  Disagreements?  Let me know at @andypollin1.



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