Maryland's seniors hope to end up-and-down season on a high note
Friday, March 4, 2011; 11:23 PM
Maryland seniors Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker won't leave College Park with school records or ACC player of the year honors, and they likely will never get a chance to watch as their jerseys are raised to the Comcast Center rafters alongside those of past Maryland greats.
Nonetheless, the three upperclassmen will be recognized in a ceremony shortly before tip-off of Saturday's regular season finale against Virginia. It will complete a journey that's more common than not for college basketball players, who devote an enormous amount of time to their sport in exchange for the opportunity to become a better player, earn a degree and be held up as an object of adulation or scorn, depending on their team's fortunes.
A victory over the Cavaliers (15-14, 6-9) would do no more than nudge the Terrapins' ACC record to .500 and deliver a modicum of momentum heading into the ACC tournament, where anything short of winning outright almost certainly will relegate Maryland (18-12, 7-8) to the National Invitation Tournament for the fourth time in the past seven seasons.
This season, Maryland's fortunes have been undermined by narrow defeats early and lapses of skill and intensity late. The result has been a precipitous fall from grace that saw the 2010 ACC regular season co-champions tumble to seventh in the 12-team league entering Saturday's game.
The disappointment was palpable when Gregory and Bowie met with reporters Friday afternoon.
"It's definitely hard," Bowie said, reflecting on a season that fell short of players' hopes. "We're not having the type of season we expected. But we've got to take what we're given and keep working hard."
Gregory, a team co-captain, was more bullish, insisting that the Terrapins have enough talent to win the ACC tournament and, with it, claim a place in the NCAA tournament.
"It's definitely tough, but the season's not over yet," said Gregory, a 6-foot-7 forward from Baltimore. "We still have a chance. A lot of teams in the country have no chance. We're not one of those teams. We still have an opportunity for the NCAA tournament."
For the most part, Gregory, Tucker and Bowie spent their first three seasons in College Park waiting behind the more gifted class ahead of them to prove what they could do. While Bowie started 28 games as a sophomore, Gregory and Tucker worked in practice for three years to help make the upperclassmen better.
They did the job well.
Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes evolved into one of the more prolific senior classes in Maryland history, each scoring 1,000 points in four-year college careers that ended after last season.
Filling that void has been difficult, and the task has been complicated by the arrival of six newcomers to the squad who have had to be evaluated and coached up along the way.