As the Mark Turgeon era peacefully putters out of the gate, winning ugly with teenagers growing up on the fly, there was a sighting from the past in College Park on Sunday.
Remember that quiet, unflappable kid who started on that memorable team with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, who helped drop Duke that crazy night at Comcast Center almost two years ago?
That kid is incredibly still playing for Maryland — in a full beard.
Dogged as ever, he was an adult among children Sunday, still fighting through screens, still barreling through mounds of muscle to body up his man on the perimeter, still making meaningful plays in the final minutes of ACC games – yes, still unselfish to a fault.
Mosley staving off Georgia Tech, 61-50, early Sunday evening was peculiarly reassuring, like seeing that kid from high school you thought graduated two years ago devouring a burrito in the cafeteria, before nodding nonchalantly, “ ’Sup?”
“Some referees are like, ‘Wow, you’re still here?’ ” Mosley said after pushing Maryland to 12-4 in Turgeon’s first year with the Terps. “I almost have to tell them, ‘I didn’t red-shirt. I didn’t transfer. Yes, I am a fourth-year senior.’ ’’
Funny, no, you come to see the new coach and you run into one of Gary Williams’s old players – old, of course, being relative at Maryland.
When Mosley enrolled in 2008, President George W. Bush was still in office. When Mosley first began starting for the Terrapins — the last 15 games as a true freshman in 2009 — most of his 10 underclassman teammates on the 2011-12 team were not yet 16 years old.
“Sometimes I feel old,” he says, smiling outside the Terps’ locker room Sunday. Mosley moments earlier had shut down a genuine son of a gun, Georgia Tech marksman Glen Rice Jr., whose father was one of the NBA’s greatest pure shooters. He sank a clutch three-pointer to stave off an impending Maryland meltdown with less than three minutes left.
Knocking down all 10 of his free throw attempts, getting an overzealous young kid to bite on a pump fake under the basket, adding another steal as he moves closer toward the top 10 list in school history, it was the classic, end-game performance of a seasoned 21-year-old — one who figured out over the course of four years he could compensate for not doing anything incredibly spectacular if he did a little bit of everything right.
Only a coach like Turgeon doing his absolute best to be patient — “I need this team to grow up,” “It hasn’t been pretty,” and “It’s hard for me to keep this team confident,” were some of his honest insights from Sunday — knows how much a guy like Mosley means that first year in a new job.
“I made a bad joke in practice the other day and he laughed, which meant he was listening,” says Turgeon, inferring the rest were not. Acknowledging he has some “immature guys,” Turgeon added that Mosley isn’t just playing well, but “he’s helping me coach.”
He had a senior like Mosley before, that dependable sage amid the chaos of a transitional year. His name was Craig Steven. He played for Turgeon his first season at Wichita State in 2002-03. Steven was a solid guard, honor-roll student. But more than that, “he hosted every [recruit] that came through, helped me with everything,” Turgeon recalls. “Good kid.”
Mosley is the only player who genuinely intersects the Gary-and-Greivis and Turge-and-Terrell eras, the one guy who senses the pulse of the team best.
“Coach will look at me during practice sometimes and just ask, ‘Do we need a break?’ or ‘Do we need to cut practice short today?’ ” Mosley said. “I’ve been through it all so it’s nice to be relied upon for that kind of leadership.”
These aren’t the Terps of two years ago, Mosley knows. Maryland had an undefeated, if mostly unchallenging, December. With six of their last 14 games against top 25 teams, including two apiece against No. 4 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina, their gaps in talent and experience are about to be put to the test.
The Terps’ next home game is against Duke next Wednesday, on Gary’s night — the night the man who brought Maryland its only national title 10 years ago after resuscitating the program has the court named in his honor.
In some ways, this season is about what once was at Maryland just as much as it’s about what might be. Caught somewhere between nostalgia and starting over, Mark Turgeon and Sean Mosley meld the two together.
The first-year coach who followed the legend and the fourth-year senior who helped with the transition — the wise old head still hanging around College Park, telling any youngster who will listen:
“Four years goes by fast — don’t take any of them for granted.”
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise