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Parasiliti: Terps never got the hoops wake-up call

March 20, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

An alarm clock malfunctioned in College Park, Md.

For so many years, that clock provided the wake-up call for the University of Maryland men’s basketball team to wipe the sleep from its eyes in time to play in late March. It was the Terps’ version of Groundhog Day.

The Terps often answered the bell in time for a trip to the NCAA tournament. A few years, they have hit the snooze and ended up in the NIT.

This year, Maryland hibernated through the alarm.

Maryland fans suffered from withdrawal this weekend. Not only didn’t the Terps play in basketball’s Mardi Gras, they weren’t considered worthy of an invitation.

So, since Maryland isn’t in the NCAA or NIT and chose not to even look at the CBI, maybe it’s time to call in CSI to investigate the COD.

From a distance, the cause of death for the Maryland basketball team is passive arrogance.

Former college basketball commentator Billy Packer recently said Maryland should never be out of the Top 25. The observation hinged mainly on the location of Maryland’s campus, right in the center of a mother lode of basketball talent from the Washington-Baltimore area.

But swimming in a large talent pool and reeling in big fish are two different things.

The Terps began sliding after winning the 2002 national championship. Once the banner was hung from the rafters, it was assumed players were going to flock to College Park just to be clad in Under Armour.

But like any binge, there was celebration and prolonged joy, followed by a hangover, followed by withdrawal.

Maryland, like many schools, has fallen into the trap — sign a high school All-American to give the program “star” quality and instant success. Basketball is one sport where one exceptional player can carry a team to the brink of greatness.

The problem, especially in this era, is those players show up for one or maybe two seasons before opting for the NBA. So many schools have all progress cut short because the big star’s early departure leaves a huge hole in the program.

As much as everyone hates to admit it, there is a reason why Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and a few others are always in the national title mix. It’s continuity. Because they win, talent comes and usually stays for the long haul.

The recruits are good players, not necessarily great players. They fill needs. Not all the players are NBA-caliber stars. How many Duke players with national title rings have become NBA standouts?

Most of all, they are team players who wait their turn and immediately fill inherited roles.

Star players don’t always make programs, but the programs can make star players. It isn’t unusual for the top teams to have more than two key seniors every year.

Maryland took a huge hit after winning the 2002 title. The team’s senior core (Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton) graduated and the future (Chris Wilcox) decided to leave early. The exodus left the Terps in a huge hole and they scrambled to replace all the pieces needed to make another run.

After years of trying quick fixes, it’s time to do things the right way, the painstaking way.

It takes time.

The clock is ticking.

Bob Parasiliti is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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