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Monday Night Madness Podcast No. 10

Scott Kornberg and Luke Jackson begin the show by interviewing Maryland Terrapins offensive tackle recruit Mike Madaras from Good Council High School. The duo then discuss Danny O’Brien, Terps basketball and Major League Baseball before speaking with Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt to talk about the revelation of Maryland baseball.

You can download our interview with four-star Maryland football recruit Mike Madaras or listen to it here:

You can download our interview with Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt or listen to it here:

You can also download the Monday Night Madness podcast on iTunes or download the show by clicking here!


Monday Night Madness Podcast No. 9

It’s the very first Monday Night Madness of the year! Scott Kornberg and Luke Jackson preview the Super Bowl and talk Maryland basketball. The duo also interviews brand-new ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine columnist Kevin Van Valkenburg.

You can download our interview with Kevin or listen to it by clicking below:

You can also download the Monday Night Madness podcast on iTunes or download the show by clicking here!


A Darkhorse Heisman Candidate

Plenty of other quarterbacks received more fanfare after the first weekend of the college football season. The obvious names already in the Heisman Trophy discussion are Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Boise State’s Kellen Moore. However, judging from his performance against Miami in the rain Monday on national television, Maryland’s Danny O’Brien could emerge as a darkhorse in the Heisman running if he plays the rest of the season like he did against the Hurricanes.

There were concerns coming into the season if new Terps head coach Randy Edsall would utilize O’Brien’s special skill set after featuring a ground-and-pound attack during his 12 years as Connecticut’s head honcho. Here is a look at how often the Huskies liked to run the football under Edsall:

2010 UConn: 357 passes, 501 rushes (41.6 percent passing)

2009 UConn: 375 passes, 528 rushes (41.5 percent passing)

2008 UConn: 329 passes, 556 rushes (37.1 percent passing)

2007 UConn: 361 passes, 534 rushes (40.3 percent passing)

2006 UConn: 313 passes, 486 rushes (39.1 percent passing)

2005 UConn: 307 passes, 486 rushes (38.7 percent passing)

2004 UConn: 464 passes, 421 rushes (52.4 percent passing)

In Edsall’s last six years at UConn, the Huskies never threw the ball more than 41.6 percent of the time on offense. In three different seasons, Connecticut kept the ball on the ground more than 6o percent of the time. As evidenced by the chart above, the last time UConn put the ball in the air more than they ran it was seven seasons ago when future-NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky was under center for the Huskies. Granted, from 2005 through 2010, Edsall had a very gifted stable of running backs that included Donald Brown and Jordan Todman to help ease the pressure on an overmatched group of quarterbacks. In 2005, 2006 and 2008, the Huskies did not have a passer throw for more than 900 yards the whole season. Tyler Lorenzon’s 2,367 yard performance in 2007 is the only time UConn has had a passer throw for more than 1,500 yards in a year since Orlovsky graduated after the 2004 season. Even with his team’s ineptness at quarterback in his last six years at Connecticut, there were reasons to doubt whether Edsall would be able to transform to a more passing-oriented offense in his first season in College Park after featuring a run-first offense for so long.

The first Maryland drive of the 2011 season put to rest the doubts that Edsall and new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton would be reluctant to allow O’Brien to air it out consistently in the brand-new Terps attack. O’Brien, who threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season while completing 57 percent of his passes en route to becoming the first Maryland player ever to take home ACC Freshman of the Year honors, lined up in the shotgun almost exclusively as the Terps spread the field and ran a fast-paced offense that did not allow the Miami defense time to make substitutions.

The accelerated offense kept the Hurricanes defense on their heels as O’Brien shredded a weakened Miami secondary, finishing 31-for-44 (70.5 completion percentage) for 348 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The redshirt sophomore quarterback showed maturity, poise and coolness beyond his years with under four minutes to play and the Terps trailing 24-23. At Maryland’s own 26 yard line, O’Brien launched a 52-yard bomb to Kevin Dorsey to help set up Nick Ferrara’s game-winning field goal. Staying calm and collected under center, O’Brien piloted a fourth-quarter comeback drive to give the Terrapins their first win of the season.

The one area O’Brien left for improvement was his redzone management. He led the Terps inside Miami’s 20-yard line on seven of Maryland’s eight drives, but the Terrapins could only muster one touchdown out of those possessions. O’Brien also tossed an interception in the endzone on a play where he could have instead just walked across the goal line to score another touchdown. But while Maryland came away with a touchdown on only one drive that finished inside the Hurricanes’ 20, O’Brien failed to lead the Terps into the redzone only once all night. The Maryland redzone offense should improve in the coming weeks with the return of running back D.J. Adams, who scored 11 touchdowns last year but missed the Miami game due to a violation of team rules. More practice time with his brand-new receiving corp should also allow O’Brien to become more comfortable throwing to his set of weapons in the heavy traffic that comes with passing deep in an opponents’ territory.

Sure, five Miami Hurricane defensive starters were suspended for the season-opener Monday night. But Danny O’Brien’s performance, poise under pressure, ability to lead his team consistently down the field, the willingness of the new Maryland coaching staff to open up the passing attack and what should be an improved redzone attack in the coming weeks have to make O’Brien a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. His success has largely gone under the national radar in his Maryland career so far. However, as long as he continues to mature and develop as a quarterback, it won’t be long before the rest of the country takes notice and O’Brien plays himself into the running for college football’s top honor.


On The Subject of Maryland’s Uniforms

There has been a lot of debate regarding Maryland’s new state pride uniforms. There is obviously a lot going on with them, but like them or not, the uniforms have to already be considered a success. They are the buzz around the whole nation. Twitter blew up regarding the uniforms, as #Maryland was trending both during and after the Terps-Miami contest not because of the game, but because of Maryland’s new look. Sportscenter dedicated a whole segment of the show to discuss them. For a brand-new coaching staff looking to rebrand the program around the state of Maryland, the attention that has now been thrust upon the Terps over their uniforms after a nationally-televised win is tremendous. And for a fanbase that had a lukewarm response to the hiring of head coach Randy Edsall over Mike Leach, the uniforms, as well as an exciting opening-night victory over a brand-name opponent, go a long way in building consistent fan support in this undoubtedly new era of Maryland football.

The new uniforms are based on the state flag of Maryland. Both the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens use elements of the flag in small ways, but the Terps made a statement with their brand-new digs tonight. The University of Maryland is the flagship university of the state of Maryland. However, for years, “Maryland” has been associated with the Terrapins’ basketball team while “Terps” has been used to describe the football team. The new uniforms, as well as Maryland’s new marketing campaign, create an immediate association between University of Maryland football and the state of Maryland.

In a state that obsesses over its flag, the direct use of the flag in the design of the jerseys is perfect. The new uniforms are a source of state pride. Maryland is now the only school that has uniforms that are a direct representation of the state they play in. With the buzz the uniforms have already provided to give Maryland football this kind of attention and the connection the jerseys and helmets bring to its home state, the new Maryland football uniforms are an immediate success to a program that needs as much attention as possible on a national stage as it looks to take the next step towards becoming a national powerhouse. The buzz they have created, as well as the direct connection to the state pride Marylanders feel for in their flag, give Maryland the best uniforms in all of sports.

Here are more pictures of Maryland new state pride uniforms:

 


Cirovski Goes For Win No. 300 As No. 4 Terps Take On Radford

After scoring six second-half goals in their first two matches of the season, the No. 4 Maryland Terrapins men’s soccer team finally got off to a fast start Friday against Stanford. In front of 7,178 fans, the second-largest crowd ever at Ludwig Field, the Terps scored four first-half goals, the team’s most since scoring four, two of them from Casey Townsend, against Duquesne on September 15, 2009 in what would be a 7-0 victory.

The Terps proved their speed to be a mismatch against the Cardinal (0-2-0) from the get-go. Patrick Mullins (2) found the back of the net just 22 second into the match. Casey Townsend (2) followed up in the 10th minute with a left-footed strike from 12 yards out. In the 28th minute, Helge Leikvang (1) curved a free kick over Stanford’s wall and past Cardinal goalie Jason Dodson. Just like in Maryland’s four-goal first-half against Duquesne two years ago, Townsend (3-30th) scored his second goal of the half and the Terps built what would be an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Maryland goalkeeper Will Swaim did not need to make a save and picked up his second shutout of the season as the Terps improved to 3-0-0.

Maryland will host Radford (1-1-0) tonight at 7 p.m. as head coach Sasho Cirovski seeks his 300th career win. The Highlanders are coming off a 2-0 loss to Georgetown on Friday. College Park is the third stop on their six-game road-trip to begin the season.

Some notes for tonight’s game:

  • Maryland has outscored opponents 10-1 this season. John Stertzer and Casey Townsend lead the Terps with three goals apiece.
  • Radford sophomore Luis Grande was named the Big South Attacking Player of the Week after his golden-goal 49 seconds into overtime to give the Highlands a season-opening victory over Appalachian State. Chel Ho Kim Park assisted the goal.

You can listen to the action on WMUC Sports at 6:50. I will be on the call along with Eric Morrow.


No. 4 Terps Soccer Highlight Package vs. West Virginia, Battle Stanford

Maryland got off to a sloppy start Monday in their Ludwig Field opener against No. 17 West Virginia, trailing 1-0 in just the seventh minute. Like their explosive second-half Friday against St. John’s though, the Terps offense came alive in the second half against West Virginia despite trailing 1-0 at halftime. John Stertzer got the rally started with a penalty kick goal in the 54th minute and headed in another for Maryland to take the lead just seven minutes later. Eight minutes after that, a crisp passing attack that brought the ball across the field from Alex Shinsky to Casey Townsend to Widner Saint-Cyr and then finally to Jereme Raley put the icing on the cake. The Terps won the match 3-1 to improve to 2-0-0 on the season.

Listen to the highlight package of the game here:

The Terps take on Stanford tonight in the first two weekend matches, as Maryland also plays Radford Sunday night.

Some notes for tonight’s game:

  • Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski is 298-123-29 at the helm in College Park. He needs just two wins to reach 300 victories as the Terps’ head coach.
  • All six of Maryland’s goals have come in the second-half. Maryland has outscored its opponents 6-1. John Stertzer leads the Terps in scoring with three goals.

You can listen to the action on WMUC Sports at 7:20. Josh Fendrick and Eric Morrow will be on the call.


No. 4 Terps Soccer Takes On No. 17 West Virginia

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After a shaky first-half Friday against St. John’s in which they were outshot 7-3, the Maryland offense took off. Patrick Mullins (1) scored the season’s first goal in the 51st minute before John Stertzer (1) followed up just four minutes later to give the Terps a 2-0 lead. In the 76th minute, senior forward Casey Townsend (1) scored his first goal of the year by heading in a corner kick from freshman midfielder Alex Shinsky and Maryland all but ended things, winning 3-0 over the Red Storm. In his first game in goal since 2009, Will Swaim recorded his sixth career shutout.

The Terps will play their first regular season game at Ludwig Field this year as No. 4 Maryland takes on No. 17 West Virginia at 7 p.m tonight. The Mountaineers are coming off a 1-0 victory over No. 11 Virginia and boast a very strong defense. West Virginia did not allow a shot on goal in their win Friday and the Cavaliers only tallied three total shots. Junior goalkeeper Pat Eavenson played in all 90 minutes in goal for his first career shutout. Their backline will be put to the test against a very talented scoring group for the Terps, who ranked as college soccer’s best offense last year and return plenty of offensive firepower this season.

Some more notes for tonight’s game:

  • Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski is 297-123-29 at the helm in College Park. He needs just three wins to reach 300 victories as the Terps’ head coach.
  • Maryland is 7-3-1 on its opening weekend since 2006. The Terps fell to No. 24 Michigan State 4-3 in overtime in their home opener last season before pounding Northeastern, 5-0, two days later.
  • Two players on the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy will match up with each other tonight. West Virginia senior defender Raymon Gaddis will clash with Maryland senior forward Casey Townsend as the Mountaineers look to slow down the Terps’ offensive attack.
You can listen to the action on WMUC Sports at 6:45. I will be on the call with Eric Morrow.

Herrick Gone, But Terps Will Not Lack Offensive Firepower

With a veteran frontline featuring senior Jason Herrick and junior Casey Townsend, the Maryland Terrapins owned college soccer’s most prolific offense last season, scoring a NCAA-best 2.65 goals per game. The two strikers combined to score 20 of the Terps’ 61 goals. Even though fourth-ranked Maryland lost Herrick to the MLS SuperDraft (selected in the third round, 45th overall, by the Chicago Fire), they still return Townsend and 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year Patrick Mullins, who scored five goals and assisted on four others in 21 games last year. Mullins split time between the midfield and attack in 2010, but head coach Sasho Cirovski expects him to be heavily involved in his sophomore season as an attacker and leader for a talented but inexperienced Terps’ roster.

“I think Patrick is going to score a lot of goals,” said Cirovski. “He’s a strong player. His personality has really come out so now he’s become one of the more vocal leaders on the team. And I think I’ve seen really good chemistry with him and Casey and also with (reserve forwards) Matt Oduaran and Jordan (Cyrus). I think Patrick is going to be used primarily as a striker this year.”

After playing as a reserve last year due to nagging early-season injuries, Cirovski said Mullins is fit enough to start at forward this season besides Townsend, who flirted with the SuperDraft in the offseason before deciding to return to College Park for his senior year. Townsend had nine goals and five assists as a junior, finishing third on the Terps in points with 23. Cirovski felt he had a better junior season than the numbers suggest.

“Casey last year could have easily doubled his goal total, he was just that close,” Cirovski said. “He was a lot of times snake-bit. He did almost everything right and the ball would hit the goalpost, just barely miss, etc. I think that’s the part we’ve talked to Casey is. He does so much good work on both sides of the ball, defensively, holds balls off, offensively. But now it’s time he gets the finishing touch, putting the ball in the back of the net. To have a little more of a menacing mentality in his approach.”

As one of the top returning strikers in the nation, Townsend has seen an increased amount of attention nationally this summer. He garnered College Soccer News preseason All-American honors and was one of 42 players on the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s highest individual award. He is also currently 15th in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s listing of the top 100 senior professional soccer prospects. However, Townsend has seemingly ignored all of the recognition, focusing on finishing goals and leading his teammates in wake of another season of National Championship expectations for Maryland.

“He’s the hardest-working guy on the field,” Mullins said. “He runs his butt off the entire time and that’s something that a lot of the younger guys and what I learned from my freshman year last year.”

“He’s in a different level in terms of comfort and maturity,” said Cirovski. “It took a little while in the spring for him to sort of grow into a leadership role because he hasn’t been accustomed to that, but now he’s very comfortable as a leader and he’s very comfortable with his decision to stay here.”

The Maryland Terrapins will be breaking in seven new starters in their first regular season game of the year tonight against St. John’s, including one at the forward position. They had college soccer’s deadliest offense in 2010 and believe sophomore Patrick Mullins will step in next to Casey Townsend this year to produce similar results. There will be a lot of differences between the 2011 Terps and last year’s version. Just don’t expect Maryland to lose any of their dynamic offensive firepower.


Maryland Terrapins Men’s Soccer Preview

There are few teams at any level of collegiate soccer that can lose seven starters, four of whom were named to an All-ACC team last season, and still be ranked No. 4 in the country the very next season. Such is the case though with the Maryland Terrapins, who need to replace players who combined to score 32 of the team’s 61 goals last season (52.5 percent).

Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback

The Terps return a mostly young and talented group of players highlighted by All-ACC senior forward Casey Townsend, 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year forward Patrick Mullins and defensive stalwarts Taylor Kemp and Alex Lee. Head coach Sasho Cirovski, entering his 19th season at Maryland, said his program, which has been to five College Cups and won two National Championships in the last nine years, has not lowered the bar with what they expect to achieve this season, even with a much different-looking squad this year compared to the team that bowed out to Michigan in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season.

“As usual, we have high expectations for our team this year in spite of losing a lot of talented players, three underclassmen and seven starters, our goal is still the same,” said Cirovski. “We want to win an ACC Championship and we want to win a National Championship.”

Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback

The Terps have set the bar for success in the program high, but they certainly have an impressive list of players who played smaller roles last year and will have the opportunity to see increased playing time and responsibility on the pitch in 2011.

“They were big-time players,” Townsend said of the departed Terps. “But I think people are going to be surprised at how good we are because we have a lot of players that haven’t played that are very good players that people just don’t know about.”

Some of those players figure to be midfielders John Stertzer (two goals and two assists in 21 games last season), Kaoru Forbess (three goals in 21 games last season), Helge Leikvang (one goal and one assist in 18 games last season), forward Matt Oduaran (one goal and one assist in 15 games last season) and defender London Woodberry (one goal and three assists in 14 games last season). Cirovski said that two players who redshirted due to injury last season, midfielder Widner Saint Cyr and forward Jordan Cyrus, will also play more prominent roles this season now that they are healthy.

They will be joined by a skilled freshman class that features goalkeeper Jordan Tatum, American U-18 National Team goalie Keith Cardona, Canadian U-17 National Team defender Parker Seymour and three College Soccer News top-35 recruits in defender Kyle Roach (No. 34) and midfielders Dan Metzger (No. 29) and Alex Shinsky (No. 2, No. 1 recruit according toTopDrawerSoccer.com). The incoming freshman class and crop of returning players give Cirovski the most flexibility to mix-and-match in the midfield.

“I think that’s the position we have the greatest depth in,” said Cirovski of the midfield. “I’d say we have seven or eight players capable of starting for the four positions. I think we’re going to have, probably, a lot more rotation in the midfield this year than in years past.”

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However, it may be a player who did not play a single minute last year who has the greatest impact on Maryland’s season. Will Swaim started 20 games in goal for Maryland from 2007 through 2009 before redshirting in 2010. Cirovski said he is the frontrunner to start at goalie for the team’s first regular season match on August 26 against St. John’s, a rematch of the double-overtime College Cup semifinal thriller in 2008 (a 1-0 Terps victory). His decision to return to College Park for a fifth year provides Maryland with an experienced keeper who knows the rigors of playing a full season in college soccer’s toughest conference.

“It was a great opportunity to play,” Swaim said. “After partnering with Zac (MacMath) for the past couple years I felt like I learned a lot. It’s also a great opportunity to go to school.”

Cirovski said that while Swaim will split time this season in net with Cardona and Tatum, his biggest concern right now at the position was getting Swaim back up to full speed after redshirting last season.

“I think his (Swaim’s) veteran leadership and knowledge of how we want to play is very important,” Cirovski said. “And Will’s good. Let’s not forget, he was our starting keeper in 2007. He’s a very good goalkeeper. We just want to get his game speed up as quickly as possible.”

Despite the unusually large number of new players who will be stepping into unfamiliar roles that come with a lot of responsibility this season, Cirovski said the team’s leadership, coming from many different sources, and ability to come together as one so far has been very impressive to see.

“All of these kids were here everyday together this summer,” said Cirovski. “I think there is a collective respect among the players that they’ve all given each other permission to lead. It’s a kind of a nice chemistry we have together within the group now.”

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That respect and combined leadership should be crucial for a team that could struggle at times as they wait to gel and get in sync with one another. A number of new players in the lineup could lead to some growing pains at times as the players get used to each other’s tendencies on the pitch. However, once they find that chemistry that can only grow with time, the Terps should continue to improve as the season goes along.

“We’ll be a team that gets better with time,” Townsend said. “It’s going to take a couple games to get used to playing with each other because we’re going to have a lot of new players on the field, and I think with time, we’ll get better and better and I hope we come together at the right time.”

There will be seven new starters in the lineup, but Maryland has a number of talented players who will get the first opportunity of their collegiate careers to make major contributions to the club this year. Even with a much-different looking team than last year, the goal is still the same. The Terps think they are just as good as any other team in the country.

“Last year we got to the quarterfinals and it felt like a disappointment,” Cirovski said. “Unfortunately, that’s the standard that we set for ourselves. Now, we had a great year last year. We won the ACC Championship and we played extremely well in the game that we lost but yet, I think the fans, myself, the players have a pretty empty feeling. We’re not afraid of the challenge we set for ourselves, or the bar we set for ourselves. I don’t think any of these kids would be happy with anything less than a trip to Alabama this year or coming back with an ACC title.”


Why Greivis Vasquez Is Special

Memphis is one of the cities I have visited during my vacation. The city is very unique. Beale Street always seems to have a buzz. The blues music that Memphis is famous for can be heard in almost store or restaurant and gives the city its own flavor. Right on the banks of the Mississippi River and once home to Elvis Presley, the city is proud of its distinct Southern feel.

Memphis is also the home of the NBA’s Grizzlies. As I was enjoying Memphis’ one of a kind Beale Street and blues music, I was thinking about what makes Greivis Vasquez, the Grizzlies’ second-year guard out of the University of Maryland, a special player.

Vasquez’s statistics and the awards he won are part of the reason why he will go down as one of the top five players of all-time at one of the nation’s most storied basketball programs. As a junior, when he really started to mature as a basketball player and leader on the court, Vasquez led the Terps with 17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, five assists, 1.4 steals and 34.6 minutes per game, becoming the first Maryland player and only the sixth ACC player ever to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists. He was honored as a second-team All-ACC selection at the end of the season, the first time he would receive any kind of collegiate award.

After flirting briefly with the NBA Draft, Vasquez elected to return to Maryland for his senior season. He took his game to another level in his final season under legendary head coach Gary Williams, averaging 19.6 points, 6.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Vasquez was the only player in the country to average at least 18 points and six rebounds per game. He was named the ACC Player of the Year and a second-team All-American while also winning the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard. Vasquez also became the only player in ACC history to register at least 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds.

What gets lost in all those numbers and awards, though, is the unique pride, passion and flavor of Vasquez’s game on the court. He is special not only because he is a terrific player, but also because he plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. Vasquez loves basketball and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. In his first two years at Maryland, he struggled controlling those emotions. But once he channeled them the right way, Vasquez’s love for basketball took over. He always seemed to have a smile on his face and his pride on the court and positive energy helped provide great leadership to his teammates. His enjoyment while playing basketball was refreshing to watch in an era of robotic athletes. It led him to do stunts like this:

 

And also make him famous for his patented “shimmy” after hitting big shots:

 

The emotionless, robotic athletes seem to think it is their right to be drafted into the pros. Most athletes who are selected go up to the podium, shake the commissioner’s hand and the only emotion flashed is a smile. But when Greivis Vasquez was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft (28th overall), he flashed the emotion that shows that is actually an honor and a privilege to be drafted into a professional sports league:

 

There are so many athletes who put up great numbers early in the game or against weak opponents. But against the toughest competition or in the clutch, they crumble. Vasquez was the opposite. He often struggled against weak competition in low-pressure situations, but was always able to elevate his performance in the biggest contests against the top opponents. In his final two years at Maryland, he was the always the guy Williams wanted to get the ball to in dire moments late in games. At home against No. 3 North Carolina in his junior year, Vasquez scored 35 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, recording just the third triple-double by a Maryland player in history and the school’s first since 1987.

 

 

In his senior year, again at home, this time against Clemson, a sluggish first-half had the Terps down by as many as 15 points. Vasquez led a furious second-half comeback and capped a 12-0 run to take the lead with a steal followed by an emphatic dunk.

 

In a tough late ACC road game against a charged-up Virginia Tech squad that had not lost at home all season. In a seesaw battle, Vasquez lifted Maryland to a double-overtime victory, scoring a career-high 41 points, becoming the first Terrapin player to reach 40 points in a game since Joe Smith in 1995 and the ninth ACC player ever to tally more than 40 points in a conference game.

 

 

 

In perhaps the most memorable game in his career, the Terps hosted No. 4 Duke on Vasquez’s Senior Night with the ACC regular season championship hanging in the balance, the final game he would play at the Comcast Center. Vasquez scored 20 points, including some crucial late-game buckets to secure a 79-72 Maryland victory and lead the Terps to a 13-3 ACC record and tie with the Blue Devils for the ACC regular season title.

 

Vasquez continued to thrive in the clutch in college basketball’s biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament. In the second-round, the fourth-seeded Terps battled the fifth-seeded Michigan State Spartans. With 12 minutes to go in the second half, Maryland trailed by 16 points. Vasquez sparked a late comeback. He scored nine of the Terps’ 11 points in the last two minutes to give Maryland an 83-82 lead before Korie Lucious’ buzzer-beating trey gave the Spartans the victory. Still, without Vasquez continuing to battle, the Terps would have been blown out before coming within one defensive possession of the Sweet Sixteen.

Vasquez’s ability to perform at his best when the pressure is at its hottest has continued into his time in the pros. In Game Four in the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Vasquez was called on in the first overtime because both starting point guard Mike Conley and backup guard O.J. Mayo had fouled out. He responded by drilling this game-tying three-pointer to beat the buzzer and send the game into double overtime:

 

Greivis Vasquez’s statistics and awards certainly make him a special player. But like the city he plays in, Vasquez’s game has a bit of flare, pride and passion that make him unique. The way he has fun playing the game of basketball and is able to channel his positive energy into leading his teammates, as well as his ability to elevate his performance in the biggest games and in the direst moments, add to what makes him a special basketball player. Greivis Vasquez’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. It’s that little bit extra that he brings to his teammates and to the game of basketball that paints the whole picture about why he is a great basketball player.


Bias’ Story Still Evokes Strong Emotions

It is difficult to have a true connection to athletes who we did not see play in person or on TV. We watch sports because we support our favorite teams, but also because only the greatest of all athletes create these special moments that become ingrained in our minds forever. All I have are stories and some very blurry video of Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” in the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs or Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception against the Oakland Raiders in 1972. However, I have vivid memories and deep emotions that come from seeing Michael Phelps win eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Jordan’s “Final Shot” against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals and Mike Piazza’s 2-run home run to give the Mets a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eight inning on September 21, 2001, the first game played in New York after the 9/11 attacks. I will never forget how those athletes made me feel so alive during those special moments.

It is the rare athlete though, who can spark such strong emotions from those who did not see him or her create those special times. I was not alive to see Len Bias play. All I have are people’s stories, some old articles and a few YouTube clips to give me an idea of the magnitude of the person and basketball star Bias was. But as a student at the University of Maryland, I felt his presence and the impact he had on my school from the moment I decided to send in my deposit.

A lot of people know Bias was a great basketball player. He twice led the ACC in scoring, finishing his collegiate career as Maryland’s alltime leading scorer with a total of 2,149 points (he is now third behind Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez). The well-rounded, 6-foot-8-inch forward was a two-time All-American and is also one just eight players in ACC history to be named ACC Player of the Year twice. Only two Maryland basketball players, John Lucas in 1976 and Joe Smith in 1995, have been picked higher than Bias in the NBA draft.

However, it is plays like this one that spark the same emotion from its viewers now than it did on February 21, 1986, a date on which Bias had 35 points to lead the Terps to a 77-72 overtime victory over then-No. 1 North Carolina.

Plays like that inspire the kind of wonder and awe at how a player as big and strong as Bias had such a pure jump shot, speed and agility. Whenever I watch that highlight, I understand what Bias meant to Maryland fans during that time. I can feel the pride Terp fans had, to have a player of Bias’ caliber on their side instead of playing in the different shades of blue of Maryland’s most hated enemies. I can feel the sense of hope, the feeling that the Terps had finally found the light at the end of the tunnel, and that they were emerging out of Duke and North Carolina’s shadow. I can feel the joy that people must have had seeing the versatility in Bias’ game, seeing how he could beat his opponents in so many different ways and how he displayed so much passion in the process. Bias was so good in fact, that in 2003, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe that Bias and Michael Jordan were the two most influential players during his time at Duke.

“There have been two opposing players who have really stood out: Michael Jordan and Len Bias,” Krzyzewski said. “Len was an amazing athlete with great competitiveness. My feeling is that he would have been one of the top players in the NBA. He created things. People associate the term `playmaking’ with point guards. But I consider a playmaker as someone who can do things others can’t, the way Jordan did. Bias was like that. He could invent ways to score, and there was nothing you could do about it. No matter how you defended him, he could make a play.”

There is no doubt that Len Bias was a special player, and seemingly headed to the perfect situation to play besides Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton and Robert Parish with the Boston Celtics. There is just no telling how great he would have become.

But Bias has probably touched more lives with the way his story unfolded than he would have had he enjoyed a Hall of Fame NBA career. The numbers are impossible to count, but there are so many people who either stopped or never started using drugs because the dangers of drugs became clear at the moment Bias passed away. If drugs could kill big, healthy, strong Len Bias, they could kill anyone. These numbers are only enhanced by Bias’ mother, Lonise Bias, who became a motivational speaker after her son’s death. She has told her son’s story to thousands of kids, stressing the importance of making good decisions and how even abusing drugs one time can be fatal.

Len Bias’ story sends chills down my spine every single time. It is a true tragedy. He had everything he had ever desired, the chance to play in the NBA, right in his back pocket and he threw it away with one bad decision. He died on June 19, 1986, 25 years ago yesterday, yet the moments he created first because of his play, and then because of his downfall are ones that still bring out strong emotions in people. Bias is that rare athlete that multiple generations can connect to, even if they did not see him play. The amount of lives Bias has touched throughout the world cannot be counted, but his story shows us just how quickly everything can be taken away, just how precious life is. It is powerful and people have been, and will continue to feel the pain of Bias’ tragedy and what might have been forever.