For the first time, the hundreds of Maryland basketball games I’ve watched over the past 15 years will be put to use.
As I stated in a column two seasons ago about how Mark Turgeon’s job was safe (oops), the first Terrapins basketball game I watched on TV was on Dec. 22, 2007, when Maryland fell to American, 67-59.
For whatever reason, that performance hooked 10-year-old me, and that obsession culminated as a student when I attended 70 of 71 Maryland home games over a four-year period from 2015-19.
The one game I missed was on New Years day of 2017, and I didn’t miss much as Maryland fell to Nebraska, 67-65.
Anyway, onto the task at hand — ranking my 10 favorite Maryland basketball players over the past 15 years.
Here are six players that just missed the cut: Jordan Williams, Jake Layman, Bruno Fernando, Rasheed Sulaimon, Fatts Russell and Dave Neal. All brought me joy one way or another, but there could only be 10.
And just for fun, here are four players that were nowhere near the list: Nick Faust, Jared Nickens, Qudus Wahab and Seth Allen.
Faust was a heralded local recruit that never scratched the surface of his potential; Nickens was a shooting specialist that couldn’t shoot; Wahab chose to play for Georgetown not once, but twice; and Allen transferred to Virginia Tech (which still hasn’t won a national championship in any sport other than bass fishing. It’s true, look it up!).
Here are Nos. 10-6 on my Top 10 Terps list:
10. Kevin Huerter
“Red Velvet” doesn’t have the longevity of some of the other guys that made this list, or the game-winners and iconic moments of a Dez Wells (we’ll get to him shortly).
Huerter makes the cut by being the most successful Terp to play in the National Basketball Association since I started watching. He wasn’t a lottery pick like Alex Len or Jalen Smith, but in his first four years in the Association, he’s averaged 12.1, 11.9, 12.2 and 9.7 points a night in those seasons.
Huerter would probably be higher if he played four years at Maryland, but he’s hurt because he was too good, getting drafted No. 19 overall following his sophomore campaign when he averaged 14.8 points and five boards a game.
9. Dez Wells
Wells was undersized for a forward, and he didn’t shoot well enough to be a two. It didn’t matter, he found a way.
Like against Miami in 2014 when Wells sunk a 30-foot game-winner, one of just 17 threes he made all year. Or against Northwestern a year later, when Wells corralled a Melo Trimble 3-pointer and kissed it off the glass in the waning seconds to avoid the upset.
Yet, I’ll remember Wells most for his performance against Duke in the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals. The slashing guard was unstoppable, pouring on 30 points to upset the No. 2 Blue Devils, 83-74.
It was the first time Maryland beat Duke twice in the same season since 2007, and it will likely be the last.
For his college career, Wells averaged 13.2 points per game on 49.4% shooting.
Wells had a brief stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder and in the G-League. The 30-year-old still plays professionally, averaging 23.3 points per game for the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association this past season.
8. Terrell Stoglin
This may be a controversial opinion, but Stoglin is one of my favorite Terps ever.
“The only thing I knew about Maryland was that Steve Francis went there,” he said as a recruit.
He wasn’t the best teammate, he consistently clashed with Mark Turgeon and his time at Maryland ended abruptly with a year-long suspension for a student-athlete code of conduct violation (reportedly due to a positive marijuana test).
I don’t care. He was an elite scorer, particularly during his sophomore year when he almost single-handedly carried a horrible roster to a 17-15 finish in Turgeon’s first year. At 21.6 points a night, Stoglin doubled the team’s second-leading scorer in Sean Mosley’s 10.2 points.
Imagine a world where Stogs doesn’t get kicked off the team for failing a weed test (like the world we live in now), and the 2012-13 team that beat Duke twice had a 20-point scorer, Dez Wells and Alex Len .
Stoglin never got an NBA look, but the left-handed scorer has had an impressive career overseas.
He’s averaged more than 30 points a game in each of the last two seasons with AS Salé in Morroco. While playing in Lebanon in 2015, Stoglin had a 74-point game.
7. Bambale Osby
I didn’t start watching Maryland basketball until the end of the Gary Williams era.
The Hall of Fame coach wasn’t recruiting the caliber of player he once was, but he was still an in-game genius and a master motivator, getting the most out of every player that put on a Maryland jersey.
By my estimation, Bambale “Boom” Osby personified the archetypal Williams product better than any other.
Osby wasn’t particularly skilled for a big man, he was just a two-star recruit out of high school and averaged just 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds a game during his one season at New Mexico.
At Paris Junior College the following year, he averaged just 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds before picking the Terps over George Washington, Dayton, Rhode Island and Idaho — no other major college offered Osby but Maryland.
Yet, somehow and someway, Williams coached Osby into an 11.5 points per game scorer by his senior year.
His greatest moment in College Park came in the Dean Smith Center against No. 1 and undefeated North Carolina in 2008. Boom Osby provided the winning score on a baseline lay-in with 21.7 seconds left in the 82-80 Terps upset.
North Carolina finished the year 36-3, losing to Duke, Kansas in the Final Four and a 19-15 Maryland team that lost in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.
I couldn’t fathom that the same player I saw despondent after the Terps’ embarrassing loss to American was the same collapsing in joy on the court in Chapel Hill just one month later.
Boom Osby believed in himself and Williams in him, and that was a beautiful thing.
6. Jalen Smith
After years and years of missing on five-star local talent, particularly blue-chippers coming out of Baltimore, Smith broke the mold.
At the 2017 ACIT, Turgeon made the trip up to Frostburg to see Maryland signee Darryl Morsell, a senior at Mount St. Joseph, and a junior big man on his team that was on every coach’s wish list in the country.
With Turgeon in attendance, MSJ lost to Gonzaga, which Turgeon’s son will play for, in the title game. Smith scored 16 points in the 82-70 defeat.
The 6-foot-10, 195-pound center, ranked as a consensus five-star recruit and the No. 15 prospect in the nation, decided to stay home and it paid off.
Following his sophomore season in College Park, when he averaged a double-double at 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, Smith was selected No. 10 overall in the NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns.
During the 2019-20 season (Smith’s final at Maryland), the Terps were ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation and shared the Big Ten regular-season championship with Michigan State.
It was Turgeon’s most talented team, and we’ll never know how far Smith, Morsell, Anthony Cowan, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala could’ve taken them. March Madness was canceled due to the pandemic.
After not getting an opportunity during two seasons on a talented Phoenix team, Smith resurrected his young career in Indiana. In 22 games with the Pacers, the former Lottery Pick averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on 53.1% shooting. He’s still only 22 years old, so the best is ahead.
This was originally intended to be a full Top 10 list, but the first five were already longer than the finished product should be. My Top 5 will have to wait until Monday.