Former Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., whose college career ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says he was “extremely confident” the Terps would make deep runs in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
Maryland clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship with its 83-70 win against Michigan March 8. The Terps had lost three of their previous four games heading into the Michigan contest, but those four games occurred within the span of 10 days. With four days off before facing the Wolverines, Maryland looked like the team that had previously ripped off nine straight in league play, with Cowan leading the way (20 points).
“I was extremely confident. I think everyone was starting to get their groove back. That Michigan game really showed a lot,” Cowan said on Glenn Clark Radio March 25 of his mindset heading into postseason play. “Everybody that got in contributed and played very well. Everybody was getting their swag back, their confidence back. I was very confident that we could step up and make a big run in both tournaments.”
On March 12, one day before the Terps (24-7 overall, 14-6 in the Big Ten) were set to fly to Indianapolis as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, the Big Ten canceled its tournament. Shortly after, the NCAA followed suit with its men’s and women’s hoops tournaments.
With that, Cowan’s chance to add some finishing touches to his legacy was dashed. Cowan, who came to College Park, Md., in 2016, had started every game of his career and climbed to seventh in program history in scoring (1,881 points). But he had only won one NCAA Tournament game, which came in March 2019. He had one more chance to make a deep run, and he had his best team yet. The Terps figured to be a No. 3 or 4 seed in the tournament.
Cowan will never know what his team would’ve accomplished, but that won’t stop him from telling the story of the Terps’ national title run years later.
“I’m telling my kids that — already told myself that,” Cowan said. “Whatever you can do to make yourself feel more positive about something, that’s what I try to do. I’m going to tell my kids, I’m going to tell my grandkids, for sure we won the national championship that year.”
The NCAA isn’t expected to allow seniors from winter sports to come back for another year (like in spring sports). Would Cowan have taken one more shot at a deep run if that wasn’t the case?
“I was gone, for sure. It was definitely time for me to go,” Cowan said. “Not anything that was wrong, but it was time to move onto the next chapter.”
Cowan finished his career having averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 130 games. Most importantly, he won 90 of those 130 games and was the leader of a team that hoisted the program’s first-ever Big Ten trophy.
That, combined with his lofty place on the program’s all-time scoring list — right between John Lucas and Lonny Baxter — has observers wondering if his name and number will lifted to the Xfinity Center rafters in the future.
“Whenever you’re in the conversations with the top greats – Juan Dixon, Walt Williams and all those types of players – it means the most,” Cowan said. “Obviously for someone who’s from Maryland, that would mean a lot.”
Cowan’s journey began when he committed to Maryland in January 2015, well before the November 2015 early signing period. Since stepping on campus, Cowan has seen players come and go, with Melo Trimble, Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando all moving onto the professional ranks in recent years. But Cowan has been the one constant the past four years, along with head coach Mark Turgeon.
As Maryland struggled to break through in postseason play, Turgeon bore the brunt of fans’ criticism; during his time as the Terps’ coach, Turgeon has won just four NCAA Tournament games and has little success in the Big Ten tournament. But he’s also 204-99 overall at Maryland and 73-39 in the Big Ten since the Terps made the move in 2014, and Cowan says he always has his players’ backs.
“He doesn’t deserve all the bad stuff that the fans have to say,” Cowan said. “I think Scott Van Pelt said it best. I don’t know exactly what he said, but it was along the lines of, ‘You can’t please Maryland fans sometimes.’ But Coach Turgeon handles it the best way he can. It was always a great look to us as a team because he always took whatever the fans were saying bad for him and he never put it on us. As a team, we always … appreciated him. He always helped us out the best he could.”
Cowan discussed some other topics as well …
On his favorite shot besides the obvious ones (like this year against Illinois and at Michigan State):
“I would say a play would probably be against Butler my sophomore year. I hit another shot sort of like the Illinois shot. But I think that shot in that whole game just basically reiterated to myself that I can be a top player in college basketball. All I’ve got to do is keep going and keep working, but that game really solidified it for me. That just kept pushing me to keep going.”
On getting red-hot at Michigan State to lift Maryland to a win:
“I was super quiet in that second half. I wasn’t scoring, I wasn’t doing anything. My first half, it was OK, it was decent. The second half I [hadn’t] really gotten going yet. My teammates found me. They put me in position to be able to score. I think Darryl [Morsell] came with the drive and kicked it to the corner. I think I was wide open for that. And then Aaron [Wiggins] with another drive, I was wide open for that. [Jalen Smith] set a screen, I was able to get open. My teammates really got me going in the second half and I was able to finish plays. That game was probably one of my favorites of my whole career.”
On what Mark Turgeon means to him personally:
“One thing I can say about Coach before anything is he believed in me. He believed that I could be that point guard that could help win a lot of games at Maryland and win a championship. I can always appreciate him for that. And also, he grew me as a player from Day One. He didn’t make it easy for me. He just kept pushing me. I think that made me into the player I am today, so always appreciative.”
On the love the fan base showed him:
“Honestly, I don’t think it’ll hit me until a little bit later down the road. But definitely on the fan base side, they watched me grow up. Since the first game I played against American, they’ve seen me not only become a better player but also a better person and growing up to be a man. I’m always appreciative of them. They have a lot to give to what my growth became. I’ll always be appreciative to them.”
On testing the NBA Draft waters last year:
“That wasn’t even really a question if I was going to come back. I knew something special that was coming on in College Park. And then obviously with the academic side, I wanted to make sure I graduated. That was something that was also important to me. Like I said a bunch of times, I need to give Maryland so much more. I think I owe them so much more because they gave so much to me. Hopefully I was able to do that a little bit.”
On preparing for the NBA Draft amid lots of uncertainty:
“All I can control is my attitude and what I’m able to do. Right now, honestly, this last season, it was really hard on my body – a lot of long minutes. I’ve been able to just recoup a little bit. I haven’t been doing too much more than just jump shots outside. I haven’t really been around anybody. I’ve just really been able to just focus and just chill for a little bit for the longest time I can ever remember. It’s been good though, been around family. So it’s been real good.”
For more from Cowan, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox