Former Maryland men’s basketball coach Lefty Driesell agrees with everyone who says former Terps star Adrian Branch’s name and number should hang in the rafters at Xfinity Center – but he’s got a couple others who he says should be up there as well.
The last name and number to be added to the rafters was Greivis Vasquez (No. 21) in 2011. There’s been speculation in recent years about whether former Terps Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan Jr. belong in the rafters, but Driesell, who coached at Maryland from 1969-1986, has some ideas of his own.
“How about Brad Davis? He played in the NBA for 14 years,” Driesell, 88, said on Glenn Clark Radio May 11. “He’s got his jersey [No. 15] retired by the Dallas Mavericks. Why isn’t his jersey up there?”
Davis, a 6-foot-3 point guard, played for Driesell at Maryland from 1974-1977, averaging 12.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. The Terps went 65-19 during his time in College Park, Md., and won the ACC regular-season title in 1974-75. Davis was a two-time second-team All-ACC honoree.
Davis was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 15 overall pick of the 1977 NBA Draft. He played for the Dallas Mavericks from 1980-1992, contributing 8.6 points and 5.1 assists per game throughout that time. The Mavericks won the Midwest Division title in 1986-87 with Davis’ help.
After mentioning Davis, Driesell had another suggestion.
“Why isn’t Steve Sheppard’s jersey up there? Steve Sheppard played on the last winning Olympic team played by college players,” Driesell said. “For Dean Smith to pick him for the Olympic team, [that] means he was one of the top 10 players in America. His jersey’s not up there. So give me a break. I’ve got about six guys whose jerseys oughta be up there.”
Sheppard also played for the Terps from 1974-1977, averaging 16 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists. The 6-foot-6 forward ended up playing in the NBA for just two seasons, though as Driesell mentioned, he did win a gold medal with the 1976 U.S. Olympic team coached by Smith. The roster also included D.C. native and DeMatha Catholic alum Adrian Dantley, who starred at Notre Dame and played 15 years in the NBA.
And then of course there’s Branch, whom there’s been plenty of talk about regarding the rafters throughout the years. The 6-foot-7 guard played for Maryland from 1981-1985, averaging 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He’s fifth on the program’s all-time scoring list (2,017 points).
Branch was also part of the Terps team that won the 1984 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. – one of three conference tournament victories in program history. He earned second-team All-ACC honors twice. Branch then played in the NBA from 1986-1990, averaging 6.4 points and 1.9 rebounds. He was on the 1986-87 Lakers team that won the title with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Byron Scott and James Worthy.
“He played on a Lakers championship team,” Driesell said. “He didn’t play much, but he was on the team. He got a ring.”
Driesell also talked about the Len Bias-Michael Jordan matchups in the ACC and more …
On how Jordan stacks up in the ACC all time:
“At North Carolina, he was good. Didn’t we have close games with him? I still think the best player I’ve seen play in the ACC is Zion Williamson or David Thompson. I think David Thompson as a college player was better than Michael Jordan. To tell you the truth, Leonard Bias might’ve been better than him – as a college player. But as a pro player, [Jordan] is the best. You watch that film that they’ve been showing on Sunday nights and he was unbelievable.”
On how Bias was able to beat Dean Smith’s defenses:
“We used to run our offense for him. We called it ‘The Special,’ when we just put him by himself on the right-hand side of the court. We’d throw him the ball and let him take one-on-one whoever was guarding him. Or he would come off of a double screen on the baseline on the other side of the court. Or he would just be coming over there and they would start switching. He would come back, he would just reverse and he’d be wide open underneath the basket. People had trouble guarding him. In fact, we ran that against North Carolina a lot because Dean always trapped everybody. They couldn’t trap him, really, with this particular setup we ran.”
On Bias’ all-around game:
“He could shoot outside, he could drive. If he got a rebound inside the lane somewhere, he just went up and dunked ‘em. He didn’t have to lay ‘em up. He just dunked on top of people. We ran an alley-oop on an isolation side on the right. He would break to the middle and then go backdoor, and we’d just lob it up to him. Keith Gatlin used to throw it. He was a great, great player.”
To hear more from Driesell, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Greg Fiume