Head coach Gary Williams and players from the 2001-02 team look back at five key moments from the Terps’ championship run.
All memories were told to Glenn Clark or Luke Jackson.
Maryland defeated Indiana, 64-52, in the national championship game in 2002. What did it mean to hear the final buzzer sound?
That was amazing. We held Indiana under 50 [points] until they threw in like a 35-footer when we weren’t playing defense at the end of the game with three seconds left. I knew we were going to win from the two-minute mark on down, so you had time to reflect. Really, it felt more like, “Finally,” then this big elation. Obviously I was happy, but at the same time it felt really good to get that because you get judged by that. Whether you admit it or not, you get judged by winning an NCAA championship. Your team gets judged. In other words, if we [can’t] get back to the NCAA championship in 2002, I wonder how many people would know how good the 2001 team was, that type of thing. So you get judged by winning a championship. We were able to get it, and I thought about that before shaking hands.
We had so many doubters when it came to us as individual players, but we had a leader in Coach Williams that believed in us, believed in our ability. We were able to coexist and build an unbelievable chemistry and brotherhood. Me just flinging that ball in the air the way I did, it was just all of those emotions [coming] out. I hugged Lonny. They doubted Lonny. They doubted Steve Blake, myself, Byron Mouton, Drew Nicholas. Chris Wilcox was the only one coming into Maryland that was, “Wow, Maryland got a heck of student-athlete.” He was a [highly-rated] guy. He was 6-[foot]-10, he was a freak. But that team, no one believed in a lot of us and we were able to do something really, really special throughout our time at Maryland and we capped it off with winning the national championship against a storied, storied program.
It just takes me back to the best day of my life. Being from the state of Maryland, growing up watching Maryland, watching Walt Williams, the Len Biases, the Joe Smith days and me just wanting to be a part of the program. To actually accomplish that, to be the only Maryland team to actually make it to a Final Four and a national championship, it’s just one of the greatest achievements of my life. … Both [Dixon and me] being from the state of Maryland, it meant a little bit more to us because we have to hear all the chatter when we lose. When you go to the barber shop, when you hang around your friends, it just means that much to you just being from the state of Maryland. We had a lot of pride when you put that Maryland jersey on. We were just determined to win a championship no matter what.
Man, that was the best feeling of my f—ing life besides me having me having my kids. I got a chance to be around the fellas, and I got a chance to experience something that a lot of people will never experience. And we worked hard for it. I’m a living testimony of what hard work pays off for. We put in the work, so we got the results. The last couple of minutes when they took me out of the game and I went to G-Dub and started messing with his head and stuff like that, that was the f—ing moment of my life because I felt like I could achieve it. Me coming from where I come from, I won the state championship. They always say, “Oh, that’s on a small level,” this, that and third. But me winning a national championship, that did something to me, did something for my confidence and helped me when I got to the NBA, too.
There were a lot of stories surrounding that team [among players and coaches]. It didn’t matter whether you were a Maryland fan or not. I hear it all the time to this day, people still appreciate what we’ve done because we were that team that everybody loved even though you weren’t a Maryland fan. There were just so many stories surrounding that team. I’ll never forget, Coach told me and I still live by that because I coach basketball now, youth and high school. He always said, “You’re as good as your last game,” and my last game was being in the national championship. And I always will treasure that with my teammates and the people that supported us at the University of Maryland.
I do remember the horn going off and Juan throwing the ball up and me and Steve in a dead-out sprint to see who could get the ball because we both wanted the ball. In moments like that, things just kind of become a blur, if that makes sense. It’s almost surreal to the point at which you’re just going strictly off of emotion. … It was a heck of a celebration that night back at the hotel, I’ll tell you that. The whole hotel was celebrating. … I think so many people were just so ecstatic for the program and us, being the second time going to the Final Four and our first national championship. Everybody from the coaches, the players and all the boosters and fans that traveled with us, it was [amazing].
It was unbelievable. The moment that really I realized it is when you start to hear that “One Shining Moment” song because growing up, “One Shining Moment,” that’s what everybody wants to hear. Everybody wants to be on the national stage, and that’s when I realized it. The feeling was absolutely amazing, from the moment that the clock hit zero all the way to the next day when we went back to College Park. We arrived and there were people at the airport waiting on us. It was a magical feeling. It’s something that unless you’ve done it, you wouldn’t even understand. You wouldn’t even understand because it’s not something that you could ever really picture yourself doing. Yeah, you want to do it. Everyone who plays college basketball, their goal and their dream is to win a national championship. But until you’re actually in that moment, it’s unexplainable.
I was like a big crybaby. I felt that I was so blessed to be there because for me, coming from the Eastern Shore, a lot of athletes on our end don’t really get the opportunity or exposure to that sort of thing. So to be a part of history and to be a part of something that you really can only dream about is rare. It doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Only one team every year can win that. All the blood, the sweat, the tears, the late hours, the early mornings, the bonding time, everything we went through up until that point as well as everything the teams prior in the program had [gone] through leading up to that point, it just made it even more special. For me, I was just in disbelief. To come from Crisfield, Md., and to win on the biggest stage of college basketball was just an amazing feeling.
Even still looking back, from my perspective, it’s different where I didn’t really appreciate it until my senior year when I was graduating, to really look back and understand how hard and difficult it is to do something like that. … As a freshman on that team, I guess I observed more of Juan and Lonny, Mouton, Blake, Nicholas, those guys, what it meant to them because they sacrificed so much [during] those years leading up to that. For me, in the moment, it was a little bit different where I didn’t know anything different. That was my first year. I think they appreciated it more in the moment, and I got my real appreciation a few years later when I realized how tough it was.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Originally published Feb. 16, 2022