I have been a Maryland Terrapins fan since my father first brought me to see John Lucas play at Cole Field House. I remember when only five or six jerseys hung in those rafters. You had Gene Shue, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, and perhaps one or two I’ve forgotten. I remember tears filling my eyes when Len Bias was so honored; he was my idol when I played high school ball.
I always wondered, however, where was Adrian Branch (Cheap Seats, “Grand Slam,” 5/10)? How could this list be complete without him? Since the Bias tragedy, I’ve watched as Walt Williams and Keith Booth have both deservedly been honored in Maryland basketball history—and still wondered, where was Branch? Is he forgotten at this point?
I’ve lived in New Orleans for some time now. However, I still religiously follow the Terps. And, yes, this was the best that a year can get. And, yes, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter both should have space made in the rafters of the new arena for them, and so should Steve Blake (just for the steal he took from Jason Williams in the Duke game alone, but unless anyone can tell me who has more assists, he does). Not only did these players bring a national championship to College Park, but these were, and will be, all four-year contributors to the Maryland program. Just like a young man who once helped to bring Maryland its only ACC Tournament Championship in my lifetime, in 1984—yes, Branch.
These last few years I’ve watched as Joe Smith and Steve Francis have both been placed among the greats of Terps basketball. Now, not taking anything away from either player—both did the Terps proud on the court—both were essentially just stopping through on their respective paths to the NBA. If it is all just a means to an end, well then, let’s throw Wilcox up there as well. He’s done the same thing—oh yeah, but he contributed to an NCAA Championship.
It does distress me that Maryland has gone to such shallow depths just to honor those players who became first-round picks for the NBA. If Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter have taught the college basketball fan anything, it’s that those four-year players, who may not necessarily be cut out for the NBA, can greatly contribute to a program. They are the ones we buy tickets for, to watch them beat the everybody’s all-Americans from Duke and UNC. It’s the Dutch Morleys, the Ben Colemans, the Keith Gatlings, the Jeff Baxters, and the Exree Hippses who bring true Terrapin fans to their feet.
Yes, it’s the Adrian Branch types who performed so well for us for four years that make us smile and stand up to any Tobacco Road fan and say “Go Terps!” If those jerseys hanging in the new arena are to mean anything to any longtime Maryland fan, hang “24 Branch” among them.