The 2011 version of Maryland Madness officially kicked off the start of the 2011-2012 basketball season Friday, launching the start of the Mark Turgeon era in College Park while saying farewell to former head coach Gary Williams, who retired after 22 seasons coaching his alma mater. The evening began with a video of Lefty Driesell discussing how they came up with the idea of midnight madness 40 years ago and wishing the basketball team great success this season. The event moved forward with games featuring fans and players, as well as a performance by Gymkana, fresh off their appearance in the semi-finals of the television show “America’s Got Talent.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the annual alumni basketball game, which featured several players from the 2002 National Championship team, as well as several current NBA player who, as a result of the current lock out, were able to participate in the event. Players from the 2002 National Title, most of which participated in the game, included Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, Byron Mouton, Tahj Holden and Mike Grinnon. Other former Maryland players who participated in the game included Steve Francis, Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, Laron Profit, Johnny Rhodes, and Jeff Baxter, among others. Maryland had hoped to have the starting five from the National Title team in attendance, to honor the 10 year anniversary of that team, but Juan Dixon, who was scheduled to attend, was unable to make it at the last minute and Lonny Baxter, the starting center on that team, was unavailable to attend as he is currently playing basketball overseas in Russia.
As each alumni player was introduced by broadcast legend and event emcee Johnny Holliday, the large crowd at the Comcast Center gave roaring ovations for many of the players, especially Steve Blake, the star point guard on the National Title team, and Byron Mouton, who was serenaded with his trademark cheer of “Mooo” from the crowd. But the largest ovation probably occurred from someone that many people weren’t sure would be in attendance that evening; Gary Williams. The now former head coach was introduced by Holliday and gave his signature fist pump to the crowd as the arena irrupted into chants of “Gary! Gary! Gary!”
"I talked to Mark Turgeon and made sure he was fine with it," Williams said. "It's just coming back to see these guys, and then I'm out of here. I'm just here for the alumni game, because all my guys are playing in it."
Lady Terps Head Coach Brenda Frese is introduced during Maryland Madness at the Comcast Center on Friday, October 14, 2011. Eugene Huskey/DC Sportsbox
After the conclusion of the alumni game, fans got to see the 2011-2012 Women’s basketball team, who was recently picked to finish 3rd in the conference by the media in their preseason poll and features two preseason first-team All-ACC selections in Lynetta Kizer and Alyssa Thomas. The team is also ranked in the top 15 in most preseason polls.
After the women completed a brief scrimmage, the crowd was introduced to the 2011-2012 Men’s basketball team for the first time. The beginning of the event was unique in that for the first time in over 20 years, someone other than Gary Williams was introduced as the head basketball coach. Mark Turgeon, hired from Texas A&M to replace Williams, was the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year and had show great success while coaching the Aggies. Turgeon spoke to the crowd, telling them that they were the reason he wanted to come to Maryland and that he wanted to build on the success that Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams had while coaching here. The men’s team lost seniors Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker to graduation, as well as sophomore Jordan Williams, who left school to enter the NBA draft, where he was selected in the 2nd round by the Nets. Walk-on Ersin Levent is also no longer on the team. Replacing them are freshman Nick Faust, a 6’6” shooting guard out of Baltimore, and Alex Len, a 7’1” center from Ukraine. Additionally, Maryland will also have six walk-on players this season.
During the men’s scrimmage, Len was impressive in his ability to score around the basket, but the freshman center has yet to be fully cleared by the NCAA to play for the Terps this season. He was allowed to participate in the scrimmage, but won’t be able to participate in practices for the foreseeable future as the NCAA continues to determine his eligibility status.
Freshman guard Nick Faust demonstrated why he was the highest rated recruit from Baltimore this season, illustrating the match up problems he could present at the guard position with his 6’6” frame and ability to score from almost anywhere on the court. Sophomore guard Pe’Shon Howard repeatedly demonstrated his improved point guard skills, dishing out flashy passes and assists that received loud cheers from the crowd while showing off his dribble-driving ability in route to scoring several easy baskets. Fellow sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin showed off an improved jump shot that seemed much smoother than last season.
Maryland is hoping to get help in the front court from redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey, who received a medical redshirt waiver after playing in just 3 minutes last season before undergoing season ended surgery. Maryland will also have to count on the continued development of sophomore forward Mychal Parker and junior James Padgett, along with senior Berend Weijs.
The men’s team begins their season with an exhibition against Northwood on November 4th at 8:00 PM at the Comcast Center and starts the regular season on November 17th against Alabama as part of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The women’s team opens up their season on November 1st with an exhibition against Messiah in College Park at 7:00 PM and begins the regular season at home on November 11th against Loyola at 7:00 P.M.