As the Maryland Terrapins step on the court of Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina as the second seed of the ACC tournament, I cannot be prouder of this team.
Regardless of their outcome, I am happy that the team has had something to prove all season long, from eliminating the preseason prediction of finishing fifth in the ACC conference to beating both North Carolina and Duke in the regular season.
The basketball team's good fortunes culminated in a close win over rival Virginia in Charlottesville, clinching a tie for the ACC regular season title, and were lauded by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
The association named Gary Williams ACC coach of the year, star guard Greivis Vasquez ACC player of the year, and freshman power forward/center Jordan Williams ACC rookie of the year runner-up.
This is the second time that Williams has been named coach of the year in the ACC, the first being in 2002, the year that he led the Terps to its first-ever national title in the NCAA tournament.
Williams, 65, a Maryland alumnus who played point guard at the university in the 1960s, has coached at College Park, Maryland, since 1989, a few years after the death of Len Bias and NCAA sanctions thereafter.
Despite recent calls for his resignation after being unable to lead the school to another championship after 2002, this was definitely a year of redemption for him and his team, winners of seven straight games since February.
Williams has won over 400 games at Maryland, leading a team over the past two decades with relatively few nationally-acclaimed prep players.
Vasquez, a senior, was voted as the top player in the ACC on 39 of 53 ballots cast, with Duke's Jon Scheyer and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney receiving 12 and 2 votes, respectively.
Vasquez, the four-year player from Caracas, Venezuela, became the first foreign-born player to become ACC player of the year, as well as the sixth and last Maryland Terrapin to receive the award since Juan Dixon won it in 2002.
Vasquez is the first player in ACC history to record over 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. He also is the only player in NCAA Division I basketball to score 19 points and six assists per game.
Though both a showman and erratic at times, he has proven himself as a leader this season, after rescinding the idea of leaving school early to join the NBA last year, shooting and slashing at will to make himself and those around him significantly better, seemingly honing his skills for two big March tournaments.
Freshman Jordan Williams has helped Coach Williams and Señor Vasquez, too, chipping in 9.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 50 percent in field goal percentage in 30 games, 28 as a starter.
That contribution almost led to the ACSMA's awarding Williams (no relation to Gary Williams) rookie of the year, behind only Georgia Tech freshman big man Derrick Favors.
So far, this has been a banner year for Maryland. Who knows if this will translate into many more victories in March and, eventually, in April.
With the possibilities being so endless, all we need to do at this point is just adhere to the school's motto: Fear the Turtle.
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