There’s no doubt that Juan Dixon is one of the greatest players in the history of Maryland basketball. The Baltimore native led the Terps to two Final Four appearances and their lone national title in 2002, doing so while wearing the number 3. But even with this being the case, there seems to be a debate regarding whether or not Terps who have followed Dixon should be allowed to wear the number.
Maryland freshman Roddy Peters was originally expected to wear Dixon’s number this season, with the former Terrapin initially giving his approval when asked by head coach Mark Turgeon. But Dixon had a change of heart after discussing the matter with friends and family, and as a result Peters will be wearing number 2 instead.
Dixon, who was “caught off guard” when contacted by Turgeon, discussed why he changed his mind in a story written by Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun:
“The more I thought about the more I talked about with my family and closest friends who were at my house at that particular time, I started having second thoughts and I called him back,” Dixon said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun on Thursday. “I said ‘Coach, that number is a lot bigger than Juan Dixon the individual. That number represents history. That represents the team, it represents so many more things. It’s sentimental to the University of Maryland and to the fans.’ That was my whole thought process in calling back and saying I had change of heart. I knew nothing about him wearing it or about him idolizing me or wearing for his mom and sisters.”
According to Dixon, former Maryland head coach Gary Williams had an “unwritten rule” that no player would wear the number because of the guard’s impact on the program. But the school, like more than a few college programs, chooses to merely honor great players as opposed to retiring their jersey number. The reason is simple: there’s a concern about the possibility of running out of numbers, with college rules prohibiting the use of any number that includes a 6, 7, 8 or 9.
Maryland’s had some great players, and as noted in Markus’ story numbers made famous by players such as John Lucas (15; Johnny Rhodes wore it in the mid-90s), Joe Smith (32; currently worn by Dez Wells) and others haven’t received the same treatment. Would Maryland be better served to retire the numbers of their most famous players (Dixon mentioned the No. 34 worn by Len Bias as another that shouldn’t be worn by future players)? Or should they continue on the current track of honoring the player but not retiring the number?
This will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on, with fans and former players likely having no shortage of opinions on the matter.