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.
“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.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.
“If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”
Those are the famous words of Deion Sanders, and while college basketball players certainly can’t be “paid” the words can be applied to the college game. Why? Shoes, that’s why. While signature shoes saw their start in the 1980s it took some time for college players to add their own personal style, with many of the nation’s top programs going with a more uniform look when it comes to footwear.
In recent years some programs have given their players more freedom to express themselves in this regard, and the results have grabbed the attention of many. One program that’s stood out in this regard is Miami, whose school colors (orange and green) tend to lend itself to more self-expression when it comes to footwear. Last year’s ACC champions displayed a wide variety of looks, catching the attention of both college basketball fans and diehard “sneakerheads.”
With the freedom to add their own personal flair, what shoes a player wears on the floor can become competitive but in a good way. Teammates can turn this into a good-natured competition of sorts, with the goal being to make sure no one’s shoe looks better than theirs.
“Definitely, especially between Shane [Larkin] and Durand [Scott],” Miami senior guard Rion Brown told NBCSports.com in a phone interview. “Of course guys like myself, Kenny [Kadji] and Erik Swoope jumped in. Every time a new shoe came out we wanted to get it before someone else got it, and we tried not to tell anybody [else] what shoe we had until the game started.”
The Hurricanes displayed some interesting footwear, and as Brown noted in the phone interview their colors (orange and green) worked well with some of the new shoes the program’s official supplier (Nike) released. Big man Julian Gamble wore the SoleFly x Jordan Spiz’ike shoe during the NCAA tournament last season, with the shoe being designed to commemorate SoleFly’s (a Miami-based sneaker boutique) two-year anniversary. As for the aforementioned Larkin, he wore volt colorways of both the LeBron X and the Spiz’ike (the special Black History Month release) during the ACC and NCAA tournaments. And among the sneakers worn by Scott last season were the Black History Month version of the Kobe 8 and the Zoom Huarache 2K4 Volt.
In regards to which players were the most creative last season, that was a tie according to Brown.
“I would probably say that was between Kenny and Shane,” said Brown. “Shane always had the most “up to date” shoes, and Kenny always picked the weirdest ones.”
Gone are the days of the old-fashioned Chuck Taylor shoe being worn on the court, much to the chagrin of some traditionalists from a style standpoint, with technology improving as well as consumers being able to practically design their own shoe (for a higher cost, of course).
That can go a variety of ways, from players creating their own designs to manufacturers designing special shoes for the programs they sponsor. One example of this would be Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour (founded by Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank). For their game against N.C. State in January the Terrapins wore a full “Maryland Pride” ensemble, complete with a pair of sneakers that featured different patterns in order to replicate the look of the Maryland state flag.
Another program that’s been one of the more creative in college basketball is Baylor, who wore those unforgettable “electricity” uniforms during their run to the Elite Eight in 2012. During the Big 12 tournament the Bears, who won the Postseason NIT, wore uniforms designed by adidas that had sleeves and their colors also led to some eye-catching footwear choices.
Is a player’s shoe choice the difference between winning and losing? Unless the player’s out on the floor playing in an uncomfortable shoe with its best feature being multiple holes in the sole the answer is obviously no. But while sneakers are clearly a billboard for the manufacturer, they also give the players an opportunity to show off some of their personality.
Some will go with the standard team issue sneakers, either because it isn’t that big of a deal to them or they play for a school that prefers that they go with a more conservative approach. And on the other end of the spectrum are the players who want to make a statement in two regards: with their play, and with their fashion sense.
As for Miami, Brown and his teammates will look to continue to wear distinct shoes despite the majority of last season’s squad moving on to the professional ranks.
“Me and Erik will definitely look to step our game up and keep it going.” said Brown, who noted that the Hurricanes’ newcomers are catching on when it comes to the footwear. “Even our three walk-ons, Justin Heller, Mike Fernandez and Steve Sorenson, have already started getting their shoes ready.”
We’ve seen it happen before in this current era of conference realignment. A school announces its decision to switch conferences, and the reactions from their current conference range from sadness and disappointment to outright anger. What those moves also do is open the door for programs to re-evaluate their relationships, and such is the case for Duke when it comes to Maryland.
Whether or not the game is a bonafide “rivalry” seems to depend upon who you ask. While Maryland fans love nothing more than to knock off the Blue Devils (the Terps have won the last two meetings), the series doesn’t elicit similar vitriol from the folks who cheer for Mike Krzyzewski’s program (to be fair, they’ve got North Carolina as a major rival). And on Thursday Coach K reiterated his stance on playing Maryland once the Terrapins join the Big Ten, stating on ESPN Radio 980 that he won’t be scheduling Maryland.
“The quality of athlete on the court and then the atmosphere that they were able to play in really brought out some special moments,” Coach K agreed, discussing the Duke-Maryland games of the late ’90s and early 2000s. “You can’t just say you’re going to replicate that in another conference right away. That was already there. It was established over a period of time, and that won’t happen again. That’s not gonna happen again, because we’re not gonna schedule them. It’s tough to schedule anybody when you have 18 conference games. But when we schedule non-conference, it’s usually outside of our conference area, so that we play national teams.”
At least Coach K gave an answer focusing on his program’s strategy when it comes to scheduling non-conference games, as opposed to other instances in which schools throw a fit and refuse to play the departing school out of anger. While it would be great to see the two programs schedule a series of some sort, with in-season tournaments and conference schedules that tend to be 18 games it is difficult to fit in every marquee game the fans may want to see.
But there is hope in the form of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, provided schools aren’t allowed to outright refuse to play the team selected by the conferences and TV rights holder ESPN. Those match-ups are usually dictated by the strength of the programs, so if there is a day that Duke and Maryland meet in the Challenge that would bode well for both programs (especially Maryland, with Mark Turgeon looking to making his first NCAA tournament appearance at the school).