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The Terps are Number Juan
Wendy Yu
April 9, 2002

Maryland has finally done it, the Terrapins won their first national championship on April 1, 2002, with an ugly win over feisty Indiana. It was not pretty, but nonetheless, they are champions. The Terps rode the backs of their senior stars, Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, and Byron Mouton. It was not the forecasted showdown with Duke that many had wanted to see. No, Indiana took care of that in the Sweet Sixteen for everyone. And then Indiana wrote a Cinderella story of their own. Granted, they were seeded #5, but they did eliminate heavily favored Duke (because Jason Williams is the biggest choke artist in the nation) and then heavily favored Oklahoma. The team of sophomore sensation Jared Jeffries and his three point shooting white boys took their second year coach to the championship game and got rid of the Bobby Knight monkey on their backs. However, it was not their fate to win. The Maryland team had a more heartfelt story to tell.

Juan Dixon lost both his parents to AIDs when he was still in high school. As a young, scrappy boy, no college had wanted to recruit him. His SAT scores were below the scholastic minimum to play Division I ball. He buckled down and studied extra hard with his girlfriend’s mother, a college professor. He scored above 1000 and was suspected of cheating. He was forced to take it again and still scored well. Maryland coach, Gary Williams, took a chance on Dixon when he saw the young boy play a pick up game during the summer. Juan Dixon has blossomed into Maryland’s biggest star. He finally won his championship his senior year, what a fitting ending to a great collegiate career.

Byron Mouton has suffered a tragedy similar to Juan Dixon. His brother was murdered earlier this year, and he struggled to recover from the loss. Mouton is not a prolific scorer or highlight reel like Dixon is, however, he’s always involved in the plays. And in the championship game, he was involved in two plays that gave Maryland momentum to pull away from Indiana. Mouton rebounded a terrible three-point miss by guard Steve Blake, who was turning in one of his worst games of his career, and while falling out of bounds, threw a lob pass to half court right back to Blake. A few minutes later, Mouton grabbed another crucial rebound off a Lonny Baxter missed foul shot, and the Terps scored. Both plays helped Maryland build a bigger lead. He always gives the team a second chance when they need it.

Maryland is the first national champion to not have a McDonald’s High School All-American on its roster. The entire team is made up of players that other college programs have passed on. Coach Williams had tremendous faith in his players. While he realized that they might not have been the most talented team in the country, they were the most determined to win. Many times, that is all it takes, the burning desire to win, that will carry a team to the top.

Coach Williams was the captain and starting guard at Maryland during his college career and is the first coach to win a national title with his alma mater. He has rebuilt the program that was embroiled in scandal in the early 1990s to a contender each year and finally now, a national champion. This team has defied all odds both individually and collectively to give themselves all a second chance; and all their hard work, effort and most of all, heart, has finally paid off. Congratulations, Terrapins, a win that was well deserved. - Copyright 2002 - Email us at
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