MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

It is true Lefty Driesell swiped Tom McMillen, then the No. 1-rated high school basketball player in America, from the clutches of Dean Smith to effectively launch what we’ve come to know as Maryland basketball for the past half-century; but since then, beginning with Moses Malone, who signed with Maryland, but then opted for the big dollars of the American Basketball Association, it seems to have been destined that the Terps never have gifts fall into their laps, no matter how hard they work to earn them.

As the Rossington Collins Band once said, “Don’t misunderstand me.” Maryland basketball has had so many great players in its history, but it seems as though the biggest difference-makers who have come to Maryland were players that very few schools other than Maryland recruited – Len Bias, Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez, three players all Maryland fans hold in their hearts. Yet it just seems the ONE that everybody wants never selects door No. 3 and comes to College Park, even when the Terps are seemingly strong in the running to land said player.

Serve seems to have been held in the case of 7-foot-2 All-American transfer center Hunter Dickinson, as Maryland made him a very strong NIL offer and seemed to be in good standing, as Dickinson prepped at nearby DeMatha and would be rejoining his friend and former DeMatha teammate Jahmir Young and high school coach Mike Jones in College Park.

Yet, just as Moses Malone bypassed a single day at Maryland to start his Hall of Fame basketball career, Kansas had too much NIL money on the table, too much pedigree and seemingly a better chance to win a national championship for Hunter Dickinson to have returned home to Maryland, where head coach Kevin Willard is in just his second year of replenishing all of those factors in Maryland’s favor.

And more power to Dickinson for making the choice he feels is best for his career and his family, and more power to the boosters and administrators at Maryland who put together enough money to even have the Terps in the Hunter Over America sweepstakes. Being close to home amongst family and friends, being in familiar surroundings (Dickinson has long been a frequent visitor to the Maryland campus, even while he was playing for Michigan) and being a big part of a team and a program ready to make its move just wasn’t enough for the former DeMatha All-American to return home.

As for Dickinson’s well-known history, or lack thereof, with Maryland, the truth is former Terps head coach Mark Turgeon, the former national-champion Kansas Jayhawks point guard (isn’t irony delicious?) did, in fact, offer Dickinson when he was a sophomore at DeMatha, but then the Mitchell twins signing on for their short stay in College Park seemed to derail that process one way or another.

Maybe Turgeon didn’t recruit Dickinson and DeMatha kids in general thoroughly enough, which I do believe to have been the case. But based on all of Dickinson’s bellyaching over the past three years about how neglected he felt, in light of his decision to decline much stronger Maryland overtures this time around (who said there are no second chances?), I have no choice other than to believe he has never wanted to play for Maryland. Ever.

And that’s fine. Que sera, sera. To each his own. It is, after all, his life. He should follow his heart – or, in this case, his wallet, which is certainly his right. It would have been nice, though, if he had spared us the hurt feelings, the indignation and the theatrics for the past three years.

Particularly during the two days leading to Dickinson’s announced decision on Thursday and his very camp decision video that was filmed on Wednesday when KU head coach Bill Self came to Northern Virginia, based on what I had read – Dickinson’s fascination with something called the Boom Boom room, for instance – Kansas was the direction I felt this would go. Prior to that I was feeling Kentucky. And while Dickinson and his people kept everything tight-lipped and close to the vest, I just never had the feeling it would be Maryland.

Maybe that was because it has never seemed the Terps are supposed to have gifts fall into their laps, no matter how hard they work to earn them. Rest assured, though, under Kevin Willard and his staff, the Terps will have nice things. The Terps have nice things now, and a great, great thing going.

In the words of the great Sophia Petrillo, “Moving on …”

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT