MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

It’s always fun to go back to College Park and particularly to the University of Maryland, even with a bad basketball game sandwiched into the middle of the day.

It’s different, of course; the campus has continuously changed since the days when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were just down the road in the Oval Office, and it continues to grow every day — but it grows up, not out. It remains the Maryland community because it’s still right there, together on the same campus it’s always been on.

I love Maryland; I love being at Maryland, and there’s no better time to be there than anytime. It remains one of the most traditional and beautiful campuses in the world, recognized for its red-brick Georgian architecture and its large central lawn, named McKeldin Mall and commonly known as “The Mall,” which is the largest academic mall in the United States.

White columns adorn most of the buildings, putting one in mind of the opening of a David O. Selznick production, with approximately 800 columns on campus, on which there are also close to 8,000 documented trees and garden plantings.

It is a green campus filled with white pillared red-brick buildings; a place of community, yet located right next to the most powerful city in the world, as well as mass transit and two metropolitan beltways.

For those of us who have been part of the community, visits provide a sense of comfort and of home, as well as wonderment and curiosity, because everything on the College Park campus has changed, yet nothing has really changed at all.

It is particularly beautiful in the fall and in the spring; but it is the stuff of Christmas cards in the dead of winter, and a helluva lot of fun in the spring and the summer. Lacrosse, anyone? The spring football game is coming up on Maryland Day; and we’re pretty good at baseball and track, too.

As for the basketball game on Sunday, the final home game of the season, it was one to forget, because it was a clear confirmation of the Bill Parcells prophecy, “You are what your record says you are,” and after blowing a 16-point second-half lead to Indiana to lose, 83-78, the Maryland Terps stand at 15-15 overall and at 7-12 in the Big Ten.

The Terps have one regular-season game remaining, Sunday at Penn State, before the Big Ten Tournament takes place later in the week.

The game was disappointing on so many fronts, beginning with the collapse coming on Senior Day when Maryland said goodbye to seniors Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, Jahari Long and Jordan Geronimo. It can be said the seniors deserved better, yet they were the leaders of a team that just didn’t have what it took to meet preseason expectations from the beginning.

Not their fault, because while there have been good moments this season, in retrospect, the expectations that were in place for this Maryland team (projected third or fourth in the Big Ten), while seemingly attainable, proved to be unrealistic almost from the beginning.

Donta Scott is a player who has seemed to have been taken for granted this season by Maryland fans, and the reason for that is likely he has played in more games than any player in Maryland history.

Think about that, because Scott had a very good career at Maryland, but clearly, Jahmir Young was the favorite son of this team and has been for the past two seasons, deservedly so.

Maryland’s top scorer and best player the last two years, Young grew up in Upper Marlboro, just down the road from campus, and grew up wanting to play for Maryland. He starred in high school for DeMatha Catholic, also just down the road from campus, and was clearly good enough to play for Maryland, even though Maryland, coached then by Mark Turgeon, was not interested.

After a great three seasons at Charlotte, Young transferred to Maryland for his senior season and promptly led the Terps, now coached by Kevin Willard, to the NCAA Tournament and a first-round win over West Virginia. He has been Maryland’s best and most popular player this season, as well as one of the best guards in the country; and even after such a difficult loss on Senior Day, he expressed what it felt like to finally receive his chance at the place he always wanted to be.

“Dream come true,” he said. “I mean, just wanting to be here. You know, the whole time that I was here was, it was great. Being under Kevin Willard and staff, being able to pick their minds and grow from them. I’ll never take it for granted. I’ll never take for granted the teammates that I’ve had and the relationships that I’ve made while the time I was here, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

It was a bittersweet day on Sunday. Bitter, of course, because of the outcome of the difficult loss on Senior Day and having to say so long to four players who have really grown on the place.

Sweet, of course, just for the opportunity to be on the campus of the University of Maryland and being able to take it all in for every moment you’re there.

Jahmir Young clearly knows what I mean.

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]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT