There is no debating that Greivas Vasquez is the greatest Maryland basketball player ever to wear number 21. Included in his accomplishments playing for the Terps from 2006-2010, is a triple double, 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in an upset of North Carolina in 2009. He won the Bob Cousy award as the best point guard in the country as a senior in 2010 and has gone on to a solid NBA career playing for Memphis, New Orleans, Sacramento and Toronto. Deservedly so, Vasquez’ number 21 hangs in the rafters of the Xfinity Center, where he performed so brilliantly over his career at Maryland.
While Vasquez made 21 famous in College Park, if you look at some of the others who have worn that number for Maryland, it takes on an almost magical quality. And the performance of the current Terrapin 21 can only add to the number’s legend.
Varun Ram played only 13 seconds in Maryland’s 65-62 NCAA Tournament first round win over Valparaiso, but it may have been the most important 13 seconds of the season. Playing without fouled-out starters Jake Layman and Demonte Dodd, and leading by 3, Maryland coach Mart Turgeon sent in the 5-foot-9 Ram to try and prevent Valpo from scoring a game-tying three pointer. Ram did his job, forcing Keith Carter into the corner and slapping the ball away from the Crusaders guard as the buzzer sounded, sending Maryland to a second round matchup with West Virginia. Realize Ram had played only 55 minutes all season and hadn’t made a shot from the field all year.
Eleven March’s ago, another Terrapin 21 accomplished a similar feat. Mike Grinnon had come to Maryland in 2001, expecting to learn from seniors like Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Byron Mouton. He figured playing time would come when they graduated. He figured wrong. Maryland’s National Championship in Grinnon’s freshman year brought in a strong recruiting class. Grinnon continued to ride the pine as a sophomore and junior. But he never got down, hoping his time would come.
In the 2004 ACC Championship game, it did. As the 6th seed, Maryland had made its way to the final to face perennial-winner Duke. Down 10 late in the second half, the Terps managed to send the game into overtime. But in OT, they started to run out of players. Nik Canner-Medley and Chris McCray had fouled out and DJ Strawberry had sprained his ankle. With nowhere else to turn, Coach Gary Williams sent in Grinnon, who’d played all of three minutes all season in ACC games. With 50 seconds to go, leading 85-82, Grinnon found himself at the free throw line. If he would have missed, he wouldn’t have been blamed. It wasn’t like anybody else on that team could shoot free throws – Maryland ranked 318th nationally in that department. But Grinnon knocked them both down and Maryland went on to win 95-87 for its third and last ACC Championship. It turned out to be his one shinning moment as a college player. He averaged only 11 minutes a game as a senior the following year. But Mike Grinnon is the only player in Maryland history to be a part of a National Championship and ACC Championship team.
There is one other number 21 worth mentioning. Billy Hahn played at Maryland from 1971 to 1975.
Hahn was considered a key recruit for Coach Lefty Driesell as he built his program in the early 70’s. Consider this ACC preview written by John Kilgo in 1972, before Hahn’s first year of varsity eligibility (prior to 1972, freshman were not eligible to play on the varsity):
“Maryland is regarded as the team to beat in this league this coming winter. Coach Lefty Driesell recruited only two men. Both are guards. Howard White, a point guard, is a rising senior. Billy Hahn is a sophmore and firebrand. Lefty needs freshman help like he needs a bad press.”
As it turned out, those two guards that Lefty recruited were John Lucas and Mo Howard. They not only became excellent college guards, both went on to play in the NBA, with Lucas taken number one overall in 1976. Hahn sat behind both as a sophomore and a junior and went further down the bench as a senior behind another freshman, Brad Davis. He too went on to the NBA.
A Google search doesn’t seem to bring up any Grinnon or Ram-like heroics from Billy Hahn. He got some minutes here and there and was part of teams that went to the Elite 8 in ’73 and ’75. However, he too, would emerge from the shadows as a hero – this time as a Maryland coach.
In 1995, Coach Gary Williams came down with pneumonia and was ordered to stay home for the annual game at Duke. As Williams’ top assistant, it would be up to Hahn to coach the team. Cameron Indoor Stadium is one of the toughest places in the country to play. And though it wasn’t one of Duke’s best teams, they played well against the 6th-ranked Terps that day. But sweating through his suit almost as much as his boss would have, Hahn coached the team to a hard-fought 94-92 win. And it was a key victory as Maryland finished as co-ACC regular season champions with North Carolina.
It seems if you’re talking Maryland basketball, 21 isn’t just a good blackjack number.