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Sixty percent of the starting lineup for Maryland's 2002 NCAA national champions are now Wizards. So why can't they compete in the NBA?
The three former Terps are Juan Dixon, Steve Blaker, and Lonny Baxter, with Dixon as always being the marquee name. Dixon is the only Division I player in all history to record 2,000 points, 300 steals, and 200 three-pointers. That includes Michael Jordan, "Pistol" Pete Maravich, and anyone else you can think of. Not a bad way to distinguish yourself.
Baxter was the glue in the center for Maryland's championship team, providing the inside option to Dixon's outside touch. Blake was the point guard with the heavy responsibility of choosing which of his teammates will light it up tonight.
Who are the other missing members of the championship team? They are center Chris Wilcox, now in the black hole known as the LA Clippers, and Byron Mouton, who didn't get drafted. Backup power forward Tahj Holden played in the summer league with the Atlanta Hawks and is still looking for a team to take him, as are all the other former Terps.
Is it a good idea to take a winning college team and essentially ask them to perform with the same results but against NBA teams? There's a certain familiarity that breeds chemistry faster when you have people who have played together a long time; that was part of the reason, for example, Boston took Raef LaFrentz to reunite him with fellow Jayhawk Paul Pierce. But you don't want to overdo it.
The Wizards team this season was a better team than the 2002 Maryland national champions but they were unable to win in the pros. Part of the reason may be that they were under a new coach, learning a new system. If that's the case, then we should see dramatic improvement next year.
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Ryan Young ofThe University of Maryland Diamondbackwrites: Reunited: Lonny Baxter joined former Terp teammates Steve Blake and Juan Dixon as a member of the Washington Wizards, giving the team three-fifths of the starting squad from the 2002 national champions.
Mandy Schulz ofThe New Bern Sun Journal writes: The Wizards are painful to watch and after the departure of Michael Jordan there has not been much incentive to go to a game, unless you just want to see three former Maryland players wonder what happened at the same time in Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake and Juan Dixon. If you do decide to attend a Wizards game I can assure you that you can take your pick as a sea of blue seats will surround you. Clearly, attendance is a problem for the Wizards. But add a beer-induced promotional incentive like that of the Lightning and I think that we could see a turn-around in support for Washington.Of course, the free beer would have to be offered at more than one game. Make it something like free beer on every fifth game and I'd bet you'd see more butts in the seats.