COLLEGE PARK — Before playing at
Ineligible to play in the
"We were focused, man. We knew that this was our chance to show how good we were and play against the best teams in the country," Walt Williams, now a sideline reporter on the team's radio broadcasts, recalled last week. "We definitely knew we we knew what was ahead of us. We knew we weren't going to play in any other tournaments, that particularly tournament definitely took on extra meaning."
Maryland lifted the trophy after beating
"It was basically that I wanted to go out there and show the fans at Madison Square Garden that I was better than all those guys," Williams said. "It was great for me to have that situation on such a stage."
Williams sees some parallels between that trip more than two decades ago and Maryland's visit to New York this week for the
Williams also seems a similar situation evolving for Maryland sophomore swingman Dez Wells, who after showing flashes of his
"It's an opportunity [for Wells] to go to another level and it's great momentum going into next seasson," said Williams, who would set a Maryland single season scoring record as a senior and become a first-round draft pick of the
For Turgeon, it came as a junior at
"We played Louisville and 'Never Nervous' Pervis [Ellison] in the preseason NIT and beat 'em," Turgeon recalled Friday after practice. "I made CNN play of the day, which was pretty cool for me because I wasn't a great player. We ran a backdoor play and this camera was on the baseline and when I made the pass you couldn't see me because I was so little.
Howard's MSG memory came when he was a freshman and the Terps played
"I remember I had to shoot a free throw, my legs were shaking and the ball barely went over the rim and they both went in and I was like, 'Whooo,'" Howard recalled Friday. "The first game, I got in foul trouble because I was so excited I kept fouling everybody. I'm a little more relaxed now and experienced."
After Maryland beat Alabama in an NIT quarterfinal in Tuscaloosa last week, Turgeon talked to his young team about the significance of playing in the Garden, mentioning everyone from
"It's just really cool for our guys," said Turgeon, who also coached Texas A&M to a preseason NIT championship there. "Any NBA player, any great player, [they say], 'It's the mecca, it's the mecca, it's where you want to be.' I know our guys will be fired up, but I also know Iowa's players will be fired up to play in the building."
Maryland sophomore center
"Madison Square Garden is a really famous place, and we're really excited to play there for our seniors, Logan [Aronhalt] and James [Padgett]. It's the last time they'll be able to play college basketball," Len said.
While they happened more than two decades ago, the two games Walt Williams played there while at Maryland are still fresh. He can recall how many points he scored, and the players he scored most of them against. He can recall lifting the MVP plaque. While he went back there many times during his NBA career, the memories he created as a Terp stand out more.
"It felt like a pro-type of atmosphere," Williams said. "You could tell from the beginning it was a different environment than a typical college game."