Sunday, December 08, 2013 2:07 PM
Published on: Friday, March 01, 2013
By Brandy L. Simms
It has been more than a decade since the University of Maryland men’s basketball team captured the 2002 national championship, but Lonny Baxter still has fond memories of his playing days in College Park.
The Maryland native was a 6-foot-8 power forward and center who emerged as one of the top players in the Atlantic Coast Conference during his tenure.
Baxter, now 34, helped deliver the university’s first and only national title in men’s basketball when the Terrapins beat Indiana in the championship game.
“That was great,” recalled Baxter, “especially being a natural born Terp, so that means a lot just being from the state of Maryland and doing what we did. It was great for the state, for the school, for all of us.”
The national championship team featured several future NBA players including Juan Dixon, Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox along with Baxter.
The Terrapins were guided by Gary Williams who compiled more than 400 wins and was twice named ACC Coach of the Year during his reign.
Williams, who retired from coaching in 2011, surpassed Lefty Driesell in 2006 as the school’s all-time winningest coach and was honored last year when the Comcast Center floor was named “Gary Williams Court.”
“Gary Williams is the greatest coach ever,” said Baxter. “Real intense. (He) really gets after it. He’s a great person to play for.”
Baxter still follows his alma mater and says this year’s team could still make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
“I went to a couple games this year,” he said. “It’s my first time really being home in a long time so I went to check them out. I like Alex Len. He’s a big guy, can play. I think he’s going to be a lottery pick so we’ll see what happens, but I think they’re a young team. They’re still learning, still building so they’ll be fine.”
Baxter, who was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, has spent much of his professional career as a journeyman.
Besides Chicago, Baxter has toiled for Toronto, Washington, New Orleans, Houston and Charlotte. He’s also played overseas in Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Russia and says his next stop will likely be in Puerto Rico.
“The NBA was kind of up and down for me,” said Baxter, who is currently playing for the Montgomery County-based semi-pro Rockville Victors basketball team. “Basically, (I was) just moving around a lot, not getting really in a stable situation. When I left school, I started listening to the wrong people and things kind of fell apart, but I’m still thankful to be playing and still making money doing the things I love to do.”