1,000 join Terps at Cole to celebrate `Four' feat

Seniors unveil banner

student turnout small

College Basketball

April 05, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Nearly 1,000 people came to Cole Field House yesterday to salute the Maryland Terrapins for making history.

A 45-minute ceremony, during which players and coaches were introduced and cheered on a makeshift stage, culminated when seniors Terence Morris, Mike Mardesich and LaRon Cephas unveiled the red banner that summed up the ride.

The "Final Four 2001" banner, trumpeting the Maryland men's first trip to college basketball's main event, is destined for the home court's rafters.

The Terps made the Final Four by beating Georgetown and Stanford to win the West Regional championship, before losing to Duke, 95-84, in the national semifinals at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Saturday. Duke went on to win the national crown by beating Arizona.

Maryland, which finished with a 25-11 record, won 10 of its last 12 games, with both losses coming against Duke.

"The main goals I had when I came here were to give people something to be proud of and to do something to leave this program in a better situation than it was when I got here. I think I've done that," Mardesich said.

The crowd, which included fewer students than expected, held signs that read "Fear the Turtle" and "Terps Atlanta 2002," a reference to next spring's Final Four site.

One fan was overheard saying, in references to the sparse student attendance and to Saturday night's post-game incidents in College Park: "This is awful. Where are all of the students? Are they still burning stuff?"

The stage was all smiles, from coach Gary Williams to school president C.D. "Dan" Mote, who recalled the roller-coaster experience the Terps produced. He remembered that infamous loss here to Florida State on Feb. 14, when the fans booed the home team and the coach came under heavy fire as Maryland began to teeter on the bubble of NCAA tournament consideration.

"This is a legendary team. This has been a legendary season," Mote said. "In my lifetime, I can't remember many seasons like this."

Maryland ended the year with a final ranking of No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today national coaches poll. That fact wasn't lost on Williams, the final speaker.

"I've thought about being here back in October, when we were picked to be No. 5 in the preseason poll. All of the media was asking me if we could handle that situation," Williams said. "My answer is we finished fourth in the country."

Williams will try to make a run at his and the school's first national championship next season with a team returning four starters and 10 of 13 players overall.

NOTE: Maryland will join fellow Final four team Arizona, Temple and Florida in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Nov. 8-9 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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