For champions, a charming reception

Baltimore rally honors the UM basketball team

April 12, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A cheering throng huddled outside Baltimore's City Hall yesterday to bask in the shine of the Maryland Terrapins basketball team and the city's native sons who helped the team bring home the national championship.

There was 12-year-old Jamar Briscoe from Cherry Hill, holding a cardboard sign coaxing Coach Gary Williams to recruit him in 2008, with his proud parents, Trinita Ricks and David Stanley, wishing they had remembered their cameras.

There was the tall young man in a business suit, Brandon Mallon, 22, a former Loyola high school hoopster who had played against Juan Dixon at Calvert Hall and described him then as "unstoppable."

"Just to play against him was unreal," he said.

Then, there was the flustered City Council president, Sheila Dixon, in a Terrapin-red suit, who became so excited she tripped over her lines on three points: calling the National Collegiate Athletic Association the "N, double A, C," saying "baseball" instead of basketball and introducing "Steve Baxter" - when she meant Steve Blake.

As the beaming aunt who helped raise star guard Dixon through a tough youth - his grandparents Roberta and Warnick Graves also played a major role - she was given a pass.

A large portion of the downtown work force, especially city employees, seemed to be taking a long lunch break and getting red in the face during the sunny rally. They were happy to call the Terps their own, even if few had official ties - as alumni or students - to the university.

Mayor Martin O'Malley put on his best game face for the occasion, acting as master of ceremonies in front of City Hall and welcoming all to the largest pep rally on the plaza since last year when Ravens fans flocked to celebrate the football team winning Super Bowl XXXV.

After the crowd swayed to such songs as U2's "Beautiful Day" and Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," the tribute began late, but no one seemed to mind.

"I'd rather lose my job than lose out on this fun," said Linda Moyd, 43, a teacher dressed out of sport season in Ravens purple.

The Ravens mascot was out for show along with a bouncy Terrapin mascot, as if to hit home how much the state's sports fortunes have soared. And the introduction of two native sons of Baltimore, Dixon and Earl Badu (of St. Frances Academy), heightened the delight and sense of connection.

"There are no [McDonald's] All-Americans, and they were still able to do a lot," said Drew Tomsuden, 33, who works in banking. "These guys were not heavily recruited, so it's a very Maryland-oriented team."

Matthew Haas, who graduated from the College Park campus in 1993, sat in a cluster of a few alumni by a flagpole. He remembered some "pretty lean years" before the squad's first national crown.

Taking the podium reluctantly, Dixon said, "We were able to accomplish something special."

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