WASHINGTON – The Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team had already been to the mountaintop. Wednesday, the team came down to Capitol Hill.
The entire Maryland congressional delegation came out to welcome players and coaches and present them with framed resolutions passed by the House and Senate congratulating the team for winning the university’s first-ever NCAA basketball championship.
“Anyone who watched these 12 Terrapins this season observed the qualities that carried them to the mountaintop,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, and a Maryland alumnus. “Hard work and determination, teamwork and skill, and an unbending will to win allowed them to overcome virtually every obstacle.”
The Terps’ successful season included a 15-0 record at home during the last year of play at Cole Field House. The team then went on capture the ACC title and their first NCAA championship on April 1 in Atlanta.
Hoyer, who acted as host and emcee of the event, introduced each player and tried to lead the crowd in a “Stay, Wilcox, Stay!” cheer, in an attempt to convince sophomore Chris Wilcox to not leave college for the NBA.
Hoyer introduced the diminutive Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., as his “10- foot friend.” The 4-foot-11-inch Mikulski, a graduate of University of Maryland’s School of Social Work, was dwarfed by both the players and the Terrapin mascot, who fanned the junior senator on an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon outside the Capitol.
“Some of you are Marylanders by birth, but you’re all Marylanders in the hearts and minds of the people of our state,” Mikulski said.
“Your championship spirit on and off the court is what Maryland education is all about,” Mikulski said of the team.
The team was accompanied by Coach Gary Williams, Athletic Director Deborah Yow and campus President C.D. “Dan” Mote.
Mote said one of the greatest thrills of his life was climbing the ladder to cut the net down after the victory in Atlanta.
“I treasure this like the Shroud of Turin,” Mote said of the net, which was on prominent display Wednesday.
The team’s mascot, Testudo, also made an appearance.
“The last turtle I saw as ferocious was in a monster movie destroying downtown Tokyo,” Hoyer said.
Although split between Republicans and Democrats, the delegation members agreed on the exemplary sportsmanship the players showed on and off the court.
“There are many young people who look up to you,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D- Baltimore, told the team. “You not only did a great job on the court, but also did a great job doing interviews and in the classroom and standing up and being great men.”
Terps’ senior Juan Dixon, a Baltimore native and the team’s most valuable player, thanked the lawmakers and clearly caught the political spirit of the moment.
“After I finish my NBA career, I hope to move on to politics,” he said.