|ESPN.com: NCAA Tourney 08||[Print without images]|
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- When it came time for Crystal Langhorne to pick her number at Maryland, the No. 24 she wore in high school was already taken. How appropriate that the next digit to pop into her mind was 1.
No other female basketball player had ever worn that number at Maryland, and no one -- man or woman -- has accomplished as much. Langhorne is the first athlete in school history to score 2,000 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds, and the only woman to reach either plateau.
|No matter what happens in the NCAA tournament, Crystal Langhorne will go out on top -- of Maryland's record books.|
She also ranks No. 1 on the Maryland women's career list in starts, field goals, field goal percentage and free throws attempted. Langhorne has accumulated a room full of basketballs and keepsakes commemorating her personal feats, yet the most significant measure of her contribution to the program is the trophy the Terrapins received for winning the 2006 national championship.
Fifth-ranked Maryland (30-3) has a decent shot at capturing another NCAA title before Langhorne, a 6-foot-2 senior center, wraps up a sensational college career.
"She has been a leader from the minute that she stepped foot on campus," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "She is a winner through and through. Obviously, she's a special player, and we may not ever get a player like Crystal ever again."
Langhorne didn't start playing basketball until eighth grade, but once she got the hang of it, she became almost unstoppable on the court. A standout at Willingboro (N.J.) High School, Langhorne was pursued by dozens of Division I colleges.
She picked Maryland, even though Frese was in the process of rebuilding the program. It is a decision Langhorne never regretted, even after a freshman season in which the unranked Terrapins lost to Duke by 30 in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals before being bounced in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"When I got here as a freshman, we kind of had a rough season, but I knew Coach B was going to bring in great players and we were going to turn the program around," Langhorne said.
Frese surrounded Langhorne with several fine players, including point guard Kristi Toliver and forwards Marissa Coleman and Laura Harper. But when the Terrapins need a big basket or an important rebound, they clear out the middle for their outstanding center.
Despite missing five of the first six games with an ankle injury, Langhorne is averaging 16.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. She could end up leading the nation in field goal percentage for a third consecutive season and becoming the first Terp to be a three-time All-American.
"She's the best post player in America," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said.
Joseph made that comment after Langhorne scored 31 in a double-overtime victory over the Yellow Jackets. But the coach was simply asserting what Langhorne's teammates have known for years.
|Crystal Langhorne shared the same vision for Maryland as coach Brenda Frese.|
"She's definitely, hands down, the best player I've ever played with," Coleman said. "In my opinion, she's the best post player in the country. She gets double- and triple-teamed and still can put up 20 a night. There's not too many people who can do that."
After Maryland's final home game last Sunday, the Terrapins honored Langhorne by hanging her number from the rafters. The ceremony was unique in that such festivities usually don't occur until the player has left the school.
"If you look at what Crystal has accomplished over her four years here, it just makes sense," Frese said.
Langhorne's success has not been limited to the basketball court. She has a 3.43 grade point average and will graduate in May with a degree in communications.
"I'm really happy with what I've done academically. It's very hard to mix basketball and academics, so I'm very proud of my time management over the past four years," she said. "I planned it really well."
Before she uses that diploma, Langhorne will take a crack at the WNBA. Her next coach can expect an attentive player eager to improve her game and make those around her better.
"What I am going to take away from this is how she opened her arms and her heart to me as a coach," Maryland first-year assistant Daron Park said. "She allowed me to come in and teach, and always listened and did whatever was needed to win. I'm kicking myself that I did not get here three years earlier."
It may be a decade or two before the Terrapins get another player like Langhorne.
"I know when I came here I had the same vision as Coach B. I just wanted to help the team win the national championship," she said. "I never expected that I would have won so many awards, broke so many records and done so much individually. It's been a great ride."