It was by design. Anthony Cowan, the senior and team leader, would be the last player to cut the net after Maryland basketball clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship.
Cowan waited for his moments and finally took the scissors, climbed the ladder and made the final cut before proudly holding the net and putting it around his neck.
It wasn't supposed to be his last moment as a Maryland basketball player. The team had high hopes for a run in the conference and NCAA tournaments, but both were canceled because of the coronavirus. Instead of thinking about those possibilities, however, Cowan is grateful for everything he accomplished in his four seasons at Maryland, especially that conference championship.
"From the moment I committed to the University of Maryland in 2015, it was my goal to hang a banner," Cowan wrote Friday in a farewell letter posted to Twitter and addressed to Terp Nation. "We could drive ourselves crazy asking 'what if' and thinking about what could have been. Instead, the greatest memory I'll have is doing something on senior night that I set out to do: hang a banner."
Cowan wrote that he has come to peace with the abrupt end to his college career.
Some have called the ending 'unceremonious.' But to him, there was a heck of a ceremony in that final moment on the Xfinity Center floor.
"Being showered in confetti. Cutting down the nets. All in front of family and friends," Cowan wrote. "And soon, that banner will be hung. You know I'll be back to see it."
The Bowie, Md., native takes such pride in hanging the banner because he's always been tied to the state university.
His father and uncle are alums of the university. His grandmother was a professor in the African American studies program. He grew up watching highlights of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, two of the greatest guards to ever take the court in College Park. He followed in Melo Trimble's footsteps and took the program to heights that his predecessor never did.
"Leave a place better than how you found it," Cowan wrote. "You know my story. Maryland is in my blood. It will always be a part of me."
During his senior season, Cowan not only helped the team ascend to heights it hadn't accomplished since 2010 — its last conference championship before this season — the guard also ascended the list of Maryland greats. Cowan finished his career first in program history in consecutive starts (130) and free throws made (579); second in career minutes (4,395) and starts (130); third in 3-pointers made (206); fourth in double-figure scoring games (107); fifth in assists (584) and seventh in points (1,881).
The banner that Cowan helped raise may have some company. Eventually, Cowan could join the Maryland greats that have their jersey number displayed in the rafters of the Xfinity Center.
But Cowan was never one to bask in the individual accomplishments. Even after the comebacks against Illinois and Michigan State this season — two games where Cowan took over late — the veteran guard remained focused on how the team could improve for their pursuit of a championship.
In the end, he got the championship he was seeking. The shortened season took a lot away from Cowan, but it can never take that moment from him.
"We are champions," Cowan wrote after naming every player and coach in his letter. "Nobody can ever take that away from us."
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