— The 2002 Maryland basketball season could hardly have arrived quickly enough for Juan Dixon.
The guard and his teammates had lost a 22-point lead to Duke in the 2001 Final Four.
"We had a bad taste in our mouths the whole offseason," said Dixon, who is part of an eight-member class being inducted into the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday. "Losing that game to Duke, we knew for sure going into that final season that we had a great chance of winning. We knew that (forward) Chris Wilcox would bring a different element. We had every piece to the puzzle."
As Terps fans know, Maryland returned to the Final Four and – this time – won in the semifinals before defeating Indiana for the national title.
Last season, Maryland celebrated the 10th anniversary of that championship. The title — along with the honors that have accompanied it — are a form of redemption for Dixon, who remains Maryland's career scoring leader.
"No one ever thought that a skinny guy from Calvert Hall would be in the Maryland Hall of Fame," Dixon said Wednesday. "We had a lot of naysayers, but Coach (Gary Williams) believed in me."
The others inductees are former coaches Tom Bradley (baseball) and Cindy Timchal (women's lacrosse), football player Paul Vellano — who is the father of current Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano — field hockey player Carla Tagliente and women's lacrosse players Jen Adams and Sarah Forbes. Leonard Rodman — a fundraiser for the M Club, an organization of former Terps athletes — will be inducted for meritorious service.
Dixon still occasionally attends Terps games. He said that coach Mark Turgeon is building a team with the sort of balance that reminds him of the 2002 team. "They have the bigs, they have the wings and I believe they have the guard play," Dixon said.
Dixon, whose parents died of AIDS-related complications before he finished high school, played for the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons. Out of the league since 2009, Dixon said he hopes to return to the NBA.
He has also played overseas. Dixon, who once delivered an anti-steroid message to Congress, was indefinitely suspended in 2010, according to the Spanish team Unicaja, which said he had a positive result for Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, during a test conducted in Greece. Dixon had played in Greece before joining Unicaja.
Dixon said Wednesday: "I've never taken steroids. That was bogus."
His 2002 teammates included walk-on guard Earl Badu. Badu, who attended St. Frances, died last week after jumping from the I-95 overpass onto I-695, according to police.
Dixon recalled how fans chanted for Badu to enter the final game at Cole Field House in March 2002. Badu scored his second career Terps basket and had an assist during the game's final two minutes.
"He was a great friend who was going through a tough time," Dixon said. "We miss him, we love him and it hurts."
Tickets for the induction can be purchased from the 'M' Club office at 301-314-2619.
Note: The Atlantic Coast Conference announced that schools will have two "primary partners" in basketball once Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame join the conference. A primary partner is a school that is played twice every season — home and away. Maryland's previously known partner was Pittsburgh. Now the Terps will also have Virginia locked in for two games each season as part of an 18-game league schedule.