Every year on the occasion of the Maryland-Duke game (and sometimes in between, when I need a pick-me-up), I watch the video of former Terp Dave Neal taking Duke’s Nolan Smith OUT during the 2009 game at Comcast Center. 

Seriously, I’ve seen concrete walls that can’t set a screen that solid. And then! To finish with the 3-pointer! It’s all the reasons I love Dave Neal rolled into one clip. 

My ab-fab favorite part about it?

I was there. 

I went to great lengths to procure tickets for my dad for Christmas, and we got every bit of my money’s worth (unfortunately, I also set the bar for Christmas presents impossibly high).

My dad’s a big Terps fan, but until then, he’d never been to a game. Lemme tell ya, it would’ve been tough to pick a better one. 

The Maryland-Duke game in College Park is, at least for Maryland fans, one of the most awesome sporting events imaginable. The atmosphere is so frenzied, so emotionally charged, that it’s tough to even describe. And when Maryland actually plays well against Duke and it’s a close game, the atmosphere is like frenzied running on too little sleep and way, way too much Red Bull. Or Four Loko. Insane. 

Imagine that wild atmosphere, and then add in a Maryland fan favorite (Neal), a hated rival, a block that a linebacker would admire, and a beautiful, clutch, three-point shot. Can it possibly get any better than that? Some might say yes, like if they’d managed to hold on for the win, but for this Terps-crazy sports nut and her papa, you know, I don’t think it could. 

Although, the following year, I was at Comcast Center when Duke came to town as the top-ranked team and LOST and Jordan Williams dunked on Jon Scheyer on a no-look pass from Greivis Vasquez right in front of me.

That came really, really close to usurping Dave Neal’s screen for the title of Most Awesome Sports Moment Ever, but c’mon, there’s just no usurping Dave Neal. 

This year’s game itself probably won’t be one of those unforgettable ones (it wouldn’t shock me if it’s one Terps fans would rather forget), but after a pregame ceremony, it’ll be the first game played on Gary Williams Court. It’s an incredible, well-deserved honor for a man who defined Maryland basketball. 

If you’re going, I’m envious. And when you’re there, do me (and yourself) a favor. Look around. Take it in. Join the crazy crowd and yell something at Duke that the administration probably won’t approve of. Look at that wall of screaming, fanatical fans in the student section, and realize that all of them, and all the great games and unforgettable finishes in recent memory, all of them are the work of Gary Williams. 

Except that screen. That’s all Dave Neal. 

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