Basketball Around the Beltway: Maryland women’s season preview

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The Maryland Women’s Basketball program has been a model of consistency over the last decade. Since winning the 2006 National Championship, coach Brenda Frese’s Terps have advanced to a pair of Final Fours and have made the NCAA Tournament in 10 of 11 seasons, all while getting accustomed to and dominating a new conference — a 58-3 mark and three Big Ten Tournament championships don’t lie.

However, the theory of “Maryland doesn’t rebuild, it reloads” will be tested this winter. The Terps graduated a pair of All-Americans in Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones, while also losing National Freshman of the Year Destiny Slocum to transfer. The projected depth will take a hit as well, as three reserves also left the program. The lack of experience and roster size (just nine players until Florida transfer Eleanna Christinaki becomes eligible Dec. 20) reminds one of the 2009-10 season that ended in the WNIT.

Returning is a pair of starters who were complementary pieces last winter in senior Kristin Confroy and sophomore Kaila Charles. Charles came in as a freshman and started as the “fourth guard,” finishing second on the team in rebounding.

“Kaila is one of our dominant leaders,” Frese said. “She wants the ball and wants the pressure. You see how explosive she is — she’s a matchup nightmare from that wing-forward position.”

Charles was voted to the Preseason All-Big Ten team. Confroy brings 60-career starts back to a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience and hopes to provide wisdom to a young squad.

“I’ve been to a Final Four. I’ve seen what doesn’t work in our early departures from the last couple tournaments,” Confroy said. “[I hope to] share that with them and hopefully make that so we don’t have to learn those lessons the hard way.”

On the court, Confroy also will provide production from the perimeter:  the guard ranked tenth in the Big Ten in three-point shooting last winter.

A pair of point guards will be charged with getting Charles and Confroy the ball. To start the season, the offense will be in the hands of sophomore Sarah Myers and freshman Channise Lewis. The 6-foot-1 Myers brings added rebounding for a team that’s playing a four-guard lineup. Meanwhile, Lewis is expected to add the spark similar to previous freshmen who have played the point for Frese: Kristi Toliver, Chloe Pavlech, Lexie Brown and Slocum each came into College Park and excelled running the offense their first winter on campus.

Up front, the Terps plan to rely on junior Brianna Fraser and sophomore Stephanie Jones. Each notched a double-double in the Terps’ season-opening win over Albany Friday night.

“Big things for Brianna Fraser,” Frese said of her expectations. “She has worked extremely hard; and when she puts her mindset in the right direction and plays at the highest level, she can’t be stopped.”

One key for Fraser as the team gets into Big Ten play will be staying out of foul trouble; the forward from Brooklyn fouled out opening night against the Great Danes. Jones is the younger sister of Brionna Jones, and while she doesn’t have the former Terp’s ridiculously sick collection of low-post moves, she appears to be the athletic forward (Laura Harper, Alyssa Thomas) that Maryland teams in the past have needed en route to deep NCAA runs. Stephanie feels the team’s participation in the World University Games in Taiwan will help.

“We were able to grow a lot as a team because we had all of those early practices and play together in Taiwan. Just to get a snapshot of how it was going to be [playing together] for the rest of the year, so I think we really grew as a team over there,” Stephanie said.

They’ll need that cohesiveness before conference play tips off Dec. 28 against Illinois, as the schedule begins with a bang. Maryland meets defending National Champion South Carolina and perennial power UConn in November.

“I think in all my years here, probably our toughest nonconference schedule we’ve ever had,” said Frese. “We’re gonna know where we are early, which will prepare us for conference schedule and the postseason. To be the best you’ve got to play the best, and so we’re excited about the games on our schedule.”

The Gamecocks come to College Park Monday, Nov. 13. While we’ll learn a lot about this team over the first month of the schedule, we won’t find out if this is a rebuilding or reloading season until the Big Ten battles of the New Year. Ohio State is the preseason favorite and is the only school to beat the Terps since they joined the conference.’s projection has seven schools from Big Ten advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Maryland is one of them — for now.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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