When you attend a Maryland Women’s Basketball game this winter — or at least for the first month — be prepared to bring a program. The Terrapins will look quite different from last year’s team that came up short to Stanford in Spokane, Washington, in the Sweet Sixteen.
The Terps not only graduated a pair of starters last spring in forward Chloe Bibby and guard Katie Benzan, but also lost transfers Angel Reese, Mimi Collins and Ashley Owusu. But this isn’t the first offseason where head coach Brenda Frese has had to revamp her roster.
“It seems like every single time we’ve been through this recruiting process, we continue to get the right players that fit us here at Maryland that fit our system and are culture-winning types of kids,” Frese said. “A lot of our traits will remain the same. We love to play fast. We want to run. We want to get up and down the floor. Those standards for us aren’t going to change.”
Thank goodness Frese and the Terrapins have been here before. They’ve had to replace players in her 20+ year tenure, from Kalika France to Lexie Brown, and have consistently landed on their feet.
“It’s just a great puzzle to be able to put together,” Frese said. “We’re looking forward to maximizing our roster — so much talent on this roster — and really putting all of them in positions to be successful.”
Another thing to be thankful about is the return of Preseason All-Big Ten selection Diamond Miller.
“The biggest thing for us and our staff is the fact that this is a player that now has been here four years,” Frese said. “Someone that I trust completely on the court as well as with her leadership for this team. It’s going to be exciting to see a healthy Diamond Miller back.”
Diamond Miller arrived in College Park before the pandemic and will play with her 25th teammate this winter. The senior from Somerset, New Jersey, isn’t shaken as much as stirred by the roster and rotation changing once again.
“We had a lot of good transfers leave, but we also had a lot of good transfers come in,” Miller said. “One thing about us, we still play Maryland basketball, regardless. We’re playing fast, we’re rebounding, and we’re pushing the ball in transition.”
When the Terps have been good under Frese, it’s been because they’ve had multiple scoring threats on offense, while as a team they’ve been a beast on the boards dominating the defensive glass. When they’ve been at their best it’s because of athletic forwards like Laura Harper, Marissa Coleman, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones.
With multiple bigs departing in the offseason, the center and forward positions will be different this winter.
“By committee, no question,” Frese said. “We obviously have addressed that our rebounding is going to have to be collective. We don’t have a 6-5 center, so we have to adapt. We might have to play faster.”
The lack of size would discourage most teams and programs. But the Terps have won many different ways over the years, and the road to contention with this unit isn’t lost on a coach who has won 500+ games.
“We’re going to have to use that speed in the full court — defensively, offensively,” Frese said. “The size hasn’t been where it’s been, but we do have great size on the perimeter.”
And since the last non-NCAA Tournament season of 2009-10, Frese and her staff have been able to answer whatever questions they’ve faced in November with runs that last through at least mid-March.
The season begins Monday, Nov. 7 at George Mason. Then the schedule will escalate a bit with home games against defending National Champion South Carolina, as well as perennial contenders UConn and Baylor.
“Probably the hardest schedule we’ve ever faced,” Frese said. “For our team, it’s going to be a marathon and not a sprint. We’ll find out about ourselves really early in the nonconference as we’re blending so many new players into the mix.
“But I also love it’s going to prepare us for conference play. It’s going to prepare us for postseason.”
Once again, the journey is going to be almost as interesting as the March destination.