Brenda Frese enters 18th season at Maryland, expectations high for the Terps
College Park, Md. — Brenda Frese isn’t slowing down.
She’s leading the Maryland Terrapins for the 18th season and expectations are reasonably high for the 2019-2020 campaign. Last year, success was in her hands, but after the team earned the 2019 Big Ten regular season title, postseason dreams turned into dust. An early exit in the NCAA tournament against UCLA in the round of 32 and versus Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament slammed the breaks, giving the Terps a reality check.
“There were still some holes that we needed to fill,” Frese said about the offseason. “Our staff did an amazing job in the recruiting process and our players did a tremendous job in the offseason of coming back better.”
Frese’s former players also sparked inspiration. Five former Terps, Briona Jones, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Tianna Hawkins, Alyssa Thomas and Kristi Toliver competed in the 2019 WNBA Finals, which the Washington Mystics won for the first time in franchise history.
The dream of playing in a professional league inspired ambitious goals for players in the highly lauded program. Frese and the Terrapins are ready turn that inspired energy inward to take their chances at collegiate this season. They sit at No. 5 in the latest ESPN Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 Poll. The question is not what can Frese do to acclimate the diverse characters, but how she can tie the knot from one class to another to build a dominant squad in pursuit of championship status.
“What we’re most probably most excited about is the opportunity for us to put out a lot of great pieces together.” Frese said.
Maryland is a combination of versatility, depth and fresh faces with four senior starters and four freshmen. The team returns all five starters including senior guards Kaila Charles and Blair Watson along with forward Stephanie Jones as well sophomore forward Shakira Austin and last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, guard Taylor Mikesell.
Charles is the preseason pick for Big Ten Player of the Year. She has a chance to top last season’s average of 17.9 points per game. Leadership is another asset in Charles’ resume. Her to do list this season includes sticking to high-volume shooting and being a leader on and off the court to the three freshman guards.
“I definitely learned my lesson from those last two years and the seniors, vets and others who’ve come before me,” Charles said. “I’m trying to implement it every day by giving them energy, a little advice and tidbits, just making sure they’re confident in themselves. We’re going to need every single player this year to be successful. I’m just trying to be that vocal leader to inspire my team to be better every day.”
Frese recruited the No. 3 freshman class as ranked by ESPN. Freshman guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu and forward Faith Masonius are set to contribute sooner than later.
The summer has eased the transition with the players living together and spending time away from the floor to help bridge the gap between high school and college. Even team cheerleaders, like sophomore forward Mimi Collins (a transfer from Tennessee who will redshirt this season), helps Maryland glue their team together.
Freshman guard Zoe Young will sit her first season out after injuring her left knee and tearing her ACL during practice. Her surgery is scheduled for Oct. 28.
Frese won’t have to squeeze success out of a young group that oozes potential. All four freshmen were five-star recruits. Successful high school resumes that include a combined seven state championships amongst the four, plus stints in Peru during the Pan American Games for Miller, indicate they’re ready for their budding careers’ next steps.
“We’ve been working hard throughout the summer and we’re ready for that first game,” Masonius said. “As freshmen, we might be nervous, but translating that nervousness into competitiveness will help us in the long run.”
Maryland hosts California University of Pennsylvania Oct. 25 and Lincoln University Oct. 29 in exhibition games. Wagner visits the Xfinity Center for Maryland’s opener Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. ET.
Frese and her three assistant coaches will have their hands full early to avoid a quick rise of conference competitiveness, scheduling South Carolina, Quinnipiac, and Clemson, three teams that reached the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Hall of Famer Dawn Staley and South Carolina visit the Xfinity Center Nov. 10, only the second game of Maryland’s season.
“Immediately we’ll have an idea of where we’re at, where both teams are at,” Frese said. “Top recruiting classes ranked in the top ten, so it should be a great, competitive game for both teams.”
It’s an even matchup as Staley holds the top spot of the 2019 recruiting class with four five-star freshman of her own in guards Olivia Thompson, Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and forward Aaliyah Boston. Senior forward Mikiah Herbert-Herrigan and senior guard Tyasha Harris will be molding their younger teammates like Charles and Watson are expected to with the Terps. The not-to-miss game will air on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET.