July 11, 2023
State of the program: Maryland aiming to recreate magic of 2022-23 with new cast
Terps retool after Elite Eight run
Maryland underachieving in 2022-23 would not have come as a surprise. Head coach Brenda Frese had just lost Angel Reese to LSU, Ashley Owusu left for Virginia Tech and Mimi Collins for NC State; Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby both graduated. Diamond Miller and Shyanne Sellers were the only returning players who’d played in the Terps’ 72-66 loss to Stanford in the 2022 Sweet 16.
Frese talked frequently during the year about how she lost 87% of her offense, making her team’s season panned out much more impressive.
Miller and Sellers guided the way, but contributions from others like Abby Meyers, Lavender Briggs, Faith Masonius and Brinae Alexander catapulted Maryland to the Elite Eight, where it came up short against No. 1 South Carolina.
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“I think it’s just understanding it’s a marathon not a sprint,” Frese told The Next what she took away from the team’s overachievement. “For us, where we were in November wasn’t where it ended up in March. We had a really, really difficult schedule. … It was pretty neat to be able to watch that continuity and the chemistry and be able to grow as the season unfolded.”
Headed into 2023-24, Frese must pull off a magic trick similar to the one she executed last season. With Miller and Meyers both WNBA first-round picks (Meyers has since been waived), Maryland’s offense will surely have a different look to it.
2022-23 record: 28-7 (15-3 Big Ten); lost in Elite Eight to South Carolina (86-75).
Big Ten finish: 3rd
Notable wins: @ Notre Dame (74-72), vs. UConn (85-78), vs. Michigan (72-64), vs. Ohio State (90-54), vs. Iowa (96-68), @ Ohio State (76-74), vs. Arizona (77-64), vs. Notre Dame (76-59).
Departures: Diamond Miller (WNBA), Abby Meyers (WNBA), Elisa Pinzan (graduation), Ava Sciolla (transferring to Columbia), Mila Reynolds (transferring to Purdue), Gia Cooke (transferring to Houston).
Additions: Jakia Brown-Turner (transferring from NC State), Riley Nelson (first-year), Hawa Doumbouya (first-year), Emily Fisher (first-year), Summer Bostock (first-year).
Key returners: Shyanne Sellers, Brinae Alexander, Lavender Briggs, Faith Masonius.
Ask Frese what led to Maryland’s success this past season and the same word pops up over and over: chemistry. Without it (like in 2021-22), the Terps likely would’ve underperformed again. But Miller’s decision to stay in College Park and lead the way for many new faces helped set the tone.
Miller, too, could’ve departed the program with several of her former teammates, as she explained during this year’s NCAA Tournament, though regardless of whether she stayed or went elsewhere, she would be working with new teammates. She figured she may as well stick it out where she was familiar.
“It’s an awesome story,” Frese said of Miller’s decision to stay. “You talk about the ultimate level of trust and why her legacy will be left here at Maryland forever. It wasn’t easy for Diamond. She had to come off of injuries; she didn’t start her freshman year, then had a significant injury, had a lot of really close friends leave and transfer out. It looked like a roster that you didn’t know what was going to come about. Just the trusting of the process and to watch that unfold in her senior year with so many new faces and the furthest we had gone in her four-year career, an Elite Eight finish and number two draft pick just says it all about her trust level and her commitment to Maryland.”
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Now with the Minnesota Lynx, it’ll be up to other players to fill the void she leaves behind. Perhaps, this means more opportunity for Sellers to become a focal point of the offense.
Averaging nearly 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game during her sophomore season, Sellers blossomed into the offensive star Frese knew she could be when she recruited her out of high school. During her freshman season, with a less prominent offensive role, she did what she could to find minutes; last year, when the opening presented itself for her to become more of a scorer and facilitator, she seized the chance.
“(She) just did a tremendous job of being able to score and play at both ends of the floor for us,” Frese said. “No different going into this season. She’s going to play even more point guard duties for us. Great size at 6’0, and she’s going to be asked to do even more this season for us.”
In addition to Sellers, Frese added Jakia Brown-Turner out of the transfer portal from NC State. Gearing up for her fifth season after averaging roughly 10 points and four rebounds with the Wolfpack, Brown-Turner brings much-needed experience – especially postseason experience – to a team hoping to make another deep March run.
It’s also a gratifying full-circle opportunity for Frese, who recruited the Maryland native out of high school, to finally welcome her into the program.
Heading into 2023-24, the Terps’ roster breaks down as follows in terms of experience: four grad students, two juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. The large gap in the middle could have its positives and negatives. The large number of grad students means less pressure on the more inexperienced players to contribute right away, but it also means more significant turnover after the season, like what the Terps have experienced the last two offseasons.
Still, Frese sees how she can use the roster construction to her advantage.
“You look at the number of vets we have, and that experience doesn’t put so much pressure on your freshmen,” she said. “It allows them to develop at the rate that they need to develop at, and then when they’re ready, you’re able to thrust them into the fold.”
If Maryland has anywhere near the success it had last season this coming winter, those freshmen will likely play a sizable role. Summer Bostock enrolled early and has been with the program since January, so she’s already a little ahead of the game, Frese said. She also highlighted Riley Nelson, a McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit from Clarksburg, Md., as a player to watch.
While the Big Ten isn’t becoming any easier to compete in, few programs have the track record of consistently producing winning teams like Frese’s Terps. Although things might look slightly different again in 2023-24, there’s a good chance Maryland finds itself in the top four or five of the conference.
“Obviously, it’s another challenge,” Frese said. “When you lose two first-round draft picks with Diamond and Abby, it’s going to be a new team, but I’m excited because there were some players on the roster who sacrificed a lot last season for the betterment of the team. I think every year is like, ‘What is this new unit going to look like?’ and ‘How quickly are they going to come together?’ and ‘What success are they going to have with another grueling schedule between the Big Ten, at UConn, at South Carolina, at Washington State?’ We’re going to be battle-tested, and so I’m excited to see how it all unfolds.”
Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel
Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.