The Maryland women’s basketball team lost its top three scorers to graduation and transfers, leaving the team with just 10 players on the roster to start the season.
Senior All-Americans Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones graduated, while Big Ten Freshman of the Year Destiny Slocum transferred to Oregon State to be closer to home. Junior guard Kiara Leslie, sophomore forward Kiah Gillespie and freshman center Jenna Staiti also all transferred.
Head coach Brenda Frese, now in her 17th season with the Terps, will be looking for players to step up in the absence of those who left.
“They weren’t there overnight either,” Frese said of the development of both Jones and Walker-Kimbrough. “It was a process for them through their sophomore, junior and senior campaigns, just like it is for this team that is again really young.”
The Terps won’t have the instant offense that Jones provided down on the block or Walker-Kimbrough’s perimeter game, Frese said. While both current-WNBA professionals led the NCAA in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage respectively, the team still has its fourth leading scorer from a year ago.
“We have to have patience we need to have when you’re asking a Kaila Charles as a sophomore to be a go-to player for us,” Frese said.
Charles, finished with double digit points 16 times as a freshman, will be given the keys to the Terrapin offense this season. Frese identified Charles and senior guard Kristen Confroy as the leaders for this season, as both exemplify the personality and consistency that the program desires.
It will not be a year in which only two players steal the show, however, as the whole team will look to fill the vacancies left in the offseason.
“We’ve had a lot of players waiting their turns, so we’re really excited for them,” Frese said.
Redshirt junior forward Aja Ellison, who is coming off a year of not playing at all, will be among the Terrapin players to receive added minutes this coming season.
“Yeah the minutes this year will definitely will be spread out more,” Ellison said. “Like I said everybody is needed and everybody will have an important role. [The added playing time] also gives everyone else a lot more confidence and a lot more on our plate.”
Maryland will need that confidence to spearhead the non-conference schedule for this upcoming season. The Terps will play both the defending champions South Carolina and the historically great UConn Huskies within the first four games of the season.
“I think through my years here this is probably our toughest nonconference schedule we’ve ever had,” Frese said. “So we’re gonna know where we’re at early, which will prepare us for conference play and postseason.”
Frese will use such a tough schedule to better prepare for the NCAA Tournament, especially after the upset to No. 10 seeded Oregon to end Maryland’s season. While freshman point guard Channise Lewis did not suffer the defeat herself, she has noticed the attitude of her fellow players.
“Yeah I have sensed that they’re more motivated,” Channise Lewis said. “Everyone has been putting in a ton of work to replace the loss they have from last year. I’m pretty sure we are very hungry this year because everyone is underestimating us because we have limited players.”
After playing in the World University Games in Taiwan this past summer, Frese spoke of just how much of a boost that gives the coaching staff.
“They really did some things from a bonding end where their chemistry was really good…some things that give us an advantage going into the season,” Frese said.
“It was good to see how we matched up with not only other Division 1 players, but just the world and a lot of us want to go pro and everything,” sophomore guard Sarah Myers said.
As one of the veterans of the roster, redshirt senior guard Ieshia Small is tired of being asked about the players that left from last season’s team.
“At first I was used to it,” Small said. “But now I’m like after playing in Taiwan, I saw what we can do and I’m sick of this question. I know as a team what we can bring to the table so I’m just excited to see what people are going to see this season.”
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