COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller generally makes grand, sweeping pronouncements about her team about as often as, say, George Foreman turns down a meal.
In other words, it just doesn't happen. It simply is not not her gig to be effervescent about her minions, even when they have rewarded her with eight ACC championships and three Final Four appearances in 16 years.
So when Weller steps before a room full of media and athletic officials and calls this year's squad "the best basketball team in the history of the program" -- better even than the 1988-89 team that went 29-3 en route to the Final Four with two All-Americans and an Olympian to boot -- the ears tend to perk up and notice is officially taken.
"There's just no doubt in my mind that they're going to play hard. They like each other," said Weller. "I'm just really excited."
There are a couple of reasons for Weller's sudden burst of hyperbole. First, she wants the team members, ranked in some preseason publications as high as 15th in the nation, to know how good they are and have confidence in themselves as soon as possible.
"I want them to have the confidence to know that they are the best team we've had," said Weller. "I don't want to be low key with this team.
"Our first practice was amazing. They just came out all fired up. It was like the first time that I felt like I had to bolt them down. It was like a bunch of stallions had been set loose."
The second, and maybe most important, reason for Weller's enthusiasm is that the Terps may actually be that good.
Maryland returns four of five starters from last year's team that went 17-13, finishing second in the ACC and earning Weller's eighth NCAA tournament bid.
Weller also had what she described as her best recruiting year ever.
"We've had a relatively deep team prior to the [Len] Bias time and the obvious problems there," said Weller. "Prior to that time, we used to have a little bit deeper teams. We just haven't had them since then. This might be the deepest team I've ever seen."
The Terps are strongest up front with 6-foot-4 junior center Jessie Hicks, who led the team in scoring; Bonnie Rimkus, a 6-4 sophomore and last year's conference Rookie of the Year; and Walbrook High's Dafne Lee, a 5-11 sophomore who led Maryland in rebounding.
In addition, the Terps snared Malissa Boles, a 5-10 junior college transfer from Milwaukee, who was named to the JUCO first team All-America squad; and Michele Andrew, a 6-foot center from the Finnish national team, who scored 27 points on Maryland last year during an exhibition.
The Maryland backcourt is also loaded with 5-10 junior Katrina Colleton; 5-8 senior Mary Barnes, who returns for a fifth season thanks to a medical redshirt from her freshman year; and Estelle Christy, a 5-8 junior with good speed.
The Terps also added Karon Ferguson, a 5-5 freshman point guard who led Lanham's DuVal High to the 3A state championship last year, and Limor Mizrachi, a 5-7 sophomore from Israel. They are expected to see significant playing time.