Terps' Frese upbeat, realistic

New women's coach sees promise, plenty of work

College Basketball

October 17, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Brenda Frese, Maryland's new women's basketball coach, is glad to associate a glimmer of light with the program's not-too-distant future. After all, the miracle of taking the residue of an 8-20 program into a Sweet 16 appearance in only one year in Minnesota paved her way east.

Frese (formerly Oldfield), who was last season's national Coach of the Year, sees similarities with the situation when she arrived at Minnesota after two years at Ball State. She notes energy, athleticism and her new players' motivation to escape the rut the program has been in the past decade.

"If what I've seen is an indication from the first few days, it's going to be exciting," said Frese, the replacement for Chris Weller, who retired after 27 years coaching at the school. "They're really coachable. They work extremely hard. Good things are going to happen when you have a work ethic like that."

Yet, there's the reality that the Terps entered the 2001-02 campaign with hopes of an NCAA appearance, but sank to 13-17 overall and 4-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Also, the team's top two players, guard Marche Strickland and forward Dee Dee Warley, were seniors. Overall, only six players return, which is why it's sensible to project this team to duke it out with Wake Forest and Florida State to avoid a last-place finish.

"You always want to think that you're going to have some postseason and you'll do well in the ACC postseason tournament, but realistically, the goal for this year has to be get better," said Frese, whose debut will come Nov. 22 against visiting Loyola.

"We're taking over a program that won 13 last year and lost five seniors. This team just needs to learn how to play together and have confidence and have fun. That's what this season should really be about."

For now, the players talk about their excitement in playing for Frese - the positive reinforcement from the staff and open communication. They like playing in a new arena, and the specter of new opportunity.

"Everyone feels like everyone has the chance to make up their own slate," said former McDonogh star Vicki Brick, a junior guard. "It feels like a new start."

Brick, Terri Daniels (St. Mary's) and Renneika Razor are all experienced backcourt players in their fourth year in College Park, while sophomore Anesia Smith averaged 17 minutes last season.. A go-to player on the perimeter might come from one of these four.

The main concern is up front, which has been the program's biggest strength for at least a decade. Now, Crystal Washington is the team's only returning inside presence, having logged 10 minutes per game last year.

That may be beside the point, for Frese emphasizes that her teams will try to push the ball up the floor, willing to use the personnel she called "by far the most athletic team I've ever coached."

Excited as players may be for showtime, Razor admitted it could be "slow time" in terms of the program's improvement, and she dubbed it a rebuilding season.

"The later groups should have better teams with us," she said, "but I think we're still going to play to our ability. No one really has any expectations on us, so there's no pressure on us. But that's not a reason for us to slack off."

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