In on ground floor for Terps, Doron, France eager to rise

November 14, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

COLLEGE PARK - Why did the coach bother? She must have known this was a losing proposition.

These are only exhibition games, Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese told freshman guards Shay Doron and Kalika France.

These are gimme games. A chance to see how the uniforms fit, get the air balls out of the way, check out rotations and substitutions.

This is a chance to build the lungs and legs - the start of a long journey.

Relax.

Ha!

In case anyone missed it, the careers of Maryland's two newest collegiate stars commenced Saturday. France netted 10 points and Doron scored 19, fueling a Maryland win in an exhibition opener against the Turkish national team.

"Everyone said it's just an exhibition game. The coaches are trying to take the pressure off, but we felt like it was our first game," France said.

Chances are it won't be much different Sunday in the second exhibition before the official opener Nov. 21 against Coppin State.

As dorm roommates, France and Doron have a lot of time to compare notes and bolster each other's confidence.

They met at a Nike Invitational camp two summers ago. They were roommates there, too, and laughed when they quickly discovered Maryland was bright on each other's radar.

"You going?" Doron asked France.

"You going?" France asked Doron.

They took their official visit to campus together. They loved the coaching staff. They decided they could make something good happen, start something together.

And it's true. They are an instant boost to Maryland, an instant backcourt, instant friends and teammates.

So it was little wonder that Doron and France did not take their coach's advice. They treated their first collegiate game like a game. The real thing. The real start.

Who cares who the opponent was or that the "W" didn't count in the standings?

"I'm going out to win," Doron said.

That's pretty funny, considering Frese calls coachability the best qualities about these two 19-year-olds - besides their abilities to run the floor, move the ball, shoot, score.

France, out of Bishop McNamara, was The Washington Post's All-Met Most Valuable Player her senior year and Maryland's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2003.

"She has so much athleticism. She's explosive," Frese said.

France is the shooting guard and can slip to small forward. She defended her height as 5 feet 11, even though "when I went to take the height measurements, they tried to mark me down to 5-10 1/2 ," France said.

"It really doesn't matter. I like to slash, go to the cup," she said.

Doron is out of Christ the King High School in New York, the same school that sent Chamique Holdsclaw and Sue Bird to Tennessee and Connecticut, respectively, then onto stardom in the WNBA.

Doron, from Israel, also has been a standout player on the Israeli national team. She has tremendous confidence, experience and maturity.

She made a life-changing transition at age 12 when she left Israel to study and play basketball in America in order to prepare for a collegiate career.

"She has tremendous poise. She wants to take the big shots. She's a pure scorer," Frese said.

When Frese scored this backcourt recruiting coup last fall, she was the envy of Division I coaches unaccustomed to seeing the Terps lure the best and the brightest to College Park.

It only further fanned the flames last month when Frese was able to really gloat.

Crystal Langhorne, considered the best prep post player in the country, chose Maryland over Connecticut, Virginia and Florida.

Maryland? Or the reigning national champs? Somehow, Langhorne's decision was easy: Terps.

"The [other Division I coaches] aren't very happy, but our signing date went really well," Frese said. "People are saying we must be doing something illegally to get these kinds of players here, but we're able to connect with these players and sell them on being here.

"This shows good things are ahead. It sends a message to kids that good student-athletes want to come play with Maryland over the national champs. With this class, we were validated. This is progress."

Harvard, Stanford and Duke were calling for Doron. Virginia, Old Dominion, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Villanova wanted France. But these two standouts wanted Maryland, mostly because they wanted to play for Frese, one of the hottest young coaches in Division I basketball.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow lured Frese to College Park a year ago to jumpstart the women's program, knowing it can share some of the hoops spotlight at the glittering Comcast Center.

What Gary Williams has done to restore the Terps men as a national power, Yow expects similar results from Frese.

"Even with this recruiting class, we're going to be young," Frese said. "It takes time, but I think you can expect to break into the national Top 25 within two or three years and move within the Top 10 within three or four."

After a one-year turnaround at Minnesota that shook the Big Ten to the core, Frese could all but call her next job. Now, after one year in College Park, she gets to kick off her real beginning.

Taking over a program is one thing. Watching your first recruiting class take the court is something else.

Her message to France and Doron was meant to take pressure off, but isn't that why they wanted to come here, to take it all on?

Something good for Maryland women's basketball has begun - for real, now.

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