From a marquee role, Brick slips to an extra

College basketball: Fate has left the onetime starter for the Maryland women's team with few minutes to call her own.

January 20, 2004|By Donovan Burba | Donovan Burba,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Before this season, the bench wasn't familiar territory for Vicki Brick.

The Maryland senior started at guard in all but 16 games in her first three years as a Terp and was a four-year starter at McDonogh before that. This season, though, playing time for the Timonium native has dropped drastically.

Including last night's 72-59 loss to No. 13 North Carolina, Brick has taken the court only 12 times in 17 games and never for the opening tip-off. Her 10.5 minutes per game before last night were third-lowest on the team.

"It's definitely a different role after playing here for three years and starting the majority of the time, to go to not playing a couple of games," Brick, a 5-foot-7 guard, said after a game against Virginia earlier this month.

In that game, Brick played 12 minutes, recording four points, three rebounds and an assist. In the next three games, she played a total of four minutes.

Last night, she got in for 10 minutes, scoring three points and getting one rebound.

Her diminished role is surprising in light of her experience and high profile. At the start of the season, she ranked ninth and 12th on Maryland's all-time steals and assists lists, respectively, and her picture is on the cover of the team's media guide.

But the arrival of McDonald's All-American Shay Doron and Old Dominion transfer Alli Spence, both guards, means that Brick, in her fifth year in the program, no longer is the team's on-court general. Doron, Spence and junior Anesia Smith get most of the minutes.

Doron set a Maryland freshman record on Jan. 9 when she scored 32 points in a 75-58 win over Wake Forest.

"Of course, it's disappointing, because I have such high goals and high aspirations for myself," Brick said. "No one likes being in that position, but at the same time, there's players in front of me who have been playing well ... and we`ve been winning [12-5, 4-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference]."

Indeed, there's no doubt that this Terps squad is better than last season's version; second-year coach Brenda Frese has already surpassed the win total (10) of her debut season.

Brick's part in the turnaround, though, has mostly come in situational, not starring, roles. Against Virginia, for example, Frese brought her in with the Terps up by 20 to help break the Cavaliers' tough, full-court press.

"Vicki's always been excellent in the press break, and I think she's able to help us in that situation," Frese said. "She did a tremendous job of being able to dribble through it and get us into the offense."

Former McDonogh coach Katie Cooper, who coached Brick her junior and senior seasons, remembered a player who wouldn't settle for less than 100 percent.

"She was the most competitive and intense player I ever coached, and she was the hardest worker I ever coached," Cooper said. "She wanted to be out on the court every minute of every game."

Mike Flynn, who coached Brick on the AAU Philadelphia Belles, said he saw a hitch in Brick's shot years ago, something that may have contributed to her benching.

Flynn also pointed out that the more Frese makes the team her own, the less leeway she'll give players recruited by her predecessor, Chris Weller.

"Once Maryland decided to hire a new coach, I knew Vicki would be under the gun to perform, because any first-year coach would have to depend on her athleticism and leadership to start the rebuilding process," said Flynn, who also edits a national recruiting newsletter.

"But a coach's duty is also to go out and recruit players who can come in and start and make an impact.

"Coach Frese went out and found two top guards and had a third transfer. That created a competitive time situation for Vicki. All the problems you would overlook in the first year now become detriments to her getting more playing time."

Nevertheless, Flynn praised Brick's competitive nature, an attitude that hasn't been dampened by time on the bench.

While Brick lauds Frese and the rest of the coaching staff for their openness about her role and is happy with her team's winning ways, she also said she'll always be fighting for more playing time.

"After every meeting, after coach explains to me her thinking, what her game plan is, I tell her that I understand that they're trying to win and they've been successful, but at the same time I'll never accept my position on this team, because I know I can play at this level," Brick said.

"I've done it for the past couple of years, and whenever that chance comes I'll be ready."

A two-time Sun Player of the Year at McDonogh, Brick closed out her high school career with a 44-game winning streak. After averaging 7.2 points and 4.3 assists as a freshman at Maryland, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in September 2000 and sat out a season as a redshirt.

She returned to start 47 games over the next two years, putting up 6.5 points and 4.0 assists per game.

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