Toliver makes point in bid to be starter


Freshman favored to lead offense in opener

Maryland women notebook


College Park -- For now, it appears that the keys to the Maryland women's basketball team have been handed to a freshman.

Kristi Toliver is the favorite to start at point guard for the Terps in their regular-season opener at Siena on Nov. 18. Maryland is coming off a 22-10 season in which it advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.

Toliver, a McDonald's and Parade All-American from Harrisonburg, Va., who averaged 28.5 points and 6.2 assists last season, said she is ready to fill the void left by the graduation of two-year starter Anesia Smith.

"The loss of Anesia was very big, and point guard is a very important position," the 5-foot-7 Toliver said yesterday at media day at Comcast Center. "But I also know that I'm getting ready every single day in preparation to fill the shoes that she had. I'm just surrounded by such great players that they make it so much easier for me."

While Smith was primarily a defender who scored points by converting steals for layups, Maryland coach Brenda Frese likes Toliver's offensive and defensive skills.

"With Kristi Toliver, we get both ends in terms of a defensive presence and her athleticism as well as her offensive abilities," Frese said. "This is a scoring point guard that in high school was used to averaging 28, 30 points a game. But [she's] also very unselfish. She's the first player that's going to get a teammate open."

Frese is equally pleased with the return of 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Laura Harper, who started the first nine games last season before rupturing her left Achilles' tendon and missing the final 23 games.

Harper, who had averaged 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds before the injury, said that despite warnings from the coaches and trainers, she wants to play.

"That's just my urge, my love for the game," she said. "I want to play now, but having people tell me that patience is a virtue is hard."

In other injury news, junior guard Kalika France and senior forward Angel Ross are both recovering from knee surgery during the offseason. The 5-foot-9 France, who averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds while starting 31 of 32 games last season, has battled tendinitis in both knees and recently had arthroscopic surgery on her right knee.

The 6-foot-2 Ross broke her right kneecap in April and has missed most of practice. Frese said both players could be ready for the season opener.

Not just paradise

The Terps' nonconference schedule includes a three-day trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands Nov. 24-26. But it won't be all fun and games at Paradise Jam.

Maryland is slated to play NCAA tournament finalist Michigan State, Final Four participant Tennessee and Gonzaga.

"Those games are really going to show us where we're at early in the season," Frese said. "We'll really be tested early with our young squad."

Pulling rank

Junior guard and National Player of the Year candidate Shay Doron isn't satisfied with the team's preseason rankings.

Four publications have placed the Terps in the top 15. Slam magazine ranked Maryland seventh.

Said Doron: "As far as I'm concerned, if you're ranking this team seventh, there's six teams that I think you're wrong about. But those are our locker room expectations. I can talk all I want. Now, we have to prove it."

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