Terrapins change with the season

After losing title, UM gained new faces

College basketball

October 30, 2007|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun reporter

College Park -- At first blush, conditions around the Maryland women's basketball team look about the way they did at this time last year, with a considerable amount of returning talent and national championship aspirations.

But a closer look around the Terps - who open exhibition play tomorrow night against the U.S. senior national team, the bulk of which will form the country's Olympic roster next year - reveals that things couldn't be more different, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to coach Brenda Frese.

"This team kind of needed a change," Frese said at yesterday's media day activities. "We had the same team back, the entire coaching staff. There weren't many changes. That [change] is part of life. Those are lessons that need to be taught and you need to go through in your career."

The biggest change for this season is that Maryland is no longer the defending national champion, having been unceremoniously removed from the NCAA tournament field by Mississippi in last season's second round.

To some Maryland players, the pain of defending and then losing the crown in an 11-point loss that wasn't really that close outweighed the joy of winning the championship in the first place and practically demanded changes.

"We're more a family than anything, so whenever you see people that you love and care about hurting, it hurts you," junior forward Marissa Coleman said during media day. "We sent [graduating seniors] Shay [Doron] and Aurelie [Noirez] off on such a low note. That kind of hurt to know that we weren't going to have a second chance to help them get another banner."

During the offseason, besides the departures of Noirez and Doron, the program's No. 2 all-time scorer, assistant coaches Jeff Walz and Joanna Bernabei left. Walz became head coach at Louisville and Bernabei wanted to raise her family.

The coaching holes were filled by former Utah assistant Daron Park and Diane Richardson, who previously directed a highly successful high school program at Riverdale Baptist in Prince George's County.

The next change is the addition of five freshmen, collectively ranked as the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, headed by Drey Mingo, a 6-foot-2 forward from Atlanta, and 6-foot guard Marah Strickland.

Strickland, a two-time Sun Player of the Year from Towson Catholic, is considered the leading candidate to take Doron's place in the starting lineup, as Frese has pronounced her defense considerably ahead of where she expected it to be at this point.

"It [the transition to college] has been probably better than I expected," Strickland said. "I expected it to be great, but it's probably better than great. It's been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but just playing with the girls and working out and being with the team is awesome."

The other notable difference around the Terps, who will play 14 games in the first 31 days of the season, has nothing to do with the on-court product, but is visible nonetheless. Frese is pregnant, and her twins are due in mid-March, around the time Maryland expects to be making a national title push.

"Hopefully, they [the twins] will come just in time to help us hang another banner up there," said Coleman, pointing to the spot in the Comcast Center rafters where the 2006 banner is located.


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