Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese has consistently emphasized that the Terps tackled a significant weakness this offseason, one that troubled them in crucial moments last year.
They added length.
Last year, Maryland’s lack of size was especially evident in the rebounding department, with the team averaging 1.6 fewer boards per game than its opponents.
Look no further than its two losses to South Carolina — the latter coming in the Elite 8 — in which the statistics become even more unfavorable. The Terps were out-rebounded a combined 103-58 in those two games, and they also allowed three different players to collect eight or more rebounds in both meetings.
From its easier games to the most important of the season, Maryland’s lack of size was a major factor that held it back from playing championship-caliber basketball.
But with some new pieces in the fold, improvements in rebounding and the overall performance of both the offensive and defensive units are expected.
Perhaps leading the charge will be Jakia Brown-Turner, a graduate transfer from NC State. Brown-Turner has the potential to serve as a versatile player on both the offensive and defensive fronts for the Terps. While she may not be the team’s top playmaker or scorer, she can score from multiple positions on the floor.
Listed as a guard, her 6-foot stature provides Frese with the flexibility to field a versatile starting lineup, allowing forwards like Faith Masonius to open up their game.
The Terps also hit the recruiting trail and brought in a trio of freshmen primed to make a difference.
Riley Nelson, ranked as the No. 18 overall recruit in the 2023 class, is anticipated to play a major role for the Terps. She mentioned during media day that she’s transitioning from playing wing and center positions in high school. At 6-foot-2, she adds to the Terps’ versatility.
Nelson’s offensive and defensive acumen have been on display in the preseason, as she notched team highs with 23 points and seven rebounds, along with three steals, in the Terps’ exhibition against California (Pa.).
Freshman forward Emily Fisher has also seen playing time in the Terps’ first two exhibition games, logging 19 and nine minutes. She collected eight combined rebounds in those games and is expected to be a valuable depth defender.
Fisher is her high school’s all-time leader in blocks with 100 and has a career average of 7.1 rebounds. Despite her 6-foot height, her imposing frame suggests she will be a strong defensive presence against bigger opponents.
Lastly, center Hawa Doumbouya’s progress throughout her freshman season will be of interest. The extent of her playing time is uncertain, as she just saw 10 minutes of action in the first exhibition game and did not play in the following charity match. However, her potential impact, especially standing at a remarkable 6-foot-5, makes her an exciting player to watch as she gains more experience and opportunities.
Doumbouya’s development around the rim and her ability to maintain her conditioning will be essential in unlocking her raw talent. During her junior year in high school, she averaged seven rebounds and three blocks per game. In her 10 minutes of playing time against California (Pa.), she managed to secure five rebounds and a block.
Maryland will also be the beneficiary of two forwards returning from injury: redshirt sophomore Emma Chardon and redshirt junior Allie Kubek.
Chardon brings valuable size and mid-range shooting to the team. Although she suffered a torn meniscus early in the 2022 season, she underwent a successful rehabilitation during the offseason. In her 21 minutes of play against California (Pa.), she recorded six rebounds. At 6-foot-2, Chardon possesses a lanky build but is remarkably mobile for her size, making her one of the most intriguing prospects on the team.
Kubek’s torn ACL in the 2022 preseason meant Maryland fans missed seeing her on the court last year. However, she has proved to be a strong rebounder, averaging 7.1 and 6.2 boards per game during her freshman and sophomore seasons at Towson. While she sat out both of this year’s preseason games, her return to the lineup early in the season is anticipated.
A lack of size proved to be the downfall of last year’s Terps. With that issue rectified, their ceiling has been raised.