Destiny Slocum made plenty of incredible plays for Maryland women’s basketball in her freshman season, and was in line to make many more over the next three. The 5’7 point guard was ready to take the reins of the offense after the graduations of Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Her star was about to become as big as it has for any member of this program in a long time.
But all of that came crashing down Tuesday, as Slocum is transferring from the program. Sophomore forward Kiah Gillespie and freshman center Jenna Staiti are leaving, too.
It’s nobody’s job to speculate why players leave programs, but the only reasonable explanation for Slocum’s departure is that she needs to be closer to home. She grew up in Idaho and dealt with plenty of family health issues as a child. From the Baltimore Sun:
In a late-January interview, Slocum said she initially thought Maryland was too far away from her family’s home in Meridian, Idaho. She had helped nurse her mother through breast cancer and had grown up with her father coaching her every day.
The Washington Post’s Gene Wang raised similar points after reporting on the transfers, though he didn’t name anyone specific.
Homesickness for some, lack of playing time for others. https://t.co/nVUmTOI9nY— Gene Wang (@gene_wang) April 4, 2017
It’s important to remember that players can transfer for any number of reasons, and have the right to make whatever decision seems best for their career and their family. There’s no denying that these three departures put Brenda Frese and Maryland in an incredibly tough spot. Next year’s team was going to be centered on Slocum, but she’s gone. The Terps were going to need as much depth as possible to compete at the highest level, and now two high-upside players are out of the mix.
Gillespie looked like she’d be a star at the very start of her freshman season, but struggled to adjust to the college game and never seemed to find a role on this year’s team. Staiti was a deep-bench backup to Brionna Jones as a rookie and figured to be a much bigger contributor with Jones in the pros, but the Cumming, Georgia, native apparently felt out of place in College Park as well.
There are plenty of question marks suddenly surrounding this team, with none more pressing than at point guard. Slocum’s transfer leaves zero natural floor generals on the roster; Ieshia Small and Sarah Myers were Slocum’s backups in 2016-17, but both are atypical point guards at 6’0.
The Terps have now lost their top three scorers from this season in Jones, Walker-Kimbrough and Slocum. The top returning scorer will be Kaila Charles, whose offensive game didn’t stretch far beyond the paint in her freshman year. Eleanna Christinaki, the midseason transfer from Florida, could very well be the answer here, but she won’t be eligible to play until late December after the fall semester.
With Christinaki coming in and redshirts Aja Ellison and Kiara Leslie returning from injuries, Maryland currently has 10 players on its roster for next season, most of them unproven at the college level. Brenda Frese didn’t add a recruit from the 2017 class, which was understandable but is now starting to backfire; there are only three uncommitted players in ESPNw’s top 100 prospects. Landing a grad transfer is a possibility—at this point, it’s Frese’s best bet—but there’s no replacing a player like Slocum on such short notice.
The 2017 season was supposed to be Maryland’s best shot at a title for a while. It was the one-year intersection of Jones and Walker-Kimbrough with the No. 1-ranked 2016 recruiting class, and it was the one year UConn was eminently beatable (they turned out to still be incredible, but Morgan William brought their mortality to light). Ending the tournament run one game short of a shot at the Huskies was unfortunate then, and it only stings more now.
Maryland should still be Big Ten contenders next season, but the Terps’ ceiling is now incredibly limited with so few known quantities on board and their point guard of the present and future most likely taking a redshirt year on the West Coast. Destiny Slocum was incredible to watch in College Park, and while she’ll be fun to root for wherever she ends up, it will always hurt to wonder what could have been.