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Three takeaways from Maryland women’s basketball media day

The 2019-20 Terps have the look of a national championship contender entering this season.

Georgia Tech v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Maryland women’s basketball media day was held on Thursday morning at the Xfinity Center, as the Terps inch closer toward the 2019-20 season.

After head coach Brenda Frese addressed the media, we got a chance to sit down with players to hear their thoughts on the upcoming campaign.

Here were the biggest takeaways from the day.

Kaila Charles is set to lead the team once again

After a season in which she posted a statline of 17.0/6.7/2.3 and grew into one of the team’s leaders, senior guard Kaila Charles enters the 2019-20 season set to pave the way for the team once again.

Having already earned All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Tournament Team honors for the last two seasons, being named a Cheryl Miller Award Finalist and an Honorable Mention All-American, Charles is primed for another strong season as the captain of the team. `

“It all starts at the top with Kaila Charles,” Frese said. “As you’ve seen the last couple of years as she goes we go. ... The talent and athleticism she possesses, she’ll do a great job leading this talented and really young team.”

As one of the more cerebral players, Charles is the ideal commander for the team on and off the floor. With three years of starting experience in Frese’s system, the senior guard has seen it all with the Terps and is ready to do whatever she has to put the team in a position to succeed.

“My approach this season is just giving energy to my team and not really focusing on me,” Charles said. “I’m just being more of a vocal leader, checking on my teammates on and off the court to make sure they’re okay, if they need any help whether it’s basketball-related, or school-related so just being more of a vocal leader and helping my teammates out.”

Freshmen will be expected to contribute right away

While other programs may shy away from giving freshmen immediate playing time, Frese has shown she has no issue with implementing fresh faces to the rotation. She did that with guard Taylor Mikesell and Shakira Austin last year, and is anticipated to do the same this season.

“When you see talent that comes in and they’re ready to play right away, you’ve gotta get them on the floor and get them that kind of experience,” Frese said. “A lot of coaches might have a philosophy that they need to wait their turn, or wait until they’re juniors or seniors in the system, but our players know every year that the slate is wiped clean and it’s all about putting your best talent on the floor.”

Frese will have the No. 3 recruiting class at her disposal this season, headlined by five-star guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller, as well as four-star forward Faith Masonius. However, the fourth of the group, Zoe Young, suffered an ACL tear earlier this month in practice. Frese said that Young will take a medical redshirt season and undergo surgery on Oct. 28.

The young Terps feel well equipped enough for whatever their head coach throws at them, and it helps that many of them won state championships or have competed with Team USA.

“I just enjoy that coach is able to give freshmen the opportunities that we always ask for,” Miller said. “As freshman, you don’t expect to play that much, but coach gives you a fair game every time you step on the court.”

Positive development from freshmen to sophomore year will be massive for this team

Frese saw her freshman philosophy pay significant dividends last season, with some of the team’s newcomers receiving considerable playing time in their first seasons with the team. Mikesell and Austin both played over 23 minutes per game and made 20 starts for the Terps in 2018, playing an important role in each of Maryland’s 29 wins.

Mikesell averaged 13.4 points per game in her freshman season, second on the team behind only Charles, while sinking 95 shots from deep — a Maryland single-season record for three-pointers made. Austin, the tallest player on the team at 6’5, dominated down low for the Terps as a freshman, averaging 8.4 points and pulling down 9.5 boards per contest.

Building on such success, Frese is impressed with what each has shown in preseason action, specifically praising Austin for how she’s improved between the end of last season to now.

“For Shakira it’s always been about consistency,” Frese said. “And seeing that consistency now starting kind of shining through in our practices, I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like when we get into play.”

Mikesell and Austin were both Division I ready as soon as they stepped on campus last year, with both helping the Terps finish atop the Big Ten and earn a Top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament. But if either can return as improved versions of themselves compared to last season, it will only make Maryland more of a contender for a national title.

Other things of note

  • The Terps welcome changes to their recruiting staff. Frese announced Thursday that Lindsey Spann and Kaili McLaren have joined the women’s basketball staff in recruiting operations and player personnel. Both bring a decorated resumé to the table for the Terps. Spann, a South Carolina alum, and McLaren, a UConn alum, add their experience under each prestigious program to the locker room for Frese.
  • Sophomore Tennessee transfer Mimi Collins will not play this year. After coming over from Tennessee after last season, Frese announced that Collins will sit out and will redshirt the 2019-20 season.

At 6’3, the forward averaged 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds while appearing in all 32 games for the Lady Vols in 2018. The Terps certainly aren’t lacking in height with this year’s squad, but Collins’ loss takes away from what could’ve been a towering Maryland team this season.

  • The talent level on this year’s team has “really increased”. For how talented the Terps were last season, Frese couldn’t help but rave about the squad she’s working with this year. Frese said she thinks she has size and depth at every position and “a team full of competitors.”