After the coronavirus pandemic cut Maryland women’s basketball’s last season short, the players are hungry to win a national championship title in 2020-21.
Last season, the Terps had a 28-4 record, winning both the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. They finished the year on a dominant 17-game winning streak and were on pace for a deep March Madness run.
Despite a smaller roster and the loss of the senior trio of Kaila Charles, Stephanie Jones and Blair Watson, the team, reloaded with new talent, shares a common goal of bringing a championship trophy back to Maryland.
Head coach Brenda Frese has spoken time and time again about this squad’s competitive nature. One player whose name keeps popping up is freshman forward Angel Reese, the highest recruit in program history as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2020.
“I came to Maryland because I want to win a national championship,” Reese said. “Especially because I’m from here. I want to bring one back home.”
Throughout high school, Reese averaged 18 points, 20 rebounds and five assists per game and was named The Baltimore Sun’s Player of the Year as both a junior and senior. But regardless of her personal accolades, Reese has a team mentality.
“Coach Frese asked me the other day what are my individual stats, and I said I don’t really have individual stats, that whatever comes, comes,” Reese said. “I want to see the team’s success and success for Maryland.”
Reese is not the only one who is prioritizing the team’s success, with 2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ashley Owusu declaring, “My number one personal goal is to help the team win not only a Big Ten championship but a national championship.”
Owusu dazzled in her freshman season as she led the Terps with 5.4 assists per game. She also finished third on the team with 12.0 points per game, making her the top returning scorer following Charles’ move to the WNBA and the transfer of Shakira Austin.
The point guard continues to receive national recognition ahead of her sophomore year, named to watch lists for the Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, in addition to earning a spot on the All-Big Ten preseason team.
Frese believes that this roster understands that when a team has success, the personal accolades will come along with it. She also said Owusu and sophomores Faith Masonius and Diamond Miller have made the improvements a coach hopes to see from year one to year two. Frese also said their confidence and comfort level on the court has grown and will continue to.
Miller and Masonius both flashed potential at several points last season at their respective positions, with each appearing in all 32 games off the bench in their first year with the program. Miller appeared to improve each part of her game as the season progressed, averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while Masonius showed a willingness to compete on the interior with her 3.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game averages.
Miller described the team as relentless. “We’re focusing on defense and making sure the defense goes into our offense,” she said said. “We’re just staying focused on improving and not have as many mistakes as last year.”
Two players who were recently recruited into the program are Harvard transfer, senior guard Katie Benzan and Mississippi State transfer, senior forward Chloe Bibby. Both players were drawn to Maryland because of its winning reputation.
“I just wanted to find a competitive program where everyone was very passionate and just loved the game,” said Benzan. “It wasn’t necessarily focused on my role but more of just the competitive environment that I wanted to spend my last year.”
Benzan was a three-time All-Ivy League First Team honoree for Harvard. Though she sat out last season, she averaged 13.7 points, 4.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in three years.
Bibby, who averaged 9.1 points and 4.8 boards per game over her last two seasons at Mississippi State, is the only player on the current roster who has played in a Final Four. And as someone who knows what it takes to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Australia native has confidence in this team.
“There is no reason why we cannot win a national championship,” Bibby said. “Just the amount of talent that we have on this team is ridiculous, and Coach Frese, she knows how to coach talent and she knows how to you know make us win games.”
Since 2002, Coach Frese has had 16 winning seasons, highlighted by the program’s first ever national title in 2006. This year’s squad, ranked No. 12 in the preseason AP Top-25 poll, will be tested early on when it plays Thanksgiving weekend against two ranked opponents in Missouri State and Arkansas.
But the Terps are ready to compete and are up for the challenge. They have a goal to win and are using their past success as a driving force.
“I think it speaks volumes to each player that championship winning mentality,” Frese said. “When you look at all of the state titles that Diamond Miller, Faith Masonius, Zoe Young, Angel Reese, Ashley Owusu...come in with. They’ve had a lot of great team success, so they are able to bring that to Maryland.”