During a November scrimmage on the floor of the Xfinity Center, things seemed to be practice as usual for the Maryland women’s basketball team.
The one difference during that day’s run, though, was the addition of one player to the team opposite the starters: Alyssa Thomas. The two-time WNBA All-Star and the program’s all-time leading scorer took the time out of her offseason break to train with this year’s team, passing down what she’s learned over the course of her six-year professional career to this year’s Terps squad.
But Thomas hasn’t been the only player to return to their alma mater to give back to the program in 2019-20. Crystal Langhorne, WNBA Champion and the driving force behind Maryland’s 2006 NCAA title, took to the floor with the Terps earlier this season as well, showing her commitment to help out her former coach even in the twilight of her playing career.
“They definitely get us better and they get us ready mentally for games,” senior guard Kaila Charles said. “So we just appreciate the fact that they love to come back and they love to give back and give us advice if we need it — talk to us, then help us out on the court and work out with us. They love giving us confidence, love giving us helpful advice to just be successful.”
Love having @athomas_25 and @_bjones18, two of our amazing #ProTerps, back and helping us get better! ❤️ #TerpFamily // #UnitedPursuit pic.twitter.com/jug2H11suH— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@umdwbb) November 16, 2019
In her now-18 seasons at the helm for the Terps, Frese has had 13 players drafted to play in the WNBA, eight of which were top-10 picks: Langhorne (2008), Laura Harper (2008), Marissa Coleman (2009), Kristi Toliver (2009), Tianna Hawkins (2012), Thomas (2014), Brionna Jones (2017), and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (2017).
Having produced so much high-level talent during her tenure as head coach, it’s created an elite network of former players that Frese has at her disposal to push her current team to be the best versions of themselves.
“It’s huge,” Frese said of the former players’ contributions. “Anytime they walk through the door, they’re always giving some kind of valuable input, feedback ... whether it’s to players or coaches, and it just continues to show what an extension of family that we really have here.”
The team’s most recent visitor this season came from Hawkins, a 2019 WNBA Champion with the Washington Mystics. She posed at center court with the WNBA championship trophy before signing autographs for fans at halftime of Maryland’s 88-45 win over Iowa this past Tuesday.
Tianna Hawkins brought back some hardware to College Park. @umdwbb x @WashMystics pic.twitter.com/wgza6jArOP— Maryland On BTN (@MarylandOnBTN) February 26, 2020
Having set a program record for average scoring margin at 27.0 points, the 2019-20 Terps are certainly one of the more talented groups Frese has had in her coaching career. As part of a team that accomplished a good deal in her time as a Terp as well (102-34 from 2009-2013), Hawkins recognizes how special this year’s team is.
“The biggest thing is they have a lot of chemistry, and it shows on the court,” Hawkins told Testudo Times during Tuesday’s game. “They had a little rough patch in the beginning, but they’ve been able to figure it out, come together and play hard every night.”
One of the leading reasons as to why the Terps were able to turn things around and rattle off 14-straight victories to close out the Big Ten play has been the torrid run Charles — an unanimous All-Big Ten honoree — has finished the regular season on.
Having passed Hawkins for 13th on Maryland’s all-time scoring list back in November, Charles’ play has taken her all the way to having the sixth-most points in program history at 1,948, with post-season play still ahead.
“She’s one of the greats,” Hawkins said of Charles’ legacy at Maryland. “Each year she’s done a great job with improving her game, adding to her game and just being great for Maryland.”
With her time as a Terp dwindling down, Charles has the opportunity to continue climbing the ranks among the school’s best players all-time as she enters the final stretch of her Maryland career.
And though she has just as illustrious of aspirations to strive towards beyond College Park, Charles hopes to return just as those who came before her have to help Frese & Co. maintain their standard of excellence in women’s college hoops.
“Of course, I’m from Maryland so I’m always gonna come back,” Charles said of whether she’d return to work out with future Maryland teams. “I’m always gonna stop by and see my coaches, see my past teammates or see the younger players who are gonna come behind me and just helping give back and just keep that culture going.”
*Correction: Brionna Jones and Shartori Walker-Kimbrough were not initially listed under top-10 picks. The story has been updated