Keeping Maryland Competitive Amidst The Ever-Changing College Basketball Landscape

WHN | Jun 5, 2024

MARYLAND – It might be hard to believe that Brenda Frese has been the head coach of Maryland Women’s basketball…

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MARYLAND – It might be hard to believe that Brenda Frese has been the head coach of Maryland Women’s basketball for more than two decades now. Taking the helm in 2002, it only took Frese four seasons to win a national title—an accomplishment that many coaches have yet to earn.

In her 22 seasons of coaching, she led the Terps to 20 winning seasons, seven 30-win campaigns, and 19 bids to the NCAA Tournament. With a resume like this, it was a no-brainer for the university to have her sign an extension through the 2028-29 season.

“Proud of the sustained level of excellence. Really hard to do in this game, and really hard to do at this level. I just feel very fortunate.”

In this era of the transfer portal and NIL, it’s not as easy to keep a roster of the same athletes you initially recruited. Though Coach Frese has seen success with the Terps, this past season they found themselves in a position they haven’t been in since the 2009-10 season: a double-digit loss record.

That season, they were still a part of the ACC and finished 21-13. In the 2024-25 season, they finished 19-14. It would be Frese’s first non-20-win season since her first year as head coach. She was very transparent when reflecting on last season’s schedule and record.

“Our front-loaded schedule might have been too ambitious after losing two first-round draft picks in Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers.”

The Terps started the season with a strong 98-75 win against Harvard. The next two games to follow were huge losses: 114-76 against South Carolina, and 48-80 against UConn—both 30-plus point deficits. The next game they’d win against Syracuse in a nail-biter, 83-81. However, another loss would follow against Washington State, 67-87.

With those losses, Maryland fans were worried about how this season would turn out. Although the Terps found balance and hit a 7-game win streak, the team became riddled with injuries, losing three players to ACL injuries, something that Frese described as atypical for her squad and something her program really hasn’t experienced.

“They put their head down, they never gave up, and you really saw it pay off in March.”

Those wins in March definitely paid off big time for the Terps. It started with their two straight wins in the Big 10 conference tournament, one of them being against the number one seed and conference champion Ohio State. Although they didn’t win the conference championship, those wins are likely part of the reason they were able to get a secure spot in the NCAA Tournament. They earned their bid but faced Iowa State in the first round, falling 93-86.

It was a rollercoaster of a season, but now that it’s over, it’s time to look ahead to what’s next. It may be a few months until the season begins, but Frese and her staff signed three top recruits that make up the Terrapins’ class of 2024. Ava McKennie, Kyndal Walker, and Breanna Williams make up one of the top classes in the country.

Not only are the incoming freshmen solid, but Frese and company have landed seven transfers to add some depth to her bench. Some of the top names include Saylor Poffenbarger (Arkansas), Christina Dalce (Villanova), Amari DeBerry (UConn), Mir McLean (Virginia), and Kaylene Smikle (Rutgers).

“It has been a fun engagement. You can take that social media influence and turn some things for fun and for a really creative use.”

“Come party with Brenda” is a quote that Frese says was used during the season, and she and her staff put it to use on social media, posting the viral video of a photoshopped Brenda Frese dancing as they prepared to announce a new Terrapin heading their way. Coach Frese says she’s learning to embrace the way times have changed due to the age of social media. Not only is there a change in social media, but so is there with the realignment of the Big 10 conference.

“Never in my wildest dreams would you have told me we {Big 10} would be going out to Washington, Oregon, UCLA.”

Brenda says she doesn’t mind the realignment at all. In fact, she’s excited for her group to experience traveling to the West Coast, hoping they can make some fantastic memories out of it. She says one thing that’s helping her with the transformation is a quote she heard: “You have to embrace change, or you’re going to be irrelevant.”

Going on to say this is a great mindset for her because there’s so much change happening in the women’s basketball space, and if you’re not willing to adapt, then you can easily get left behind. There’s some elite-level competition being added to the Big 10, but that doesn’t stop Coach Frese from scheduling some tough opponents in non-conference play as well.

Right now, the Terps have Duke and Syracuse locked in for next season. Frese says they’ll also head to Croatia for some team building and practicing this summer. More than anything, she wants her team to not only trust each other but also trust her and the coaching staff.

With several conference realignments, transfer shakeups, and coaching carousels, women’s college basketball will pick up even better than where it left off. Terps fans are eager for the season, but I don’t think anyone is as eager as Coach Frese.

Brandolyn Hellams is a journalist and producer in Atlanta, who covers sports and entertainment.

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