Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese has leaned heavily on junior forward Alyssa Thomas this season because of injuries that have left the Terrapins severely shorthanded.
Tenth-ranked Maryland still remained a contender for the ACC regular season title to the end, and Thursday both Frese and Thomas received recognition for keeping the team among the most competitive in the country even with limited numbers. The Terrapins finished tied for second the ACC and are the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s conference tournament in Greesnboro, N.C., where they open play in Friday’s quarterfinals against either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest.
Frese was named coach of the year in voting by her peers, and Thomas won her second straight player of the year award as selected by reporters and school representatives. Last season Thomas was ACC player of the year on both the coaches’ and basketball writers ballots.
It’s the first time Frese has won ACC coach of the year since coming to Maryland 11 years ago. During that time, the Terrapins have won a national championship, advanced to four NCAA tournament region finals and won at least 21 games in nine consecutive seasons.
Frese was Associated Press national coach of the year in 2002, when she directed Minnesota to a 22-8 record for one of the most dramatic turnarounds in women’s basketball history. The Gophers were 8-20 the previous season.
This season, Frese has gotten her team to prosper despite losing both starting guards and a reserve center to torn ACLs and working with an active roster of eight players and regular rotation comprising seven players.
Thomas, meantime, had the ball in her hands much more often than accustomed given Maryland’s unusual injury circumstances. The first-team all-American flourished nonetheless, finishing first in the ACC in rebounding (10.3), second in assists (5.3) and third in scoring (17.7).
“I’ve never had a player respond to challenges and have a year like Alyssa Thomas,” Frese said in a statement. “She’s willing to give every ounce of herself and do whatever her team needs. When adversity struck our team, she was a leader and always was the first person to step up and do more.”
Thomas was named first-team all-ACC Monday along with senior forward Tianna Hawkins, who led the ACC in scoring (18.5) and was second in rebounding (9.4).
“This year has been a really interesting road for us, but I think as a team, we’ve taken it all on and never made an excuse,” Thomas said in a statement. “To be voted this honor again is really special because there a lot of really good players in our league. I just work hard every day to make my team better and be the best I can.”