With Alyssa Thomas chasing two of the most revered records in Maryland women’s basketball history and less than a week from the senior’s final regular season home game, Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese couldn’t resist a little ruse at the expense of the two-time ACC player of the year.
Frese brought Thomas to the floor of Comcast Center after a practice last week, saying the two needed to discuss an issue. That mysterious directive led Thomas to believe her coach was a tad cross.
After allowing the two-time all-American to sweat a little, Frese informed Thomas she would be having her No. 25 jersey raised to the rafters Sunday afternoon following the ninth-ranked Terrapins’ game against Virginia Tech.
“After the initial shock of thinking she was in trouble, she was honored obviously and extremely humbled,” Frese said. “Extremely surprised and wasn’t expecting it. A well-deserved honor and fitting that it takes place on Senior Day.”
Thomas, whose counter prank was filling Frese’s office with 1,000 brightly colored balloons, will join the likes of Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman in receiving the highest individual honor afforded a basketball player at Maryland. Statistically, Thomas already is in their company, needing 34 points break Langhorne’s all-time school scoring record.
Thomas also needs 75 rebounds to pass Langhorne for first place and 22 assists to move into fifth. Averaging 18.7 points, a career-high 10.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists this season, Thomas is among four players in NCAA history with at least six career triple doubles. Her 60 double doubles are a school record.
“I was in shock,” Thomas said when she first learned of the jersey ceremony from Frese. “I didn’t expect it to come at all, and just the way she did it, just hearing the news, it took me by surprise, but I was extremely happy.”
Apart from Thomas becoming the ninth player to have her jersey raised, Maryland is chasing a host of team aspirations, including advancing to its first Final Four since winning the national title. The Terrapins also can secure the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament with a victory over Virginia Tech and a North Carolina State loss to second-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame.
The top four seeds receive double byes into the quarterfinals of the tournament that begins Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., and avoid having to play potentially five games in as many days.
Maryland (23-5, 11-4 ACC) enters its final regular season game having won seven of eight and three in a row, including a 92-66 victory over Boston College on Thursday night in its final road game as a member of the ACC. Next season the Terrapins, after 36 years in the league, are set to join the Big Ten in all sports.
“As of now our confidence as a team, our chemistry as a team is just getting better,” center Alicia DeVaughn said. “Every practice, every game that we play, it’s just building toward [the postseason]. I’m very happy with where we’re at, so when we get to the tournament, our focus is going to be on that one goal.”
DeVaughn and Thomas, who had game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds against the Eagles, are among five seniors who will be recognized before tip-off Sunday. The others are reserves Essence Townsend and Sequoia Austin and starting guard Katie Rutan, who tied a school record with eight three-pointers in an 87-77 win against Florida State Feb. 20 at Comcast Center.
Townsend redshirted last season with a torn ACL, and Austin began her college basketball career as a walk-on before being awarded a scholarship. Rutan sat out one season after transferring from Xavier.
“Four years ago as a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect,” Thomas said. “Now my jersey’s being raised to the rafters. I’ve had a lot of great experiences, met a lot of great people, and I couldn’t be happier with playing here at Maryland.”