Maryland Freshman Lynetta Kizer Is Ready for Her Debut
Friday, November 14, 2008
Freshman center Lynetta Kizer already was aware of the challenge she faced in trying to help the third-ranked Maryland women's basketball team make up for the loss of Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper, a pair of four-year front-court starters who are now in the WNBA. Kizer identified "defense and getting boards and bringing energy to the team" as her main focus.
But then Marissa Coleman informed Kizer of another role she needed to fill: Kizer has to replace Harper as Coleman's chest bump partner. It's an important job, especially because Coleman hopes to have many opportunities to celebrate this season.
"You got to be in the right place at the right time," Coleman said. "If a big play happens, I shouldn't have to look for you. You should already be there waiting for me. . . . Those are big shoes to fill. Harp and I had that for three years, but I think [Kizer will] be able to do a pretty good job."
The Terrapins, who open their season tonight at Texas Christian, are counting on Kizer to do a pretty good job in other ways. The All-Met and McDonald's all-American from Potomac (Va.) High was voted preseason ACC rookie of the year, a nod to both her talent and the significant role she will have to play.
Last season, Langhorne (the program's career leading scorer and rebounder) and Harper (the 2006 Final Four most outstanding player) combined to average 31.4 points and 17.9 rebounds. Kizer, who was a dominant scorer in high school and is working on becoming a more physical presence in the paint, attended many Maryland games last season and tried to learn what she could from Langhorne and Harper. One thing, in particular, stood out.
"Their energy, oh man! Especially Harp," Kizer said. "They brought so much energy, and if there's just one thing that I can fill from where they left off, it's the energy. Just keeping everybody hyped up."
That shouldn't be a problem. When Kizer was in high school, a family friend gave her the nickname "Baby Shaq," in part because of her imposing 6-foot-4 frame, but also because of her playful personality. Before Maryland's first exhibition game, against DT III at Comcast Center, Kizer asked her teammates what color jersey she should wear.
"I feel as though, you been playing basketball as long as you have, you should know that when you're at home, you wear white," Coleman said, shaking her head. "That was a good one. We just laughed because we couldn't believe she just asked."
Kizer's trademark is her "Big Girl Dance," which she performed at Maryland Madness and which will be incorporated into the team's pregame ritual. The dance is so legendary that when Kizer was on her official visit with the Terrapins, Harper cajoled her into doing it -- while the players were eating at a crowded restaurant in Baltimore.
"She got up and she did it, and all the people sitting outside eating, they started clapping," Yvonne Kizer, Lynetta's mother, recalled. "She started taking her bows. Oh my goodness."
Kizer brings that "youthful exuberance," as assistant coach Daron Park calls it, to the court. During practice, her booming voice can be heard over the bouncing balls and squeaking shoes. When Park yells out an offensive set, Kizer echoes the call. When she's standing on the sideline, she's shouting encouragement to fellow freshman Yemi Oyefuwa, a raw 6-6 center from London.
Senior guard Kristi Toliver "is a quiet leader; she kind of leads by example. Marissa is somewhat the same way. If she needs to be vocal, she will, but she's not going to do it 100 percent of the time," Park said. "Lynetta doesn't know any other way. I think it's great. It keeps the practices energized, it keeps her teammates enthusiastic."
Kizer had to be a leader at Potomac, where she was team's unquestioned star and was named team captain as a sophomore. She started all four years for the Panthers, and led the team in scoring every season as well. As a senior, she averaged 21.7 points and 12 rebounds. Over the summer, she played on the under-18 national team that went undefeated at the FIBA America U18 World Championship in Buenos Aires.
"I know what my role is here, I know what shoes I have to fill here, but then again, I'm learning so much from" Coleman and Toliver, Kizer said. "It's the best of both worlds. I can contribute, but at the same time I'm still learning."