Transfer Bjork From Illinois Is Eldest of New Terrapin Women
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Lori Bjork is by far the most experienced player on the Maryland women's basketball team. The redshirt senior guard has played in 97 games, scored more than 1,000 career points and set several three-point shooting records.
The catch is, Bjork has yet to play a single game for the Terrapins. She played three seasons for Illinois, and then transferred and sat out last year, per NCAA rules. Now, as the only senior on Maryland's 10-player roster, Bjork is in the odd position of being both a veteran and a rookie.
"It makes it kind of fun. I was kind of curious to see if anybody wanted to talk to me today," Bjork said with a laugh at media day on Wednesday. "I've certainly been around the block, and I feel like I have something I can share with these guys. At the same time, I'm excited about a totally new set of competition to play."
Bjork is one of six players who will make their Maryland debuts this winter. Only one starter -- sophomore center Lynetta Kizer, the ACC rookie of the year -- remains from a team that won 31 games, swept the ACC regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA regional finals last season.
Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, two of the best players in school history and the last remaining links to the 2006 NCAA title team, graduated. Marah Strickland and Drey Mingo transferred, and Dee Liles was recently dismissed from the team. Those five players -- all but Mingo started -- took 74 percent of Maryland's shots and accounted for 73 percent of its points.
"When you look at our team, I think the first thing that jumps out at you is, there are going to be lot of question marks this season," Coach Brenda Frese said. "We are very unproven. I think the only way you prove yourself is having game experience. For this young team, we're going to need to have that kind of time."
Sophomore guards Anjalé Barrett and Kim Rodgers, along with Kizer, are the only players who got significant playing time last season. Freshman guard Dara Taylor, a McDonald's all-American, is "by far the quickest point guard we've had in the program," said Frese, and freshman center Essence Townsend, who's 6 feet 7, is the tallest. Frese expects Diandra Tchatchouang, a freshman forward from France, to make an immediate impact.
Bjork has emerged as one of the team leaders during preseason; she was the first player to pass the conditioning test, and she "blew it out of the water," according to Frese. In three years at Illinois, Bjork averaged 11.4 points and graduated with a degree in political science.
She enrolled at Maryland as a graduate student in kinesiology, and figured she'd step into a team that was ready to compete for a national championship, not one that has nine freshmen and sophomores and could experience its share of growing pains.
"You obviously think you're transferring to a top 10 program, for sure. And I think that's a program that we still will be, just not when the season starts," Bjork said. "I think this program is at a point where we, as players, expect that out of us by the end of the year -- that we're going to meet that bar that's been set by the teams before us. That's part of the job description here. We're going to get that done and we believe in that."