On Monday, the Maryland women’s basketball team was picked to finish first in the Big Ten in a preseason poll of conference coaches. The following afternoon at the team’s media day at Xfinity Center, Coach Brenda Frese and her players spoke about more lofty aspirations coming off a season in which the Terrapins lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“For us, it’s about being there at the end,” Frese said, referring to Maryland’s quest of making a run at its third Final Four in four seasons.
Frese also referenced Maryland fans needing to keep a copy of the roster close at hand, at least during the season’s early stages, when watching the Terrapins because of seven newcomers, including six freshmen who are part of the top-rated recruiting class in the country.
The two most heralded freshmen are point guard Destiny Slocum and forward Kaila Charles, both McDonald’s all-Americans.
Slocum is a two-time Idaho state player of the year slated to start this season. The last freshman point guard at Maryland with as much buzz was Kristi Toliver, who helped Maryland win the national championship in 2005-06.
Charles, also in line to start, was selected Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year as a senior at Riverdale Baptist. The Prince George’s County native played her first three years of high school basketball at Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Our staff has done a great job bringing them along,” Frese said. “They’re not being treated like freshmen.”
There are only two seniors on the roster this season in Shatori Wallker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones. Each has ascended to among the best at her position in the country.
Walker-Kimbrough, a small forward, averaged 19.5 points per game last season and led the nation in three-point field goal percentage (54.5), which also is a Big Ten single-season record. Jones, a center, led the country in field goal percentage (66.5).
Both were voted preseason first-team Big Ten.
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Walker-Kimbrough said of being picked to win the conference. “Yes, it’s about the big picture, but it’s also about the steps to get there, not necessarily the mile, but the steps in the mile. Hopefully with the hard work we put in, we’ll have a better season than last year.”