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Terps women lose starters Angel Reese, Ashley Owusu to transfer portal

Ashley Owusu will transfer from Maryland after three seasons. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
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Shock waves went through the Maryland women’s basketball program Tuesday with the news that Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu — the Terrapins’ two leading scorers — will enter the transfer portal.

A person familiar with Reese’s decision confirmed the departure of the sophomore, the highest-ranked recruit in program history, on Tuesday night. Owusu, the team’s second-leading scorer, tweeted her plans to transfer Tuesday morning.

Reese, a guard/forward out of Baltimore, averaged 17.8 points for the Terrapins. Owusu, a junior guard from Woodbridge, Va., averaged 14.3 points.

“We wish these student-athletes all the best as they continue their basketball careers and education elsewhere,” Coach Brenda Frese said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Every team has been impacted by the transfer portal on both ends of it. Maryland basketball is bigger than any one lineup or person. Our staff is committed to bringing the best student-athletes to Maryland.”

The Terps also lost reserves Taisiya Kozlova and Channise Lewis to the transfer portal. Kozlova was the ninth player off the bench during her sophomore year, and Lewis didn’t play in a game as a graduate student.

The departures came on the heels of a disappointing 2021-22 season for the Terrapins, who began the campaign with national title hopes but failed to win a game in the Big Ten tournament and were bounced out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

In a tweet announcing her move, Owusu referenced “events that have transpired on and off the court.”

“I have never started anything that I haven’t finished, and finishing was the plan when I decided to come to College Park,” Owusu wrote. “My goal was to have a great career here and to win a national championship alongside an amazing team. I could picture my jersey hanging in the rafters at Xfinity Center.

“Unfortunately, events that have transpired on and off the court this year have led me to make the very difficult but necessary decision to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere.”

Reese did not make a statement, but she retweeted reports of the news on Twitter. She was named third-team all-America and first-team all-Big Ten this season, when she also averaged 10.6 rebounds. The Baltimore native entered the program as the No. 2 recruit in the 2020 class. After missing most of her freshman season with a broken foot, she started all but one game this season and was the No. 1 option in Frese’s offense.

After the disappointing end to the season, Reese tweeted, “We’ll be back, I’ll be back, TRUST ME..” Her brother Julian Reese just finished his freshman year on the Maryland men’s basketball team.

Owusu, who starred at Paul VI in Fairfax County, endured a junior season that was a step backward after she was named third-team all-America and first-team all-Big Ten as a sophomore. She earned at least a share of Big Ten tournament most valuable player honors as a freshman and sophomore and led the team with 17.9 points per game her second year. Owusu’s numbers dipped in every category except three-point percentage, and she shot just 42.4 percent from the field.

The offense evolved into using Reese as the No. 1 option in the post as opposed to playing through Owusu, who suffered an ankle injury and missed five games late in the season. Owusu finished the regular season coming off the bench before moving back into the starting lineup for the NCAA tournament. She averaged 22 points in the first two rounds of the tournament before looking out of sync and scoring four points in the season-ending loss to Stanford.

Maryland falls to top-seeded Stanford, exits in Sweet 16 for second straight season

Frese now must replace four starters heading into next season with guard Katie Benzan and forward Chloe Bibby having exhausted their eligibility.

Owusu entered Maryland ranked the No. 1 point guard in the nation according to ESPN and a McDonald’s all-American. The change probably ensures that Big Ten sixth player of the year and all-freshman team selection Shyanne Sellers moves into the starting lineup. Guard Diamond Miller is the only other starter expected to return.

The pair continue a trend of high-profile players to transfer from the Maryland program. Frese lost Taylor Mikesell (Oregon, then Ohio State), Shakira Austin (Mississippi) and Olivia Owens (Kentucky) two offseasons ago.

The transfer portal was a discussion topic at the NCAA Final Four last week. Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said he understood that players leave all the time but questioned some of the decision-making behind the moves. There were reportedly 850 players in the portal last week.

“You know those 850 people in the portal? Three hundred of them are not going to find a school to go to because they’re going to realize it’s not the school they just left,” Auriemma said. “Just like last year, right? A thousand kids in the portal, 250 of them had no place to go, and the guys that they left don’t want them back. Whatever happened to go and figure it the hell out?

“Yeah, sometimes you have to leave. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do. No question about that. But 800, 1,000 of them? There’s only 365 Division I schools. It’s like three at every school.”

Dawn of an era: Staley and South Carolina now set the standard

South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley, who became the first Black coach on the men’s or women’s side to win two Division I national championships Sunday, called the process “way, way, way, way out of hand.” She acknowledged that some players did not sign up to sit on the bench for three seasons and want an opportunity to chase collegiate or professional goals. There are many, however, who are playing big minutes and still moving onward.

“The portal is much like social media,” Staley said last week. “It’s the fad. It’s a big ol’ fad that just keeps continuing. There are more people in the portal than there are scholarships.”

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