As the so-called “mom” of the Maryland women’s basketball team, senior Faith Masonius wants to make one thing clear.
Besides being the chauffeur, she’s the back-seat conductor in Maryland’s defensive zone matchups.
She welcomes new Terps to the family and teaches roommate and standout sophomore Shyanne Sellers how to do her makeup.
She does the things that’ll never sparkle on a stat sheet, and she’s the overlooked reason the Greenville 1 Region’s No. 2 seed could perform better in this NCAA tournament than it did a year ago.
“You don’t really notice how much Faith brings until she’s gone, and you could tell that last year,” Sellers said of Masonius, who was lost for the 2021-22 season in January with a knee injury. “Now she’s back on the court, and it’s awesome to have her back. She really does play with all she has and hasn’t missed a beat.”
When the Terrapins host No. 7 seed Arizona in the second round Sunday, the eyes will naturally follow senior guard Diamond Miller, the second-team all-American graced with speed and agility but also a ferocious side that opponents should never cross. As well as Sellers, who has elevated her all-around game from her freshman year to now. And even Meyers, the Princeton transfer whose Ivy League game has blended in perfectly with Coach Brenda Frese’s system. But don’t forget about Masonius.
The scars that she earned from the worst period of her life, she covers with a brace. But that doesn’t keep her from moving and talking — talking so much — on the defensive end, barking out switches and calling for screens the way a mom might nag her kids about picking up their socks. She’ll be a coach someday. For now, Masonius is satisfied with being Maryland’s 22-year-old matriarch.
“You can see how much we missed Faith last year. She’s the glue player, unsung hero, and just is our grit, scrappiness. I loved being able to see her initiate the start for us on the defensive end,” Frese said Friday following Maryland’s 93-61 win over Holy Cross in the first round.
In that game, Masonius collected three steals in the opening seven minutes and scored eight points — twice as many as Holy Cross’s team total for the first quarter. Maryland went on to overwhelm its opponent into committing 24 turnovers and opened a 36-point lead before the game mercifully ended.
“Faith set the tone,” Frese said. “I love the fact that she was right there on the defensive end with the three steals, and that’s how we want to play.”
A year ago during Maryland’s March run that ended in the Sweet 16, Masonius watched from the sideline. Her season had been lost when she tore the ACL in her left leg — on just the second day of 2022. Maryland was playing a conference game at Indiana when Masonius stole a pass and, without making contact with anyone, crumpled to the floor.
“It was definitely hard at times,” Masonius says, downplaying the surgery and all that followed.
Ellen Masonius has a different reaction. More than a year later, she groans and tears fill her eyes when she recalls her daughter’s injury. For about six seconds, Ellen needs a pause before she can talk about it. Then, her voice breaking, Ellen describes the quiet struggles.
As the sixth kid in the birth order, Faith was raised to be independent. By nature, though, she watched over others. She was two years younger than her sister Addie but constantly reminded her to grab all her necessities before heading out to basketball practice. In middle school, she was the preteen drill sergeant running practice before it was time for Ellen, the team’s coach, to teach plays — which, of course, Faith helped with as well.
Then as a high school sophomore, when her teacher went into cardiac arrest, Faith jumped into crisis mode and took control of the situation, yelling at one student to run to the nurse and instructing another to get a teacher in a nearby classroom, Ellen recalled. (The teacher’s life was saved.)
But in her own moment, Masonius wanted to isolate — just try to get through and figure the next path forward without burdening her tribe.
“She didn’t really communicate with us as much. I’d see Karen [Blair], [and she would say]: ‘Faith had tears today,’ ” Ellen said, remembering a conversation with the Maryland assistant coach.
During her rehab, Masonius turned to TikTok and, as many other young people do, began to chronicle her life, even posting makeup tutorials and sharing the occasional peek into her emotions. But her Maryland teammates wouldn’t let Masonius, who had helped host recruits since her freshman year and worked to bring the team together, be alone. Chloe Bibby, a graduate student on the 2021-22 team, would rub her leg and teach her rehab tricks because she, too, had torn an ACL. Masonius’s roommate was also a constant presence.
“Having them around really helped a lot. I mean, Shyanne brought me a freakin’ wheelchair!” Masonius says, “and was wheeling me around!”
During games, Masonius sat behind the bench, where she could take in the game from a different perspective. Hearing her coaches and observing her teammates on the floor only fueled her desire to run her own team one day. Now back on the floor as a full-time participant, Masonius is using what she learned a year ago.
“Taking that experience off the court has given me that drive, passion to want to be my best on the court,” she says. “And being my best is communicating at my best and playing hard and doing the little things.”
Masonius will never be at the top of the set, tracking fast guards, but she moves effectively and makes sure her teammates hear her voice, a small but critical element of basketball, when Maryland’s defense switches from one look to another.
“Faith’s definitely our quarterback. On defense, she is always telling people where to go — sometimes too much, where she loses her man,” Sellers said with a smile. “But she’s always trying to help everybody out on the defensive end. Telling people when to switch, always doing her part, trying to box out — that’s really her role.”
Another role? Turning Sellers into an unwitting co-star of her tutorials.
“I do make her do TikToks with me,” Masonius says of Sellers. “I’ve done her makeup before, but she won’t let me make videos of it. … [Sellers] doesn’t like when people touch her eyes, so I tried to put eyelashes on, and she was like, ‘Take them off of me!’ ”
Maybe Sellers will allow Masonius to post those clips later. The two should have more time together. Because of the pandemic and the redshirt that followed her injury, Masonius has two more years of eligibility after this season. If she decides to play both, she might want to think about upgrading to a minivan.
“Right now they call her the mom. I’m like, ‘What are they going to call her in two years?’ ” Ellen joked. “She might be a grandmother by that time.”