By: Cody Wilcox
Senior day is a time for acknowledgement and admiration. Family, friends and fans line the stands to show support for the players that have dedicated four years to the logo that they wear on their jersey every time they step on the field or court.
But this day was very different on Saturday for lone Maryland senior Brianna Fraser, who did not appear because she was still nursing a sprained left ankle that was suffered on Feb. 21 against Minnesota. Despite not appearing in her final game in College Park, and starting only three games in her career, Fraser has left a lasting impact on her coaches and teammates during her tenure.
“Even all up to today, with her being hurt, she still steps up and lets me know when I need to do this and when I need to fix stuff,” freshman Shakira Austin said following Maryland’s senior day victory over Illinois. “She just puts a lot confidence in me, and hopefully I’ll be able to be as aggressive as she is on the offensive and defensive end.”
Prior to the start of the game, Fraser emerged in front of a crowd of over 8600 people for the first time with a grey walking boot that shielded one-third of her leg. She was met by cheers from fans young and old as they held up iconic photos of Fraser flexing from earlier this season against Indiana.
“We showed the video today before shootaround of her freshman year and to see this young lady come in with like– very quiet, not a lot of confidence, couldn’t look you in the eye,” Frese said.
In a January game against Indiana, she scored eight points and displayed a bicep flex following a bucket and a foul, which illustrates just how far she has come in her four years at Maryland.
Fraser, throughout the 29-game season, was an offensive force that was prepared every time Maryland head coach Brenda Frese called her name off the bench. While Austin and junior Stephanie Jones received the majority of the minutes in the frontcourt for the Terps, Fraser averaged 17 minutes per game and 7.8 points per game.
Four years ago, Fraser entered Maryland as the No. 15 overall player by ESPN’s Hoop Gurlz and Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. But the Brooklyn, New York, native only averaged 10.3 minutes and four points as forward Brionna Jones and center Malina Howard obtained the bulk of the time on the court.
While some highly recruited players might have changed course or transferred after a reduced role following a dominant high school career, Fraser didn’t, and Frese praises her lone senior for that.
“She’s been behind so many elite level post players that we’ve brought in here. And a lot of kids would transfer, a lot of kids would go in a different direction,” Frese said. “And she fought, and kept her head down. So I think that’s what is most pleasing is the hard work that she just put in.”
This season, it was the 2018 highly recruited No. 3 overall prospect that would come in and claim more time. Starting 19 games, Austin saw about 23 minutes per game, while Fraser saw a decrease in her minutes from the previous season. But the senior still remained highly involved with the younger players, such as Austin, that were seeing a lot of time on the court.
“Bri’s leadership has grown so much over the season. The first couple months I was here, she was always in my ear about stuff,” Austin said. “She just puts a lot confidence in me, and hopefully I’ll be able to be as aggressive as she is on the offensive and defensive end.”
After beating Illinois on Saturday, Fraser wrapped her left arm around the Terps’ newest trophy. It’s the third conference regular season title she’s been a part of. She has also played a role in two of Maryland’s conference tournament titles, three NCAA tournament appearance and one sweet sixteen. But for Frese, Fraser’s success isn’t measured on the basketball court.
“I’m most proud of that I know as she gets ready to graduate from here, she’ll be ready to tackle the real world,” Frese said. “And so, I think for me, that’s what it’s always been about– just seeing that growth and knowing that she is ready for the next step.”