By Lila Bromberg
The Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball team may only have one freshman on the squad this year, but head coach Brenda Frese announced an impressive 2018 recruiting class on Wednesday.
The three recruits, Shakira Austin, Taylor Mikesell and Olivia Owens, are all ranked in ESPN’s Top 35, giving Maryland the fourth-ranked 2018 freshman class in the country.
“We spend a lot of time [over] are you the right fit, is the kid the right fit and is the family,” Frese said on what the team was looking for when recruiting this year. “Obviously you have to have the talent to be able to play at this level, but we spend a lot of time with that chemistry as a really element that we gage.”
Frese, along with her coaching staff, said she is very excited to welcome her 12th top ten recruiting class.
“I can’t thank our staff enough for all of their hard work and efforts in another stellar recruiting class in 2018,” she said. “We addressed all of our needs that we wanted to fill. This is a class that will come in and contribute right away.”
Most notable is Austin, a 6-foot-5 forward from Riverdale Baptist High School in Fredericksburg, VA, who is ranked as the No. 3 overall player in the country and the No. 2 forward in the country by ESPN.
Austin averaged 18 points and 12.3 rebounds last season, as well as 88 blocked shots, leading her Colonial Forge High School to a Class 6A state championship (she switched to Baptist this year).
“Shakira is a long, athletic forward that will be extremely successful in our transition game. She is versatile, can rebound and is a tremendous shot blocker. Shakira will impact the game on both ends of the floor,” Frese said according to the team’s release.
Austin said she was drawn to how “family-oriented” Maryland is.
“They are one of the top programs in the country with the best coaching staff that will help me achieve my dreams and also make sure my education is also a top priority,” she said. “I can’t see myself being more comfortable anywhere else.”
— Shakira ✨ (@Theylove_kira) November 6, 2017
Taylor Mikesell, the only guard of the group, has been named the No. 32 overall player and No. 9 point guard in the country by ESPN.
Out of Jackson High School in Massillon, Ohio, Mikesell is a score-first point guard. She averaged 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.2 steals last year.
Mikesell also helped win bronze for USA basketball in the FIBA U17 World Championship in 2016.
Frese expects her to play a strong role on the team.
“Taylor is a knock down shooter that has played at the highest level…Taylor is a winner and will be ready to contribute immediately. We are excited about her future,” she said.
And Mikesell is hungry to take Maryland far in the tournament.
“I chose Maryland because I wanted to play for a team that had a chance to win multiple national championships,” she said.
It’s official‼️🐢 Thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way! pic.twitter.com/YGd3GCQuZw
— Taylor Mikesell (@TMikesell23) November 8, 2017
The last member of the class is Olivia Owens, a 6-foot-4 post out of Niskayuna, NY.
Ranked No. 33 overall and the No. 5 post player, Owens averaged 20.6 points and 12.3 rebounds last year for Niskayuna High School. She also played for the Albany City Rocks AAU team.
Her AAU coach Keith Danzy predicts Owens will have a major impact on Maryland.
“While this will be her greatest challenge of her career, it will prove to be her greatest moment, where she will become a special part of the history for the Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball program,” he said.
Frese says the coaching staff is looking forward to helping Owen develop her game.
“Olivia is a physical, lost post player that will welcome the contact inside. She has a huge ceiling that we can’t wait to help her breakthrough. Olivia has all of the intangibles that will allow her to be very successful.”