By Lila Bromberg
Sounds of laughter echoed around Xfinity Center as the Maryland women’s basketball team stepped onto the court for its practice. The women gathered around half court throwing up shots backwards, cheering for each other and just having a good time.
“We are a very funny team, if that makes sense,” senior transfer Ieshia Small said. “We are very outgoing, we have fun a lot, we enjoy each other’s presence, we enjoy each other’s success.
That’s the identity of this year’s team. It may have lost several key players, including graduates Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones and transfer Destiny Slocum, who was the 2017 Freshman of the Year. Although its roster only consists of 10 players, the group isn’t fazed. It understands that there are important roles to fill and it doesn’t view that as a disadvantage.
In fact, head coach Brenda Frese even believes her team has an advantage after competing in Taiwan for the World University Games this summer.
“We feel like we’re a little bit ahead this year with the experience we got this summer in the World University Games,” she said. “We gained a lot as a staff in terms of practice and games to be able to understand kind of how our team was being built.”
Back in College Park, the focus now shifts to forming new leaders for the team.
Frese says she is looking to sophomore guard Kaila Charles and senior guard Kristen Confroy.
“I think obviously Kaila Charles has always been someone with one our strong personalities and her leadership has gone a long way,” she said. “I think her and Kristen Confroy have done a phenomenal job in terms of the consistency of what we uphold and what we want that to look like.”
Charles was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team last year after averaging 9.7 points, 1.2 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 51 percent from the field. She was also named to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team.
Confroy says that teamwork will be a huge factor in how the team performs this year due to the loss of Walker-Kimbrough and Jones.
“Our best player is our team,” Confroy said. “Knowing that it’s not going to be one or two people that carry us, it’s going to be each of us stepping up just a little bit every day to make us play at our highest level.”
Frese says losing so many players will also allow for new factors to emerge.
“We’ve had a lot of players kind of silently waiting for their turn, so [I’m] really excited for them and the opportunity that presents itself.”
And with them is the only freshman on the team, point guard Channise Lewis.
She led Miami Country Day to win two Dick’s National Championship titles in high school, averaging 13.9 points, 7.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game her senior year.
“It’s a team effort first and foremost, but whatever I have to do to make sure this team is successful this year,” she said. “That’s what I plan to do.”
With the team growing into its own, the Terrapins now look towards the season ahead.
“I’m excited to be on a national stage to play against the top teams in the country and I just hope that people get to watch a good basketball game and enjoy women’s basketball and we’re just going to go out there and work as hard as we can,” Small said.
But the starting schedule is tough. Maryland will play defending champions South Carolina and powerhouse Connecticut in its first few games of the season.
“I think in all of my years here probably our toughest non-conference schedule we’ve ever had,” Frese said. “So we’re going to know where we’re at early, which will prepare us for conference play and post season. To be the best you’ve got to play the best and so we’re excited about the games that are on our schedule.”