By Max Marcilla
The Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball team took a hit Tuesday when the team announced that freshman point guard phenom Destiny Slocum, sophomore Kiah Gillespie and freshman Jenna Staiti were transferring from the program.
The loss of Slocum especially hurts head coach Brenda Frese’s team, as Slocum was expected to take the reigns from senior leaders Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones, the dynamic senior duo that will be selected in the WNBA Draft on April 14.
The trio combined for nearly 60 percent of Maryland’s points in conference games and more than 61 percent of the Terps’ assists in those games.
Without Slocum, Jones and Walker-Kimbrough, the Terps will have to build on their Big Ten championship and two NCAA Tournament wins with new faces in the rotation. They will, however, welcome two players back from injury and a transfer who averaged double-digit scoring for an SEC school.
Aja Ellison and Kiara Leslie both redshirted after injuries but could see expanded roles this upcoming season. Leslie started seven games in a solid sophomore campaign two seasons ago. She scored 4.4 points and dished out three assists in 11.3 minutes per game.
The 6-foot guard could see time in the backcourt, possibly as a starter, with Slocum gone.
The Terps will officially welcome another player, former Florida Gator Eleanna Christinaki, who was a 17 point per game scorer in her nine games at Florida earlier this season.
The rest of the starting front court will look similar, as Maryland’s lineup will display the same players, just in expanded roles. The Terps’ two returning starters, Kristen Confroy and Kaila Charles, will anchor the starting lineup, with Confroy filling the veteran leader role now vacant with the departure of Jones and Walker-Kimbrough.
Charles, a member of Maryland’s top-ranked 2016 recruiting class, had a solid freshman season. She finished fourth on the team with 9.7 points per game.
While the loss of Slocum will be covered by a deep backcourt, Maryland’s frontcourt is shallow in comparison.Six-foot-three junior Brianna Fraser is the tallest Terp and will have a large impact on Maryland’s rebounding. Last season, rebounding was one of the Maryland’s strongest attributes and it out rebounded its opponents by an average of 15.1 rebounds in conference play.
Behind Fraser, Frese may have to turn to a pair of more inexperienced Terps in Stephanie Jones, Brionna’s younger sister, and Ellison.
The 2017-18 campaign will be a challenge for the Terps, who will be searching for depth and replacements for three of their most talented players. Maryland will have options, but mixing and matching lineups, and figuring out its rotations will be its task early in the season.
While she may be on her way out, this Slocum play will forever be enshrined in the Terp history books:
— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@umdwbb) March 19, 2017