Through Tough Start, Women’s Basketball Turned to its Freshman

By Jack Wynn

Brenda Frese and the Maryland women’s basketball team have produced big female sports stars. Great players such as Angel Reese and Diamond Miller each got their starts as freshmen with the Terrapins. 

This season, Maryland welcomed five new freshmen to the roster. Having lost numerous players from last season’s elite eight run, Frese has needed to rely on some of the freshman players early in the year. 

Riley Nelson and Emily Fisher, for example, have each recently seen notable increases in both playing time and performance. After starting the season coming off the bench and playing in limited situations, both of these players have developed into reliable pieces for a team hoping to go on a run down the line.

“They’re really coachable, they want to be great so they want to do what we’re asking of them,” Frese said after a blowout win against Niagara. 

There were high hopes for Nelson coming into this season, and she has begun to live up to them. The five-star prospect was ranked as a top-20 recruit by ESPN and was named Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year each of the last two years. Nelson specializes in defense and playmaking while showing high potential on the offensive end.

Through the first four games of the season, Nelson wasn’t given many opportunities. After averaging less than 9 minutes per game and scoring less than 2 points per game, Nelson got a real shot against #23 ranked Washington State, where she played over 20 minutes for the first time in her collegiate career. 

Once Nelson got her chance, she never looked back. Over the next four games, Nelson played nearly 26 minutes per game and scored nearly 10 points per game, establishing herself as one of the most important players in the rotation. 

“When my name gets called, being ready to be put in the game and just trusting myself and having full confidence on the court. I think that’s all you have to do to be ready,” Nelson said after the Niagara game. Fisher’s impact on the team should not be understated either. The top-80 recruit was named Conference Player of the Year as a junior in high school and is a hardworking defender who can make big offensive plays. 

To start the year, Fisher didn’t get much playing time as she notched 11 or fewer minutes in each of the first six games. It wasn’t until her strong performance against Massachusetts that she started to earn more trust.

The pinnacle of Fisher’s season so far was her showing against George Mason. Fisher recorded a career high 29 minutes and approached a double double.

“I feel like I’ve been told I do need to look to be more offensive.” Fisher said after the George Mason game. “But my goal right now is to move for everybody, do what they need me to do, pass when its open, move on offense and just do whatever for the team” 

Increased minutes for these freshman standouts has both its benefits and its drawbacks. While both Nelson and Fisher have improved as players, adjusting to these minutes in a higher speed collegiate context isn’t easy.

“I’m working on controlling when I’m going full speed and then also taking a break or whatnot on offense.” Fisher explained. “But I think overall I just need to work on my conditioning if I’m gonna hopefully keep getting these minutes”

Nelson and Fisher aren’t the only freshmen on the team showing promise. Zen Nuako, Hawa Doumbouya, Mary Sareen and Summer Bostock have each shown their potential in limited appearances throughout the season. 

“[The freshmen] are working hard, still room to grow on the floor but hopefully these minutes will continue to be extended” Frese said. 

After a tough start to the season including losses to top ranked teams such as South Carolina and UConn, Maryland fell out of the top-25 AP Poll rankings for the first time in 13 years. A homestand followed by inter-conference play gives the Terrapins an opportunity to right the ship.

If Nelson, Fisher and the other freshmen continue to play well, Maryland can expect to be back in the top-25 sometime this season. If Frese is able to get the most out of the new players, the Terps could have a few more stars on their hands.