Terps aiming to repeat in '07
Ask Brenda Frese about her offseason, and she has a ready reply.
"I was just going to say, What offseason? It doesn't seem like there was an offseason - because there were so many activities going on," said Frese, the head coach of the national champion Maryland women's basketball team.
"I wouldn't trade it for the world - the visit to the White House, the team being nominated for an ESPY, just so many wonderful events to be able to participate in, and all as a result of what this team accomplished last season," Frese said in an interview on the "ACC Nation" radio show last week.
And now in a manner of speaking it's back to square one - "a new team with a new identity - and the challenge is really to see how the new team and the new players that are added to the mix are going to come in and how we're going to gel together," Frese said.
"We're very excited to be able to have our top seven coming back into the mix. But it's definitely a new season and something to look forward to," Frese said.
At the top of the list of returnees are post players Crystal Langhorne (17.2 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game) and Marissa Coleman (13.8 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game).
Langhorne "defines it all in terms of what being a student-athlete is all about - both in the classroom in terms of how she handles her academic and being able to take care of her coursework as well as how she really leads by example on the court with her behavior as a leader and obviously all the intangibles of what she does on the floor," Frese said.
Coleman, for her part, is a perfect counterbalance to Langhorne - Frese described her as a "fun-loving kid that just really loves college, loves every moment of it, enjoys her teammates."
"Obviously, she's a very versatile player for us. It's exciting to think in terms of her versatility the next three years that she has ahead of her," Frese said.
Frese also has three years to further the development of point guard Kristi Toliver (11.6 points per game, 4.4 assists per game), whose place in Maryland basketball lore is secure after her game-tying three-pointer that sent last year's NCAA title game with Duke to overtime.
"That quiet, unassuming confidence that she always gives to this team - she really is a leader for us and does all the little things," Frese said of her floor general.
Repeating will not be easy - not with Duke back and loaded for another run at a national title and North Carolina positioning itself for a chance at redemption for its national-semifinal loss to the Terps.
"It was pretty special last year for all three teams to be making history within our conference. But like you said, every year, if you have a down year in recruiting, you're going to pay for it when it comes time for the ACC conference season," Frese said.
"We all push each other to make each other better. Duke and Carolina set the bar for our conference for a very long time, and Maryland did back in the '80s and '90s, but really hadn't been a player - and we really felt like we wanted to do that and wanted to get more competitive so we could be a part of that mix," Frese said.
- Chris Graham