The Maryland Terrapins started their 2015-2016 campaign earlier today against Division II Goldey-Beacom, as expected the Division I team that is coming off of back-to-back Final Four appearances won going away. Coach Frese spoke on media day about the importance of her four seniors on the roster and the fact that depth may be a weakness. It’s only one game, but depth doesn’t appear to be the issue, just experience. The Terps may lack experience behind those seniors, but not talent. That was very evident in today’s rout and something to keep an eye on going forward, this team is going to go as far as those underclassman carry them.
Kiah Gillespie. Let me begin by saying that I believe she is capable of being one of the best players in the country before the end of her tenure at Maryland. The 6’2 forward is a walking mismatch, she’s comfortable putting the ball on the floor. Working in the post when needed and boasts a very fluid jump shot, more importantly she allows the game to come to her. She stuffed the box score today and it was impressive regardless of her class, Gillespie finished the exhibition with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. That would have been impressive if she was an All-American senior, she’s the key to getting Maryland past those teams that continually end their season. I heard someone mention after the game that she’s a mix between Marissa Coleman and Alyssa Thomas. That’s high praise, still I believe that is lower than her ceiling. It’s just easy for her, covering the WNBA for the past two seasons she reminds me of the women that play in that league. As the season goes on, I’ll share whose game she reminds me of, as of now she’s impressive just being the first Kiah Gillespie. Of her big day, the best play may have been a 70 foot chest pass that hit Kiara Leslie in stride for a layup.
Briana Fraser. While headlines will certainly lean more towards her fellow freshman mentioned above, she’s going to be key for this team this season. The 6’3 post player was just two rebounds shy of a double-double. Obviously the competition will improve as the season goes on, but she has a very quick second jump and really goes and gets the ball off the glass with both arms fully extended. Not once did she bring the ball down low on an offensive rebound, it stayed above her head and that’s a key for any post player, especially a youngster. She’ll be part of that “depth” that Coach Frese mentioned, like Gillespie she’s athletic and able to guard multiple positions on the defensive end. She left a lasting impression in her 25 minutes played as well, with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Super Sophs. Again, I’m going to continue to harp on this underclassmen theme. Why? It’s important if Maryland wishes to end the season as National Champions versus Final Four participants. Kristen Confroy and Kiara Leslie played a very poised game in against Goldey-Beacom, neither forced the action and scored within the flow of the offense. They also picked their spots well in regards of when to attack or move the ball. Leslie is a six foot guard that hits the glass like a forward, she finished the game with 18 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Confroy like Leslie made an impression, but you never got the idea that either was ball dominant. Confroy a 5’9 guard had nine rebounds to go along with her 15 points and five assists. She has a very compact shooting stroke that is very efficient, guards that rebound well mean more transition opportunities. Similar to those two freshman, these sophomores should be counted on to make a difference this season as well.
Size/Versatility. This year’s Terps squad boasts nine players that are at least six feet or taller. In short, it’s a versatile roster, Coach Frese will have no limit of options in how to match up with different opponents. If anything, this gives Maryland the luxury of finding a mismatch no matter who they play. There were a few stretches today where she went “extra big” on the floor with Gliespie, Brionna Jones, and Fraser on the floor together. The athleticism of both freshman allow her to do very interesting things with the roster, also with players like Leslie.
Seniors. Just that, Maryland’s group epitomize what that term means. Chloe Pavlech and Brene Mosley definitely fit in the “guard play” theory of college basketball. The team had just five turnovers to their 30 assists today, the two senior guards combined for 22 points, 12 assists, four steals and just one turnover. I loved the fact that they set the tone for the unselfish way Maryland wishes to play, they move the ball early and often on every possession, not showing any resignation in giving the ball to their younger teammates. That’s leadership, that confidence that they instill in the youngsters will pay dividends later in the year.