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Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese leads her program through COVID-19

Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese leads her program through COVID-19

There is not much Brenda Frese hasn’t seen in her 18 years as the head coach of the Maryland women’s basketball program. 

Her days this spring are 100% different than what they would normally be this time of year thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

“A lot more family time for sure," Frese said. "The fact that I wake up every morning and it starts with my twin boys that are 12 years old. Getting them acclimated and prepared for the work that they have to do school wise and in preparation for their classes and homework. Then I’m able to transition to my day and all the Zoom calls.” 

This interview was already the fourth call of Frese's day when we started at 1 p.m. late last month. While Frese says she’s not complaining about the family time, she jokes that perhaps her kids have had enough.  

“I realized they needed more life skills. So cooking, cleaning, the dishwasher, trash duty, you name it," Frese laughed. "I’m sure they probably are ready for me to go back to work from that end.” 

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Balancing being a mom and head coach with players who have needs, too, during quarantine is far from easy, Frese makes sure to find alone time and work out. Both are important practices during her day. There's a lot to juggle at times like this.  

It’s also afforded a lot of time to accept the abrupt ending to a season in which Maryland finished ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. Frese says she can find peace in the cancellation of the NCAA tournament because one of the Terrapins' lasting memories was cutting down the nets after winning the Big Ten Tournament in March. But it’s also natural to wonder what could have been.  

“We had one heck of a year, we finished 28-4, we were on a 17-game win streak and we were on to be a number-one seed," Frese said. "We had a phenomenal shot to get to a Final Four and maybe beyond, but we’ll never know. We did get to bring closure and win the Big Ten championship.” 

Whenever next season does begin, the Terps will look much different. All five starters have left the program either by going to the WNBA, graduation, or transfers.  

Forward Shakira Austin committed to Mississippi, guard Taylor Mikesell left for Oregon and even reserve center Olivia Owens entered the transfer portal.  

“Obviously it’s tough, unfortunately it’s our new reality," Frese said. "I say that change is inevitable, just like when we left the ACC to go to the Big Ten, it was uncomfortable. But it's worked out pretty well for us. The transfer portal now in our women's game is a reality. There's over 550 transfers.”

That's a staggering number of transfers across the sport. All are for different reasons, both personal and for new opportunities on the court for players. Frese gets it.

"But at the end of the day, we have to take care of Maryland and our program," Frese said. 

Maryland quickly transitioned to building next year’s roster. Guard Katie Benzan has transferred from Harvard and forward-guard Chloe Bibby from Mississippi Sate. Guard Taisiya “Tai” Kozlova has committed out of Elevation Prep Academy in Florida and the No. 2 overall recruit, Angel Reese from St. Frances, joins the freshman class. Reese’s brother, Julian, recently committed to play for Mark Turgeon, making that announcement on Mothers Day in an Instagram post.   

 “I think the most challenging part of it is, you want to start developing that chemistry," Frese said. "Our freshman class is so talented, they showed that on their finish of the Big Ten Tournament. They’re going to take a huge step with their leadership role. But then it’s adding the influx of great talent that that we’re bringing in so you’re wanting to get that chemistry developed.” 

In hopes of doing just that Frese and her staff have been forced to get creative in their daily and weekly communication with the players. They use Zoom calls, group text messages, and FaceTime.  
 
However, only so much can be learned virtually and it’s entirely changed the way Frese approaches coaching.

“I am very hands-on and face-to-face, and can read a room really well,” Frese said.

Until she and her players are back together again, Frese says it’s about taking it one day at a time. Frese firmly believes amidst these challenging days - and the changes to their roster - that they will still be competing for championships yet again.

“I think that's the most important thing is - one, you learn a lot about yourself," Frese said. "I think you learn that it's okay at times to have moments where you can be alone and know you're going to survive, and you can learn so much about yourself personally that maybe you didn’t know before. And then we kind of have a quote, and we’re living it. It’s “Be comfortable, being uncomfortable” and my goodness, if you're not uncomfortable right now. But a lot of times that’s when you have the biggest growth.”  

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Maryland announces no positive COVID-19 results in recent test

Maryland announces no positive COVID-19 results in recent test

Maryland’s University Health Center initiated an on-campus screening for 227 student-athletes and staff on July 27th resulting in no positive tests for COVID-19. 

Maryland Athletics continues a phased approach to return student-athletes to campus, by working with the University Health Center to conduct regular COVID-19 testing. Overall to date, Maryland has tested 964 student-athletes, coaches and staff totaling only 12 positive tests.

Maryland is stable for now - but things are not looking as good for Big 10 rivals Rutgers and Michigan State as a COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread. The Michigan State football program announced on July 22nd football workouts were suspended after a staff member tested positive. Just three days later, the entire football team entered a 14-day quarantine after a second staff member and a player tested positive.

The Rutgers football team remains in isolation through Aug. 8th after positive tests skyrocket to 28 confirmed positive cases. That number nearly doubled from the 15 confirmed cases announced last week.

The Big Ten announced back in early July that it will play only conference games this year in football. Although the conference has yet to confirm when preseason training camps can begin. Given the current circumstances you can understand why.

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Former Terps star Melo Trimble wishes he left Maryland after his freshman year

Former Terps star Melo Trimble wishes he left Maryland after his freshman year

Melo Trimble arrived in College Park at a time when Maryland desperately needed him.

As a freshman, Trimble, along with then-senior Dez Wells, brought respect back to the Terps program, leading them to one of the best regular seasons in school history. Trimble led the Terps in scoring (16.2 ppg) and assists (3.9 apg), earning himself a spot on the All-Big-Ten first team.

The point guard had a decision to make after his stellar freshman season: to enter the NBA Draft or return to Maryland for his sophomore season. Trimble, who was projected to be a first-round pick had he departed in 2015, chose the latter, hoping to raise his stock by returning to a loaded Terps team for another year.

Five years later, the point guard admitted that he wished he had left for the NBA Draft after one season with Maryland.

"Unfortunately, freshman year I could’ve left and been in the NBA and probably still be there now," Trimble said on Anthony Cowan’s One Stop podcast. "I decided to stay in college [until] my junior year and looking back on it, of course, I wish I would have left, but it is what it is. That’s life."

As a sophomore, Trimble saw his per-game averages take a slight dip. However, to the point guard's defense, Trimble returned to a Maryland team that was, on paper, one of the most talented in program history.

The Terps entered the 2015-16 season ranked No. 7 in the country and had a lineup that featured Trimble, five-star freshman center Diamond Stone, former Duke star Rasheed Sulaimon, and current Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jake Layman. All that goes without mentioning Robert Carter, a power forward transfer from Georgia Tech, who was the team's second-leading scorer. Maryland reached the Sweet 16 that season before getting blown out by Kansas.

"They think freshman year I averaged 17, the next year I have to average 20," Trimble said. "My sophomore year was me, Rob Carter, Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon. Like come on now, that’s the whole team right there with everybody scoring.

"I’m not going to go out there and have 18 points. I didn’t understand why people felt I had to be great, I mean I had to be great, but like another level from the year before as far as points-wise," Trimble continued. "I’m a point guard at the end of the day, my sophomore year I felt like I learned how to pass the ball. Freshman year I didn’t pass at all. Looking back on it, I’m kind of happy I did stay. I had to learn how to be a PG."

Trimble also said that another factor that weighed into his decision to stay at Maryland was the tight-knit brotherhood he formed with his teammates.

"At Maryland, it was like a brotherhood. We bonded well and it was like, 'I don’t want to leave this for some money,'" Trimble said. "At the time, the following year I could have got drafted as well. Certain things happen, I got hurt and it is what it is. It wasn’t easy to say I’m not going to go to the NBA and stay."

The point guard ended up returning for his junior season, too, as Maryland saw Stone, Sulaimon, Carter and Layman all depart for the draft following the 2015-16 season. The Terps had their share of ups and downs in 2016-17 but still earned a sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, their time in March Madness was short-lived, as the Terps were bounced by 11th-seeded Xavier in the opening round.

After his junior season, Trimble had no reason to stay at Maryland anymore. He entered the draft, but all 60 picks went by without the Upper Marlboro native hearing his name. 

Trimble played for the Philadelphia 76ers summer league team in 2017 and joined the Minnesota Timberwolves that fall for training camp. He was one of the final players cut ahead of the season. Trimble spent his first year removed from Maryland playing for the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G-League but didn't have much overall success.

Over the past two years, Trimble has found plenty of success playing in the NBL in Australia, the same league that top draft prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton played in last season. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trimble had signed an agreement with the European club CB Estudiantes, one of the most recognized teams in Spain.

While the 25-year-old still has NBA aspirations, he knows those likely could have been fulfilled had he left school two years earlier than he did.

"I might be able to get there one day, I might not," Trimble said.

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