By Andrew R. Koch
The Maryland Terrapins’ first basketball season in the Big Ten is officially underway. The UMD Men’s and Women’s basketball teams hosted a Superman-themed “Super B1G Maryland Madness” rally on Oct. 17 at the XFINITY Center to kick off the 2014-2015 season. Radio Men’s basketball announcer Johnny Holliday served as the Master of Ceremonies. He began the evening by pointing out the new video scoreboard over center court. The two video-boards measure 12-and- a-half foot tall by 33 foot wide each and feature the Under Armour logo at the bottom.
The Women’s team was introduced first, players making their way down to the court from the luxury suites into the lower bowl. The coaching staff, led by Head Coach Brenda Frese, was introduced next. She expressed confidence in both her team and the Maryland fans in her speech to the crowd.
“How are the best fans in the country doing tonight?” Frese asked in her opening remarks.
She told the Terrapin faithful that after falling just short in their Final Four appearance last season, her team is “extremely hungry” and “extremely motived” for the coming season. Keeping in the spirit of the rally she also informed the crowd that she’s been asked what it will be like for Maryland to come to the Big Ten. Her response to them she stated is always, “What will it be like for the Big Ten to come to Maryland,” ending her speech in a round of applause.
Following a performance by the dance team, the Men’s team was introduced next and players rose up one by one onto the stage. As a unit, they walked through red lasers down onto the floor, took a ball provided to them by one of the ball boys, and dribbled down to the basket for either a layup or dunk. After the coaching staff was introduced, Head Coach Mark Turgeon came out of a phone booth, ditched a pair of glasses, and opened up his shirt to reveal a Superman-inspired Maryland logo. His remarks to the crowd were inspired by the slogans of their apparel provider.
“We will play harder. We will play smarter. We will practice like champions, and we will…protect this house,” the fourth-year head coach told the crowd. He added that even though the season is just getting started, this is already one of his favorite teams in 16 years as a college basketball head coach. Emphasizing their position as student athletes, Turgeon praised his player’s for going to their classes, getting good grades, and maintaining a good work ethic in practice.
“They come to practice on time, they work their tails off, and they’re very coachable,” Turgeon said of his team, which was picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches’ poll. He praised the strength the conference has showed on the national stage over the last several years.
“The Big Ten is a heck of a league, arguably the best league in the country the last four years; great coaches, great players,” Turgeon said, whose recruiting class has been ranked in the top 10.
Redshirt senior guard Richard Pack will be among the players counted on to direct Maryland’s offense. The Detroit native is a two-time transfer, having played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida International University before transferring to North Carolina A&T and then Maryland. He’s tried to impart to the Maryland freshmen how things work in college basketball and how it’s different from high school. Pack feels that the team will perform well this year because of how close the group is. He was asked about how that confidence can be translated into positive results:
“A lot of the confidence has come from how hard we’re working and how together we’re playing, so we lean on each other, so we give each other confidence.” Pack said. “We’re a tight group, and I think that’s how it can translate. Whenever someone is feeling down, someone else picks it up. Someone’s having an off night, another guy picks up that slack. We have that type of team this year where I think we have a lot of guys who can contribute.”
The Maryland women were picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten. Coach Frese says that means her team has already garnered respect from its new league.
“I think people have obviously followed our program and watched our tradition and our past,” Frese said, pointing out that the games during the regular season are more important than a preseason ranking. However, the team will have to move forward without the most successful player in program history, Alyssa Thomas. Frese says it will have to be a group effort to fill the void that Thomas is leaving behind.
“No one’s going to do what Alyssa Thomas did. She’s one of the special players who’s hanging in the rafters for a reason, but I do think it’ll be by committee,” Frese said.
Two of the players Frese singled out to watch are sophomore center Brionna Jones of Havre de Grade, who will provide a presence in the post, and sophomore guard Lexie Brown, who was named to the All ACC Freshman team last season. In the team’s intra-squad scrimmage, Brown connected on a pair of three pointers.
As part of the evening, the teams unveiled new uniforms from Under Armour. Both teams have red, white and yellow uniforms trimmed with the colors of the Maryland flag. The men’s team will also have a black alternate uniform. Each team then performed a dance routine that Brown said took two to three weeks of several hour practices with the dance team to perfect.
November’s schedule for the
Maryland Women features six home games, including South Florida on Nov. 19 and Loyola on Nov. 24.
The Lady Terrapins will play James Madison and Washington State in the San Juan Classic in Puerto Rico during Thanksgiving weekend. The Maryland Men will play seven home games and travel to Kansas City to join Arizona State, Iowa State, and Alabama in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic the week of Thanksgiving.