What started as a bad Tuesday for Maryland Women’s Basketball Coach Brenda Frese when news emerged that point guard Ashley Owusu had entered the transfer portal got significantly worse later when word leaked that forward Angel Reese was also looking to leave College Park.
The twin departures of Reese (St. Frances), a third-team All American in the just completed season, and Owusu, one of the nation’s best point guards, leaves Maryland, picked in some circles as a top five team next season, devastated.
The loss of the top two scorers from the 2021-22 roster, also opens calls into question about why Frese has had trouble keeping premier talent for the full four years, as a steady stream of players have departed her program.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Frese said “We wish these student-athletes all the best as they continue their basketball careers and education elsewhere. Every team has been impacted by the transfer portal on both ends of it. Maryland basketball is bigger than any one lineup or person. Our staff is committed to bringing the best student-athletes to Maryland.”
Two other players, freshman reserve guard Taisiya Kozlova and graduate guard Chennise Lewis, who has missed most of the past three seasons with knee injuries, also announced they’d be leaving Maryland as well.
But the announcements from Owusu, who announced her intention to leave via Instagram earlier in the day, and Reese, whose departure was confirmed by a team spokesperson later in the evening, represented a pair of gut-punches coming just after the conclusion of one of the most difficult seasons in Frese’s 20 years in College Park.
The Terps, who lost to Stanford in the Spokane Regional semifinal, slogged through an injury- and illness-riddled campaign which began with a top five ranking but result in a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten, their lowest placement since joining the league in 2014.
The 6-foot-3 Reese, who became the first Maryland player in 47 years to average a double-double for the season, emerged as the team’s No.1 offensive option and one of its best defenders. She missed most of her freshman year, but appeared on her way to joining fellow sophomores Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers at the top of the national list of players to watch in 2023.
Reese said after the Stanford loss that she would be working over the summer to improve her jumper, a sign that she is looking to improve her game on the college level with a look toward a potential WNBA career.
Meanwhile, Owusu, a 6-foot junior, saw her numbers drop from her freshman and sophomore years. She missed some time down the stretch with an ankle injury, and, tellingly, was not on the floor for most of the fourth quarter of the loss to Stanford, after scoring 30 points on the Cardinal in an early loss.
In her Instagram post, Owusu hinted that “unfortunately, events that have transpired on and off the court this year” led her to enter the transfer portal. Owusu didn’t elaborate on what the events were and asked for privacy.
The Tuesday departures are the latest in a string of Terp players who transferred before their eligibility was completed. In 2015, guard Lexie Brown left after two seasons for Duke. Two years later, guard Destiny Slocum, who was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, split after her freshman year for Oregon State.
Guard Taylor Mikesell, one of the nation’s top shooters and, like Slocum, a Big Ten Freshman of the Year, split after her sophomore year for Oregon. The Terps also saw forward Shakira Austin leave that season for Mississippi, along with center Olivia Owens, who left for Kentucky,
Both Slocum and Mikesell left their respective programs for new landing spots, at Arkansas and Ohio State, perhaps, lending credence to the notion among some Maryland fans that the problem is with the players, not with Frese.
Still, even with the allowance that relaxed transfer rules have plagued schools all over the country, the flow of players out of College Park has to be alarming to Frese, who will now start the 2022-23 season needing to replace four players from her starting lineup, rather than two.
And Reese’s departure has led some to wonder whether her younger brother, Julian, who had an impressive freshman season, may look for another school, as new Head Coach Kevin Willard attempts to build his first Maryland squad.
Sports Media Analyst
Milton Kent is a veteran of Baltimore and Maryland journalism. Kent began a long association with the Baltimore Sun in 1985, serving as the Evening Sun’s Howard County reporter for 2 ½ years before joining the paper’s features department as an entertainment writer in 1988. In the following year, Kent began covering men’s and women’s college basketball for the Evening Sun, concentrating on the Maryland men’s and women’s teams. He continued covering college basketball when the writing staffs of the Evening and Morning Suns merged in 1991. From there, he covered the Orioles for three seasons before becoming one of the nation’s first fulltime sports media critics for parts of six years. In 2000, he began covering the NBA until 2004, when he launched a high school sports column, which he wrote until he left the Sun in 2008. Kent joined the staff of AOL Fanhouse, an online sports operation in 2009, covering sports media and women’s basketball, until operations ceased in 2011. He then joined the faculty at Morgan State University in the fall of 2011, where he has taught until the present day. In addition to writing for various platforms, including Sports Illustrated.com and TV Guide, Kent has hosted “Sports At Large,” a weekly commentary program airing on WYPR (88.1 FM) since 2002.