Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unknown hurdle -- ah, Turtle

Quick, how many Maryland Terrapins can you name? What's that? Marah Stickland did you say? She's joined Dawn Staley in South Carolina. Dee Liles? Left the program due to academic reasons. Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman? WNBA, baby. Drey Mingo? Adios. Lynetta Kizer? Now you're getting warm. Last year's ACC Rookie of the Year is the lone starter back from the 31-5 Terps who lost in the fourth round of the NCAA tournament.

So now that we know who these Terrapins aren't, who are they? We don't know yet. They've routed North Carolina Central and New Hampshire. Nine freshmen are on the roster, including France's Diandra Tchatchouang, daughter of Eugene Tchatchouang and Jeannelte Noganmy, sibling to Pola, Ciryl, Raelys and Romuald. Diandra, by the way, was MVP of the European championships two years ago.

Dara Taylor is the new Toliver on this team who needs just 742 assists to surpass Kristi (she also must hit a mind-blowing 3-pointer to force overtime in a national title game). Coach Brenda Frese is already gushing about her freshman point guard, who she regards as the strongest player on the team with a "wicked passing ability." Taylor has the other kind of smarts, too, having been accepted at Maryland's prestigious business school already.

Sophomore Kim Rodgers is finally playing starter's minutes for Maryland, though she's come off the bench in her first two games. Lethal from behind the arc as always, Kim is finally healthy after enduring horrific knee problems since she left Princess Anne High School.

It might be a rebuilding year for these Terrapins, but with Frese having already recruited the No. 1 class for 2010, they won't be in reconstructive mode for long. For now they're a question mark, their defense as suspect as always. Statistics in the first two games tell us little except five folks shoot better than 50 percent, they have 32 turnovers to 29 assists and they shoot 60 percent from the free-throw line.

Duke has already lost in an ACC race that's as wide open as it has been in years. By season's end, don't count out the Terrapins. But don't be surprised if they endure a few growing pains along the way.

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