Terps to represent U.S. in Taiwan in ’17; Frese ‘ecstatic’
For the time being, here’s what the Maryland women’s basketball team knows about next summer’s World University Games in Taiwan:
A United States All-Star team isn’t going, as it had for the past four appearances. The Terps will represent the country instead, quite happily. And ... yeah, that’s about it.
The jerseys? “USA” on the chest, for sure, said coach Brenda Frese, but maybe not on the shorts. Maybe “Maryland” on the shorts.
The host country? “It’s next to China,” junior guard Kristen Confroy said, “and I’m sure they have good food.”
The success of the last, and previously only, women’s college team to take on the world? Frese didn’t know that, either. That might be for the best.
One decade after Charlotte finished sixth in the 2007 World University Games — the Americans’ last non-gold-medal performance — the Terps will take on the world themselves in the Aug. 20-29 competition in Taipei. Purdue will represent the U.S. men at the multisport event, open to athletes ages 17 to 24 who are enrolled in college or are at most one year out of school
“Once I got the call with us being told that we were the team they wanted and started to understand and grasp it,” Frese said in a telephone interview, “I was just ecstatic and honored and humbled.”
Among the United States International University Sports Federation’s chief selection criteria, according to Frese: classes. As in, which team’s recruiting classes have it best positioned for success abroad, and which team’s academic calendar lends itself to the fewest classes being missed.
On the court, the Terps will lose only two seniors to graduation, All-Big Ten Conference guard Shatori Walker-Kim- brough and center Brionna Jones (Aberdeen), departures that could be offset by the maturation of the nation’s top-rated freshman class. In the classroom, the first day of fall classes for the 2017-18 academic year at Maryland is Aug. 28, just one day before the final competition date in Taiwan. (At many other schools, the semester starts earlier.)
The Terps proved the best option. This surprised Frese, who didn’t even know individual schools were under consideration. Just last year, one of her own, Jones, was among a handful of college standouts who took home World University Games gold in Gwangju, South Korea.
“It’s all great,” Frese said. “It’ll definitely get us prepared for the next upcoming year.”
For its August trip to Italy, Maryland used all 10 of its NCAA-sanctioned practices. Frese called the extra work “exceptional.” Now she’s a year out from having every college coach’s dream. Because of the nature of the competition, Frese said, the Terps will be allowed to practice “as much as you want.” As much as the immediate goal will be to beat Canada, or Australia, or whomever, in Taiwan, the real payoff figures to come months later, during the NCAA tournament, against a domestic power.
In Maryland’s travels to Rome, Florence, Milan and Lake Como this summer, the Terps might have had something of a preview of 2017. It was a crash course in culture, yes, but also basketball. Teams ran offensive sets that were “different than anything I’ve ever seen before,” Confroy said. Some rules were different. The officials could speak English on the court, but almost no opponents did. Whatever Confroy intuited was largely guesswork.
“That’s the beauty of being from the United States, is pretty much everyone can speak English,” Confroy said. “Sometimes they just choose not to.”