Terps’ Charles charged with big­ger role

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ava Wal­lace

Kaila Charles spent al­most ev­ery day this sum­mer in the gym with the Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball coach­ing staff, and when the daily work­outs didn’t sat­isfy her crav­ings the Terps ju­nior started sched­ul­ing two ex­tra ses­sions a week with the per­sonal trainer she’s had since high school.

To be sure, Charles had a lot to learn. She cy­cled through ball­han­dling drills de­signed for perime­ter play­ers, prac­ticed draw­ing dou­ble teams not while driv­ing in the paint but far from the bas­ket, and she trained her mind to read de­fenses more quickly than be­fore. It was a sum­mer’s worth of fine-tun­ing skills that all but laid dor­mant last year, when Charles’ role for the Terps was neatly de­fined: Get to the bas­ket and score.

“Now, I have to learn how to get my team­mates open and make my team­mates

bet­ter in­stead of try­ing to score ev­ery pos­ses­sion,” Charles said.

As Mary­land tips off what it hopes will be a resur­gent sea­son tonight against Cop­pin State, its al­pha player has found her­self oc­cu­py­ing a new role.

Charles’ job last year was dif­fi­cult and im­por­tant but at the same time sim­ple. She was the pro­gram’s leader and of­fen­sive en­gine, av­er­ag­ing a team-high17.9 points per game (four points more than the next-lead­ing scorer), not by choice but by ne­ces­sity. Mary­land was in­ex­pe­ri­enced and thin on con­sis­tent shoot­ers.

This sea­son, the ju­nior’s task is more nu­anced. The Terps have of­fen­sive threats all over the floor and Frese is no longer ask­ing Charles to drive the of­fense all by her­self.

What she’s ask­ing for is some­thing that re­quires a bit more gra­da­tion and a bit more ma­tu­rity on Charles’ part. Frese is ask­ing the Terps’ best player to lead by giv­ing up the ball more. “I spent a lot of time talk­ing to her about, ‘Your scor­ing av­er­age is go­ing to go down,’ ” Frese said Tues­day. “Her role for us this year has to change, and I spoke her to about Alyssa Thomas and how the best play­ers out there make ev­ery­one bet­ter. She should be a stat-sheet stuffer when you talk about her abil­ity to score and re­bound and get steals and as­sists — we re­ally just talked about round­ing out her game to make the right play. She gets it. She’s a win­ner, she wants to win.”

Mary­land, ranked No. 9 in the As­so­ci­ated Press pre­sea­son poll, is com­ing off a rel­a­tively down year in which it fin­ished 26-8, its worst mark since the 2012-13 sea­son, and was knocked out in the sec­ond round of the NCAA Tour­na­ment. The Terps shored up last sea­son’s weak­nesses by adding three crit­i­cal el­e­ments to their lineup: size, 3-point shoot­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence at point guard.

The Terps’ two fresh­men for­wards, Shakira Austin and Olivia Owens, mea­sure 6-foot-5 and 6-4. Guard Tay­lor Mike­sell won the na­tion­ally con­tested Amer­i­can Fam­ily In­sur­ance three-point cham­pi­onship in spring and Sara Vu­jacic shot 45 per­cent from be­yond the arc in her last sea­son at ju­nior col­lege. Sopho­more Chan­nise Lewis has a sea­son’s worth of ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning point.

That means Charles has been shifted, lit­er­ally, out to the perime­ter more of­ten, where Frese hopes to ex­pose mis­matches, take bet­ter ad­van­tage of the 6-1 guard­for­ward’s ver­sa­til­ity and put Charles in po­si­tion to dis­trib­ute the ball more if need be.

“We have so many more pieces of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, so it’s know­ing that team suc­cess is more im­por­tant than scor­ing so-and-so points,” Charles said. “. . . It’s go­ing to help me be­come a com­plete over­all player in terms of learn­ing how to pass bet­ter, learn­ing how to read the de­fense, when to take my shot, to know when I need to pass it or when I need to slow down the of­fense.”

Frese said that be­com­ing a com­plete player has a lot to do with Charles’ con­tri­bu­tions off the court as well. The coach, en­ter­ing her 17th year at Mary­land, ex­pects Charles to take a step back from scor­ing with­out sac­ri­fic­ing her lead­er­ship du­ties on a team that, de­spite its added ex­pe­ri­ence, still skews young. The Terps have three fresh­men, a trans­fer stu­dent and just one se­nior, Bri­anna Fraser. Tonight, 7 TV: BTN Plus

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