When Maryland women’s basketball guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was a freshman in 2013, she looked up at the eight jerseys hanging from the rafters of Xfinity Center and turned to then-assistant coach Marlin Chinn.
“Coach Chinn, what does it take — what did they do to get up there?” Walker-Kimbrough asked.
“You’ve got to be real good,” he replied.
More recently, Walker-Kimbrough marveled as she looked over her predecessors’ statistics with assistant coach Terry Nooner.
Then, while reviewing film last month, coach Brenda Frese told Walker-Kimbrough and center Brionna Jones they would become the 10th and 11th Maryland players to have their jerseys hung from the rafters of Xfinity Center.
“Words can’t describe it,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Being amongst the legends that were here and the legacies they built.”
When the duo’s jerseys were raised after Sunday’s Senior Day win over Minnesota, it represented the completion of a goal Walker-Kimbrough set — or at least asked about — four years prior.
On Jan. 31, the team was beginning to prepare for a game at Purdue two days later when the lights in the film room shut off in the middle of assistant coach Bett Shelby’s breakdown of the Boilermakers’ defense.
Then, a video of Walker-Kimbrough and Jones’ highlights throughout the years, intertwined with comments about them from teammates, played on the room’s television screens.
Once it ended, Frese stepped forward and asked the two seniors if it’d be OK to honor their jerseys after their Senior Day about a month later.
“They turned the lights off, I thought something went wrong with the film,” Jones said to the team cameraman afterward. “I think I’m still in shock, honestly.”
Walker-Kimbrough couldn’t articulate much in the immediate aftermath, asking for a few more minutes before commenting.
It wasn’t the first time Frese had some fun while breaking the news to one of her stars.
She began the conversation in 2009 with guards Marissa Coleman (No. 25) and Kristi Toliver (No. 20) with a serious tone before telling them the real reason she had called them into her office, Coleman wrote in an email.
“[Toliver] and I both looked at each other and started smiling as much as humanly possible,” Coleman wrote. “I can’t remember much more of a reaction than being shocked and extremely happy and humbled.”
In 2014, Frese pulled star forward Alyssa Thomas (No. 25) aside while holding an envelope and told her she had “some news” and that “the media was going to find out.” After drawing the prank out a bit longer, she let Thomas open the envelope and find a paper explaining the real situation.
In an email, Thomas wrote she also was in shock and, like Walker-Kimbrough, she remembered looking up at the jerseys as a young player.
When Jones and Walker-Kimbrough first came to the campus, however, Thomas was a teammate, not yet a legend in the rafters. Their careers overlapped for one season.
“Since the first day they stepped onto campus I knew they would be special. … It has been a joy to watch them grow and mature,” Thomas wrote. “To have [your jersey] put up there alongside someone you came in with, I can only imagine how special it is.”
One of the most heartfelt moments of Sunday’s ceremony came near the end of Walker-Kimbrough’s speech at center court, after the jerseys had been revealed.
“I wouldn’t want to share this moment with any other person,” Walker-Kimbrough said, addressing Jones. “I have watched you grow as a dynamic player and an even better young woman. I love you, Bri.”
Jones and Walker-Kimbrough are the third pair from the same class to have their jersey honored but just the second to have the ceremony together.
Coleman and Toliver, whose ceremony also came after their final regular-season game, are the other pair.
“[Toliver] and I am extremely close … and have known each other since we were 15 years old,” Coleman wrote. “I’m pretty sure I knew what she was thinking: ‘We did it.’ … We wanted to do something special at Maryland.
“Having our jerseys retired together brought our journey together full circle.”
During Sunday’s ceremony, Frese expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s only fitting that as you continue to leave your legacy, five Big Ten titles and counting, 120 wins and counting, two Final Fours and counting,” the 15-year head coach said, “that we raise your banner here today on Senior Day.”
That meant their jerseys hang near players on Maryland’s first two squads to make a national semifinal.
Guard Tara Heiss (No. 44) was the first to receive the honor after leading the charge from 1975 to 1978. Guard Jasmina Perazic (No. 4) was the second.
When she found out her jersey would be unfurled from the rafters after her senior season in 1983, Perazic, who was born in present-day Serbia, wasn’t familiar with the concept.
At the team’s banquet after her final campaign, then-coach Chris Weller surprised her with the announcement.
“I was just talking … and then everybody started clapping, and I’m still talking,” Perazic said. “People are standing up, so I stand up and I’m clapping, too, and then someone pushes me and says, ‘This is for you.’ I had no idea what was going on.”
Though being honored for a career’s worth of work, Jones and Walker-Kimbrough know they still have a final postseason. Heiss said the team’s success in the coming weeks will cement how the duo will be remembered.
“Me and Bri had a great career,” Walker-Kimbrough said on Big Ten Network after the game. “And it’s far from over.”
The process of raising Jones’ and Walker-Kimbrough’s banners was long and lavish.
There was the initial surprise video in January and another viewing on Xfinity Center’s big screen after Sunday’s game.
“That was really cool,” Walker-Kimbrough said the day after the announcement. “Especially to see how my teammates feel about me, and the impact me and Bri have had on them.”
In the month since, Walker-Kimbrough and Jones have had a photoshoot from the top of the arena. Walker-Kimbrough’s family arranged for a bus to travel to the game from her hometown of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Both prepared remarks to read at midcourt.
Then, after the contest, Frese gave a speech to the announced crowd of 10,107, almost double the season average, before the players spoke.
Still, the former players admit the duo will appreciate the milestone more as they mature, like most of them did.
Walker-Kimbrough’s postgame comments reflected that.
“I was definitely more excited for the game [than any other festivities],” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Being that the Big Ten regular-season title was one of our goals, it’s really cool to see everything play out.”
Forward Laura Harper (No. 15) played from 2005 to 2008, helped the Terps win their first national championship in 2006 and was the NCAA Tournament Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Those may be the shining moments of her playing career, but that’s not what makes her beam most when remembering her time in a Terps uniform.
Harper, now an assistant coach at George Washington University, last visited Xfinity Center, where her jersey hangs, in January, when the Colonials didn’t have access to their facilities due to the presidential inauguration and used Maryland’s instead.
Chances like those are more special to her than any trophy, granted Harper said she didn’t receive nor keep much memorabilia from her college or two-year WNBA careers.
“I showed them that little piece of what my history was like,” Harper said. “Being able to come back as a coach and show my players that reflection really was special.
“My proudest moments are when I’ve been able to share that with my family, friends and other people.”
The immortality of the honored jerseys means the players are represented even when they aren’t in the building.
“A lot of people I know — students, family, friends — they always text me the picture of my name in the rafters,” Vicky Bullett (No. 23) said. “To look up there and see your name, it’s a joy.
“It’s something that’s always going to be there and brings back a lot of memories.”
That’s why the alumni don’t expect the 21-year-olds to grasp the concept of their legacy’s longevity. Jones admitted as much during her speech, saying it hadn’t “completely sunk in.”
But it would be impossible not to have a reaction when seeing her last name above her No. 42, unfurled near the back of Xfinity Center, knowing it will remain above the court forever.
“Definitely all good emotions,” Jones said after the game. “Being happy that everything happened, and then taking a minute to savor in the moment.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to end the regular season.”