WASHINGTON — When the Washington Mystics’ PA announcer introduced Minnesota Lynx forward Diamond Miller before the teams’ Tuesday’s contest, a large cheer rose from Section 101. Miller’s former Maryland women’s basketball teammates each screamed at the top of their lungs for the once All-Big Ten First Team player.
Much of the Terps roster and some coaches came to Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., and watched Miller, alongside fellow alumni Kristi Toliver and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. After a tumultuous 2021 season that ended with the transfers of Angel Reese and others, coach Brenda Frese has placed greater importance on team chemistry.
Last season resulted in the Terps’ first Elite Eight berth since 2015. Three starters, including a team leader and four-year player in Miller, departed over the offseason.
I sat alongside the Maryland team to observe the team’s early-season chemistry during one of its preseason bonding activities — here’s what I saw.
7:50: Miller pops open in transition, eagerly calling for the ball. The Lynx point guard misses her, and the rookie claps her hand repeatedly, visibly frustrated.
Sophomore Bri McDaniel notices Miller’s annoyance and calls out, “I feel you, girl.” The comment earns a laugh from her teammates.
1:41: A foul occurs on a fast break well before a basket is scored. The crowd tepidly cheers for a continuation foul, while nearly every attendee in the Maryland section shakes their head. In college, no continuation fouls are called, while the WNBA allows baskets to be scored shortly after the whistle.
Maryland assistant coach Jessica Imhof laughs at the crowd’s reactions and notes no Terp should be surprised the basket didn’t count.
4:38: A Mystics employee walks over to the players and asks if any would like to compete in a half-court shot competition. Allie Kubek jumps out of her seat, eager to display her shooting prowess.
When the event arrives, the Terps pull their phones from their pockets, hoping to see the Towson transfer come through. Instead, her shot clangs off the left iron.
Brenda Frese has coached in College Park for 21 years, but Terp fans have had little opportunity to see her actually play on the court. During halftime, they get a sneak peek.
Frese competes in a skills challenge, going through three cycles of passing, dribbling and shooting. Multiple Maryland players stand to encourage their coach. Among the loudest players is NC State transfer Jakia Brown-Turner, who could make a large impact this season.
Brown-Turner and veteran Lavender Briggs are roommates this year, but the two met earlier at a Jordan Brand Classic. They’ve grown close, shopping together and practicing alongside each other late at night.
The transfer has already meshed herself in with the Terps, helping freshmen with the transition to college.
“I would ask Jakia questions, like ‘oh how do you do this?’,” freshman Riley Nelson said. “She won three ACC championships, so I feel like I would not be taking advantage of the opportunity at hand if I didn’t ask her questions.”
5:42: Two of the team’s more outgoing personalities, Kubek and Nelson, stand for a photo, each showing off different poses.
Nelson is the headliner of the four-man freshman class, but each of the first-year talents has impressed this summer.
“When we first got to campus, we were playing two-on-two for a bit, then it got too much having three-a-days,” Summer Bostock said.
1:11: As the game neared an end, Miller hit her final three of the game and finished the game with 25 points. Briggs flashed a knowing smile.
“I knew she was going to come to the next level and kill everybody, and she showed that tonight,” Briggs said.
Briggs could be among the next Terps to join the professional ranks — bringing on matchups she’s not exactly eagerly awaiting.
“I’m going to be guarding [Miller],” Briggs said. “But I’m scared of her; she throws her elbows.”