Maryland women's basketball used NIL and the transfer site to get back on track.

Damon Evans, the athletic director at Maryland, said that getting Brenda Frese some help this summer was important. The Terrapins women’s basketball team had just lost in the first round of the NCAA playoffs for the first time in her 22 years as coach. They had the fewest wins they had had since 2003–2004. But the worst times for the Big Ten’s most successful team over the last ten years seem to have had a good side.

Since they didn’t make it to the playoffs, the attention turned to other things, especially the trade portal, where Frese quickly put together a new team with seven new players. Due to not having to play in the playoffs, Frese and her team had more time to recruit. They also had name, image, and likeness (NIL) dollars available for the first time through the “One Maryland Collective.”

Because the market changed, we had to put in a lot more work to meet these goals, Evans said. “That’s what we did.”

“You see the difference,” Frese said.

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In September, the university stated that it would be creating a donor-funded group to help all 20 of its varsity sports get more NIL opportunities. Collectives were already set up for the football and men’s basketball teams, but women’s basketball had no money to attract possible players.

The transfer site has changed everything in the NCAA. Athletes can now go to another school and start playing right away, and the promise of NIL money has been a big part of this since players started getting paid in July 2021.

Evans wouldn’t say how much money was in the women’s basketball pool this offseason, but Frese’s newest additions show what happened:

  • Karyn Smikle, a 6-foot guard from Rutgers named to the all-Big Ten second team for 2023;
  • Christina Dalce, a 6-foot-2 forward from Villanova named Big East co-defensive player of the year;
  • Sarah Te-Biasu, a 5-5 guard from VCU and the defending Atlantic 10 player of the year;
  • Amari DeBerry, a 6-6 forward from Connecticut and a 2021 McDonald’s all-American;
  • Isimenme Ozzy-Momodu, a 6-3 forward from Gulf Coast State who was named to the third team of all-Americans by his junior college
  • Saylor Poffenbarger, a 6-2 guard from Arkansas who was named to the all-SEC rookie team in 2023
  • Mir McLean, a 5-11 tall guard from Virginia who will be an all-American for McDonald’s in 2020

The new players made up for a lot of players leaving, like Faith Masonius, Riley Nelson, Hawa Doumbouya, and Summer Bostock. Lavender Briggs, Brinae Alexander, and Jakia Brown-Turner have all used up all of their qualifications.

Frese said, “Our staff has always been one of the hardest working in the country.” “I think we did a much better job this year of being able to change and try to find a better way to hire people through the portal.” Things have been hard for me during the off-season since the transfer site changed. It was the worst thing I’ve ever been through.

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The transfer portal opened on March 18, four days before the Terps lost to Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. It’s always tough during that time because teams are getting ready for their competition opponents while also trying to keep an eye on the portal. Because they left early, the Maryland staff could really get into the link and work 14 to 16 hours a day. The staff always checked the link, at least three times a day, to see if anyone new had come in.

To be one of the first to reach out was the goal. The process included watching film, deciding if the player was a good fit, talking to people who know the player, and setting up a 48-hour visit to the school.

Lindsey Spann, who is in charge of hiring, said, “All hands on deck.” “You need to get in as soon as possible because a lot of this moves so quickly for a lot of these student-athletes. “[The group] it helps us a lot.”

Maryland has been criticized lately for the large number and high quality of players who have left the program. Angel Reese is the most famous example of this. She led LSU to the national title in her first season after transferring, and she was named the NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player. On the other hand, Abby Meyers, Alexander, Briggs, and Elisa Pinzan helped the Terps get to the 2023 Elite Eight by coming in as transfers. It was one of the most highly productive teams in school history in 2021–22, with Chloe Bibby, Katie Benzan, and Mimi Collins coming from other teams.

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The Maryland staff says they think those problems have been fixed. Last year’s team lacked strength, size, and athleticism. It seemed like this year, both Frese and Spann agreed, the players in the link were a good fit for the team.

The good players they had access to helped, but not having any money to compete for those stars may have been the biggest factor.

“That was the hard part—figuring out what was going on out there,” Evans said. “How big was the market for women’s basketball players in particular?” How many NIL dollars did they start getting paid? … The pay that women’s basketball players were getting about a year ago is nothing compared to what they’re getting now. So we made sure we knew how quickly this was changing and growing, and we worked with Brenda to figure out, “Okay, how much money do we need to raise in this collective for you to meet your needs?”That was really the tough part. It was so quick to go from 0 to 100, but we did it. She was then able to get what I consider to be one of the best college classes in the country.

Frese said this was the first time she had ever worked with a player’s agent.

“That part is a whole new reality that no one has trained us for,” Frese said. “I’ve been in a lot of different situations, but I never thought I’d be in this room between agents and NIL and everything else. But here we are.”

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