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Rarely if ever does an elite player transfer from one of the nation’s top-tier women’s programs to another.

Merry Christmas, Maryland.

Point guard Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood, a transfer from Tennessee, becomes eligible tonight and will suit up against Loyola (Md.), giving the already loaded and top-ranked Terps (12-0) a huge boost in their backcourt.

“Obviously, this gives us a big impact and a lot more depth in our perimeter positions,” coach Brenda Frese said. “The thing that is really special about her is her unselfishness — she’s all about the team.”

The 5-foot-9 Wiley-Gatewood started eight of nine games for Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols as a sophomore in 2005 and averaged 8.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists before leaving Knoxville after two seasons.

“I was unhappy there,” Wiley-Gatewood said without elaborating.

However, Wiley-Gatewood wanted to clear any misconceptions on her choice to bolt from Summitt’s Lady Vols.

“People think that I transferred from Tennessee because I wanted to be a star on the team or whatever they call it,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “If that was the case, I would have went somewhere like Oklahoma, but this team has a lot of talent. So it’s not true about me coming to a team and wanting to shine. They have so many great players here to where you’ve got one of the No. 1 posts [center Crystal Langhorne] in the country, so why would I come here to shine?

“I came here because of the team. The coaching staff treated me well, and the team welcomed me as soon as I came here. I’m happy to be here. I’ve never been happier.”

When she declared that she was transferring, Wiley-Gatewood never announced her destination. Her father, Jerry Gatewood, contacted Maryland.

The point guard was eager to visit after getting an up-close look at the Terps early last season. The Vols played Maryland in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wiley-Gatewood loved the Terps’ style of play.

Tonight marks the end of a long wait for one the best players to come out of California.

In 2001, Wiley-Gatewood became the first underclassman named first-team AAA All-State since Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller. In 2004, she was California’s Gatorade player of the year. During four years at Lynwood High School, she led the team to 119-7 record.

Wiley-Gatewood gives Frese many options. She is a true point guard who can score. She can team with holdover point guard Kristi Toliver and show a mix-and-match backcourt, with either bringing the ball up and the other shifting to shooter.

“She’s going to need to get some games under her belt,” Frese said. “She’ll provide a spark off the bench.”

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