- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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.”

With Wiley-Gatewood, Frese also can go with a three-guard alignment that includes Toliver and senior Shay Doron.

Per NCAA transfer rules, Wiley-Gatewood was forced to sit out two semesters. During that time, Wiley-Gatewood concentrated on maintaining a 3.0 GPA. She also reported to practice an hour early every day and underwent individualized instruction on running Maryland’s motion offense.

On the dry-erase board in the Terps’ locker room, Wiley-Gatewood has kept her own eligibility countdown clock, leading to tonight’s game against the Greyhounds (4-5) at Reitz Arena in Baltimore.

“It’s like an honor to our program that she would even consider coming to a program that’s already established and has gotten a lot of fame already,” forward Laura Harper said. “Obviously, she’s a winner, and she wants to be a part of this tradition and keep it going.”

That’s exactly what Wiley-Gatewood, who played in a Final Four with Tennessee during her freshman year, has in mind.

“Hopefully, I can help them stay on top,” she said.

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