- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. — One is a talking baby on a cartoon show, the other a brain surgeon on a medical drama. The Stewie Griffin character on “Family Guy” and the Dr. Derek Shepherd role on “Grey’s Anatomy” would seem to have nothing in common. But they do.

Marissa Coleman stops everything to watch them.

And within the Maryland women’s basketball team and the Coleman home in Cheltenham, that’s considered a unique accomplishment. Coleman is constantly on the go, from class to practice, practice to study hall, study hall to dinner, dinner to the movie theater.

“Always been that way,” said Coleman’s mom, Joni. “She has to be in motion and doing something.”

“Doesn’t slow down until she’s tired,” teammate Shay Doron said.

“I have to be doing something or I’ll lose focus,” Coleman said.

So Seth McFarland, the voice of Stewie, and Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Shepherd, can take a bow.

” ‘Family Guy’ is the best show ever, and I get the new seasons on DVD whenever they come out,” she said. “And I watch ‘Grey’s‘ religiously. Patrick Dempsey … so hot. People don’t know what they’re missing.”

On the court, Coleman, 20, is Maryland’s most versatile player. A starter since early in her freshman year, she can play all five positions. Entering tonight’s NCAA tournament second-round game against Mississippi, the sophomore leads the team in minutes (28.5) and is second in points (13.0), rebounds (7.4), assists (3.3) and steals (1.1).

“She has devoted herself to improving her game,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “I really like where her game is at right now. She understands how much we need her.”

Off the court … whew, where to start? She drives a two-door Explorer, likes going to the movies and bowling, has a wide array of music on her iPod, is kind of superstitious, wants to be a sportscaster or basketball coach and smiles every time she sees herself on the “SportsCenter” opening.

“I’m perfectly content hanging out by myself or being around my teammates,” she said. “But I have to be doing something.”

• • •

Coleman’s urge to do something led her to Maryland.

The safe decision would have been to sign with established powers Connecticut and Tennessee. Instead, she chose the up-and-coming Terps, who hadn’t advanced past the NCAA tournament’s second round since 1992.

“I didn’t want to go to a Tennessee or a Connecticut where they had won titles and if I had won one, it would have been just another national championship,” Coleman said. “Here, we were the first team to win. I can come here 20 years from now, look at the floor from Boston on the [Comcast Center] wall and the trophy case and say, ‘I was a part of that first title.’ ”

Ever since she started playing basketball, it has been about winning. After losses during AAU tournaments, Coleman would be distraught for several hours while her teammates would rush back to the hotel swimming pool, her mother said. Her disdain for losing and love for basketball were evident early.

“We’ve never had to push her,” her mother said. “She’s never taken anything in basketball lightly.”

Coleman was heavily involved in AAU and USA Basketball during her high school career. She accepted the daily, two-hour roundtrip to St. John’s College in the District and became a McDonald’s All-American.

In the Terps’ national title season, Coleman started 28 of 37 games, averaging 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds. She was named ACC rookie of the year and had double-doubles in Final Four wins over North Carolina and Duke.

But not satisfied, Coleman sacrificed a chance to play for USA Basketball last summer in order to work out at Comcast Center.

“To take a big jump, she knew she had to devote some time to the weight room,” Frese said. “To make that kind of sacrifice says a lot about who she is.”

• • •

Coleman’s urge to do something led her to adopt a unique anthem.

Because she wants to be at a fever pitch come tipoff, she has listened to Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” before every game since junior high.

The song’s lyrics includes 15 expletives and the phrases “rippin’ someone’s head off,” “your best bet is stay away [expletive],” “or you’ll be leavin’ with a fat lip,” “damn right, I’m a maniac” and “I hope you know I’m packing a chain saw.”

When told a version of the song is on YouTube, Coleman’s face lit up.

“Don’t you just want to fight somebody after listening to that?” she asked.

That’s what Coleman is all about, though. She fights against bigger players in the post. She scraps against smaller guards beyond the 3-point line. And she’s not afraid to mix it up physically with any player.

Coleman represents Maryland’s fire. Crystal Langhorne, Laura Harper and Kristi Toliver let their play speak. Doron will dive all over the floor and be vocal. But Coleman is different. She’s the one pumping a fist, offering high-fives and, occasionally, a chest bump.

“That’s huge for us,” Frese said. “Whenever a player shows energy or emotion, it motivates everybody else. She’s finding her niche as a leader, but she understands it doesn’t matter what year you’re in. She’s done a tremendous job.”

Coleman’s work has helped Maryland to a 28-5 record, and last year it helped the Terps win a ring. Not that she wears it with any regularity.

“I don’t wear it because I’m trying to get another one,” she said. “I’ll pick it up and look at it sometimes. But I want another one. I don’t want to live in the past. If I spend time thinking about the memory, I might lose my focus and not live in this moment of trying to win another one.”

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