At first glance, Maryland forward Marissa Coleman spent her summer like a typical basketball player - taking classes, working out and tailoring her game.
Behind closed doors, however, a change took place.
Despite playing with Crystal Langhorne, Maryland’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, and Laura Harper, the 2006 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Coleman has found a way to make her own mark on the program.
Besides racking up 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in her career, Coleman emerged as coach Brenda Frese’s most reliable performer in the clutch, bailing out the Terrapins time and time again with important baskets in the final seconds.
Now a senior, Coleman will be relied on for more than just big shots. She, along with senior point guard Kristi Toliver, are the leaders of the Terps, whose season kicks off Friday night at Maryland Madness.
“Marissa has really been our unsung hero the last three years,” Frese said. “Now is her time to really shoulder the load, and honestly it’s something she’s been waiting for.”
As career starters, Coleman and Toliver are used to the spotlight on the court. The biggest adjustment has come behind the scenes, where it’s now their turn to set the tone in the Terps’ locker room.
It’s a task they are prepared for because they helped re-establish Maryland as an elite program. But after falling short of the Final Four the past two seasons, the pair is determined to leave a legacy with a strong performance this year.
“They know what we expect, and they know how to go out and get it,” Frese said. “These are two seniors that won a national championship their freshman year, so they completely know what it takes and have been a lot more vocal and taken pride in ownership of their team.”
The Terps have a different dynamic than they did in 2007. Gone are Harper and Langhorne, as well as guard Ashleigh Newman and forward Jade Perry, who were key contributors off the bench. Langhorne and Harper were both first-round picks in this year’s WNBA Draft.
Coleman was a big part of Maryland’s first national championship in 2006. She also saw first-hand from Shay Doron how much senior leadership contributes to a winning team. Maryland’s roster is again infused with young talent thanks to back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes. But compensating for the 38.9 points and 24.2 rebounds a game last year’s seniors provided is a daunting task.
But that doesn’t worry Coleman. Maryland is reinventing itself to work around its losses, and the versatile Coleman provides the perfect cornerstone for that transition.
“We’re just going to be a different team than what people are expecting,” Coleman said. “We’re not going to be as post-oriented. The exciting thing is we have a lot of players that were injured last year that nobody really knows about that we know are good, so we’ll be able to surprise a lot of people in that aspect.
“I don’t think anybody on this team is worried about not being as good or anything like that. We’re going to be just as good, just a different team than what people are used to seeing.”
Every preseason poll released thus far has the Terps ranked in the top 10. But Coleman is used to a higher standard, one she plans taking Maryland to again this year.
“Kristi and I have talked about it,” she said. “We have a chance to do something we know we can do but not a lot of people are expecting - that’s to lead this team to the Final Four. We know what it takes, and we would love to end our senior season on a high note.”