GREENSBORO, N.C. – Head coach Brenda Frese of the Maryland women’s basketball team was voted ACC Coach of the Year by the league’s head coaches and junior Alyssa Thomas was named ACC Player of the Year by the Blue Ribbon Panel for the second straight season Thursday. Frese’s honor is her first by the conference in her 11 seasons at Maryland. Thomas is the first in school history to be named Player of the Year twice.
Frese, the 2002 Associated Press National Coach of the Year, led the Terrapins to the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s ACC Tournament and a record of 23-6 overall and 14-4 in ACC play, despite key season-ending injuries to the Terps’ starting guards Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy, as well as center Essence Townsend in the fall. As the season wore on, the Terrapins lost freshman Tierney Pfirman to a dislocated knee cap and played a stretch with seven available players.
“I’ve never had a player respond to challenges and have a year like Alyssa Thomas,” Frese said. “She’s willing to give every ounce of herself and do whatever her team needs. When adversity struck our team, she was a leader and always was the first person to step up and do more.”
Thomas, a 6-2 forward, has played every position on the floor for the Terrapins and led the league in rebounding with 10.4 per contest. She was second in assists (5.2) and third in scoring (17.7). In the 18 conference games, she led all players in scoring (19.7), rebounding (11.0) and assists (5.3). She notched an ACC-high 17 double-doubles this year, 12 in conference play.
“This year has been a really interesting road for us, but I think as a team, we’ve taken it all on and never made an excuse,” Thomas said. “To be voted this honor again is really special because there a lot of really good players in our league. I just work hard every day to make my team better and be the best I can.”
Thomas is the fourth Terrapin to earn ACC Player of the Year honors and third under Frese. Kristi Toliver earned the award in 2009 and Crystal Langhorne did in 2008. Last year, she was the first underclassman in school history to earn the league’s top individual honor and just the second in conference history.
“Alyssa Thomas is the most powerful player in the country and the best player in the ACC back to back years,” television analyst Debbie Antonelli said. “One of the best shot-makers and finishers in the country added play-making to her skill set which makes her more dangerous to defend and her teammates more productive and efficient. When she is motoring down the middle of the floor with the ball, there is no one better at making decisions or playing the game with balance and power.”
Frese has now been named Coach of the Year in every conference she’s coached. She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year while at Minnesota in 2002 and Mid-American Coach of the Year in 2000 while at Ball State.
“There’s a tremendous group of coaches in the ACC and to be honored by them is incredible,” Frese said. “I’m really flattered. This is an individual award, but it’s really about every person in our program. I specifically want to thank my staff for their tireless work ethic behind the scenes. Between them and our players, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great people who make what we do a lot of fun. I couldn’t be prouder of how we’ve fought to get better each and every day, no matter the circumstance.”
Frese and her staff of associate head coach Tina Langley, Marlin Chinn and David Adkins, restructured the team’s practice time, cutting their practice time on the floor to just twice a week at 75 minutes each session.
“Coach Frese continues to validate her system and success by finding ways to win through adversity without excuse,” television analyst Debbie Antonelli said. “It is the true sign of a teacher and definition of a coach who finds ways to put her players in positions to succeed for the good of the team. Maryland finished second in the ACC replacing so many players from last year. They had a great year in the league. Congratulations to Coach Frese and her staff for being recognized by their peers.”
Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie was named ACC Coach of the Year by the Blue Ribbon Panel, which is comprised of media members and representatives from each school, as well as some national media members. Duke’s Chelsea Gray was voted ACC Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches.
Rookies Malina Howard and Chloe Pavlech were named to the All-ACC Freshman Teams Tuesday. Senior Tianna Hawkins and Thomas were voted to the All-ACC First Team Monday.
The 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team will play seventh-seeded Georgia Tech or 10th-seeded Wake Forest Friday at 6 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C. The game will be shown on RSN and specific television channels will be released this week.
Maryland earned a first round bye for the eighth time under Frese. The Yellow Jackets (14-15, 7-11) and the Demon Deacons (12-18, 5-13) will play Thursday at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to take on the Terrapins. Maryland’s 14 conference wins are a school record.
Maryland is 49-25 (.662) all-time in the ACC Tournament and is 14-8 (.636) under Frese. The Terrapins are 13-6 all-time as the No. 2 seed (.684). Maryland won the program’s 10th ACC title last year as the No. 3 seed with a 68-65 win over fourth-seeded Georgia Tech. ACC Tournament MVP Alyssa Thomas scored 29 points in the championship game to lift the Terps.
For game times and the latest on the ACC Tournament, log on to http://www.theacc.com/championships/acc-womens-basketball-tournament.html. All rounds will be televised.
A printable bracket can be found at http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/md/sports/w-baskbl/auto_pdf/2012-13/misc_non_event/2013ACCTournamentBracket.pdf.