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Graduations, Transfers Change Maryland Women's Basketball Outlook

April 4, 2017
When Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough were taken out during the final minute of Maryland's 77-63 loss to upstart Oregon in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 March 25, the Maryland women's basketball program entered a new era. 

It was going to be difficult enough for the Terps to replace two of the best and most productive players in school history. The task of remaining among the sport's elite programs became an even greater challenge April 4, when the university announced point guard Destiny Slocum, who earned the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year honor and was named the National Freshman of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association April 1, will transfer out of the program. Slocum has reportedly been homesick throughout the year. Sophomore forward Kiah Gillespie and freshman center Jenna Staiti are also transferring, making Maryland's next chapter look much different than the one that just ended. 

A new-look Maryland team will be hard-pressed to post a second straight appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. With the graduation of the Terps' two seniors and the transfer of the nation's top freshman and two other promising young players, the Terps will lose 64 percent of their scoring, 50 percent of their rebounding and 60 percent of their assists. It will also be tough to find a true point guard who will replace Slocum's floor leadership and uncanny ability to find her teammates at any spot on the court. 

"I truly enjoyed coaching Destiny and her energy that she brought every day," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said in a statement. "I had many long conversations with her over the season, and we spent a lot of time together. Our staff is proud of the commitment we put into Destiny's development and all the accomplishments she achieved this season, from Big Ten Freshman of the Year to WBCA National Freshman of the Year."

Jones and Walker-Kimbrough were the catalysts of the Terps' latest successful chapter, which followed the 2014 graduation of all-time leading scorer and rebounder Alyssa Thomas. The graduation of both players leaves a significant gap in the program. Jones and Walker-Kimbrough guided the Terps to a 32-3 record, a Big Ten championship, the program's seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this season. During its brilliant four-year career, the senior duo led Maryland to a 125-17 record, three Big Ten titles, four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Fours. 

Jones and Walker-Kimbrough were each named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and ESPNW 10-player All-America teams. They were also among the 14 players on the national ballot for the Wooden Award and were two of the 10 finalists for the NCAA's Senior CLASS Award. 

Jones, a four-year starter at low post, earned first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy. During the 2016-17 campaign, the 6-foot-3 center led Maryland in scoring (19.9 points) and rebounding (10.9) and set a school single-season record with 697 points. The second-most accurate shooter in program history, Jones led the nation in field-goal percentage (.690) for the second consecutive season. The Havre de Grace, Md., native finished among the school's all-time leaders in scoring (tied for fifth with 1,928 points), rebounding (third with 1,209 caroms) and blocked shots (fourth with 164). 

Walker-Kimbrough, a three-year starter in the Terps' backcourt, averaged 18.8 points and 3.7 assists during her senior season. The 5-foot-11 guard, who earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press for the second straight year, shot .525 from the field and .450 from 3-point range. The native of Aliquippa, Pa., set the school and Big Ten career record with a .459 3-point field goal percentage. Walker-Kimbrough finished fourth among Maryland's career scoring leaders with 2,156 points, and her 374 career assists put her in 16th place. 

With Jones and Walker-Kimbrough likely headed to professional basketball careers, the Maryland coaching staff will have to replace a significant amount of production and leadership. The unexpected loss of Slocum will force the Terps to look elsewhere on their roster for their next team leader. 

Slocum, a native of Meridian, Idaho, dazzled during her only season at Maryland. The 5-foot-7 point guard averaged 11.5 points and 6.0 assists and set Maryland freshmen records with 204 assists and 71 3-pointers. 

Slocum's departure leaves Maryland with two returning starters, guards Kaila Charles and Kristen Confroy. Charles was named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team after averaging 9.7 points and 5.6 rebounds. Confroy, who has been to three NCAA Tournaments and one Final Four, will be the most experienced returnee. Confroy, who averaged 5.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists, is one of just two seniors on the 2017-18 squad and will provide a steady hand for a transitioning Maryland program. 

Ieshia Small, Blair Watson and Sarah Myers will also return to the Terps' backcourt. Small, a versatile 6-foot transfer from Baylor who can play the point and wing positions, averaged 5.1 points and 2.1 assists in a reserve role. Watson, who averaged 2.9 points and 2.2 rebounds, played the third-most minutes of Maryland's six-player freshmen class. Myers averaged 1.4 points and .8 assists in 28 games during her first season at Maryland.
 
The Terps will also welcome guard Eleanna Christinaki, a transfer from the University of Florida. Christinaki was chosen to the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman Team during the 2015-16 season and averaged 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists in nine games with the Gators during her sophomore campaign. The native of Athens, Greece, was Florida's top scorer when she decided to transfer to Maryland after the 2016 fall semester. 

With the loss of Gillespie, who averaged 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds during the 2016-17 campaign, the Terps will depend on center Brianna Fraser and forward Stephanie Jones to anchor their frontcourt. Fraser provided Maryland with valuable contributions off the bench, averaging 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds during her sophomore season. Jones, the younger sister of Brionna Jones, averaged 4.1 points and 2.0 rebounds as a freshman.