COLLEGE PARK - -Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese says an alarming number of women are transferring this year from Division I programs in the sport, leaving coaches and experts to figure out why.
"It's amazing," Frese said as she examined the names of about 100 recent transfers on a list compiled by Dan Olson, owner of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a subscription service.
"I've never seen a list like that before," Frese said this week. "It's almost a new trend, and not a positive trend."
Two of Frese's players from last season have transferred. Guard Marah Strickland, a two-time Baltimore Sun All-Metro Player of the Year at Towson Catholic, will play for South Carolina. Drey Mingo, a 6-foot-2 forward, is headed to Purdue. Their departures - along with the more significant losses of senior standouts Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman to the WNBA - leave Frese to retool a team that was upset by Louisville in its bid to reach last season's Final Four.
Maryland wasn't hit as hard as some schools. Four Arizona players are leaving, including two transferring to San Diego State, according to Olson's list and the San Diego State athletics Web site. Wichita State, which underwent a coaching change in 2008, has seen four players depart since the season ended.
Louisville lost three players to transfers after making it to the NCAA tournament championship game, according to Olson and media reports. Calls to Louisville were referred to assistant sports information director Kim Pemberton, who was not immediately available.
An increasing number of coaches are expressing concern about high transfer rates in women's and men's basketball.
Frese said young college athletes and their supporters often bring high - and sometimes unrealistic - expectations about playing time and their abilities.
"I also think these kids are committing at early ages without doing their homework and doing the visits," Frese said. "They're deciding sooner, and maybe they didn't have a full picture of what everything is going to be like."
Frese said she already has three oral commitments for players entering in 2010. Because of NCAA rules, Frese declined to comment on the recruits. The players are Alyssa Thomas, a 6-1 wing from Central Dauphin High in Harrisburg, Pa., Natasha Cloud, a 6-0 combo guard from Cardinal O'Hara in Springfield, Pa., and Laurin Mincy, a 6-0 shooting guard from University High in Newark, N.J. According to ESPN HoopGurlz, Mincy is the No. 13 player nationally in the class of 2010, while Thomas (42) and Cloud (95) also crack the top 100.
In men's basketball, the National Association of Basketball Coaches says it has talked with the NCAA about whether transfer rules need to be reformed.
Athletes who transfer are required to sit out one academic year at their new school. But there are exceptions. For example, a waiver is granted when an athlete transfers because his or her sport was discontinued at his or her former school.
The NABC says it is concerned waivers are being granted too liberally for players who offer personal reasons - such as an ill family member - for switching schools.
"As coaches, we certainly understand the empathy one would have for someone transferring because, say, a parent was terminally ill or something of that nature," said Jim Haney, the NABC's executive director. "But the concern is that once you open the door, then those extreme, rare cases become increasingly common."
The NCAA didn't have publicly available data on numbers of transfers, spokesman Chris Radford said.
But Olson, who annually compiles lists of transfers in women's basketball, said the numbers appear to be up this year.
"Last year I did the list and it didn't seem like there were nearly as many" as now, said Olson, a former coach who evaluates and ranks players. "You've got a lot of pressure on these kids that has continued to go higher and higher for them to produce. In their younger years, they may make decisions that maybe aren't the best."
Strickland started 23 games for the Terps last season and averaged nearly nine points. But her playing time decreased from her freshman season. "She actually just sat down and expressed an interest in leaving," her mother, Joanna, said in April. The younger Strickland could not be reached for comment through her parents or the University of South Carolina.
Asked about Strickland and Mingo, Frese replied: "We wish them all the happiness."
Toliver and Coleman were first-round WNBA draft picks.
"We were in the same situation last year when we lost Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper in the first round" of the draft, Frese said. "The biggest thing you always say is, 'Who is going to bring the level of consistency that Toliver and Coleman bring to the table?' "
Maryland also lost two assistant coaches. Longtime assistant Erica Floyd left after her fiance got a position with LSU. Daron Park left for Louisiana Tech. Marlin Chinn, a former Seton Hall assistant, and David Adkins, an ex-DeMatha and Montrose Christian boys basketball assistant, filled the vacancies.
The Terps return two starters from a 31-5 team - forward Dee Liles and center Lynetta Kizer, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.
The backcourt will be largely new. Among those competing for playing time will be incoming freshman point guard Dara Taylor from Wilmington, Del.
"She's probably the fastest guard we've ever had in the program," Frese said.