The Maryland women’s basketball team’s offseason exodus continued Wednesday, a day after two stars entered the transfer portal.
Junior forward Mimi Collins became the fifth Terps player to enter the portal since Tuesday morning, a team spokesperson confirmed. Collins joined sophomore forward-guard Angel Reese, an Associated Press third-team All-American last season, and junior Ashley Owusu, an AP third-team All-American in 2020-21, who’d earlier announced their intentions to transfer.
Two reserves in graduate student guard Channise Lewis and sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova also are moving on.
The departures leave coach Brenda Frese with just one returning player who started more than 10 games last season. Junior guard Diamond Miller, who was limited to 18 starts last season, is expected to return but will miss three to six months after undergoing offseason knee surgery, according to the team spokesperson.
Maryland also must replace starting guard Katie Benzan and forward-guard Chloe Bibby, who declared for the WNBA draft after exhausting their eligibility.
The NCAA’s new transfer rules, which changed after the 2019 season, allow Division I players to transfer once to another Division I school, for any reason, and be immediately eligible to play. The transfer portal is a database of players interested in transferring from their current school.
The offseason shakeup comes less than two weeks after the end of a disappointing, injury-marred year. Maryland, which started the season ranked fourth in the country, finished tied for third in the Big Ten Conference and failed to win a Big Ten Tournament game for the first time in program history.
After two impressive NCAA Tournament wins, the Terps lost in the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, falling to top-seeded Stanford. Maryland last advanced past the Round of 16 in 2014-15, when it made its third Final Four appearance under Frese.
Reese and Owusu are perhaps the most high-profile departures for a program accustomed to overcoming surprising personnel losses.
Reese, a Baltimore native who starred at St. Frances, was the Terps’ top player this past season. She averaged a team-best 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and shot 50% from the field in 32 games for Maryland (23-9, 13-4 Big Ten). She was the first Terp to average a double-double since Angie Scott in 1975 and scored in double figures 27 times.
Reese, a McDonald’s All American in high school, was the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2020 — the highest-ranked recruit in program history — and the No. 1 wing, according to ESPN. She led St. Frances to three consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships and was named The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro Player of the Year in 2019-20.
Owusu, the 2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and two-time Big Ten tournament Most Valuable Player, announced her departure on social media, citing “events that have transpired on and off the court this year.”
She averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in three seasons while shooting 45.7% from the field and was the second-leading scorer (14.3 points per game) behind Reese this past season.
Slowed by an ankle injury, Owusu finished with career lows in shooting percentage (.424) and assists per game (3.7) this season. She also scored just four points in the Sweet 16 loss to the Cardinals and did not play the final six minutes, sidelined by what Frese called a stomach bug.
In Owusu’s transfer announcement, she did not acknowledge the team’s coaching staff.
“We wish these student-athletes all the best as they continue their basketball careers and education elsewhere,” Frese said in a statement Tuesday night. “Every team has been impacted by the transfer portal on both ends of it. Maryland basketball is bigger than any one lineup or person. Our staff is committed to bringing the best student-athletes to Maryland.”
Collins, who played in high school with Owusu and transferred in from Tennessee in 2019, started 15 games this past season and played in all 32. She averaged 7.9 points and 4.8 rebounds and struggled to build on her debut 2020-21 season in College Park, when she earned All-Big Ten honorable mention after averaging 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Kozlova appeared in 21 games this past season and averaged 1.3 points per game. Lewis, who struggled with serious knee injuries throughout her career at Maryland, did not play this year.
“No one expects the kind of adversity we had this year,” Reese said before the Terps’ season-ending loss to Stanford.
After the game, in which Reese had 25 points and nine rebounds, she tweeted, “We’ll be back, I’ll be back, TRUST ME.”
She retweeted the news of her entrance into the transfer portal Tuesday but did not release a statement and did not respond to a request to comment. On Wednesday, she tweeted: “I’m not committed nor have I chosen a school yet! Please respect my privacy, space, and peace! Thank you!”
Reese’s brother, Julian, also a former St. Frances star, averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds on 45.6% shooting as a freshman for the Maryland men.
Their mother, Angel, a former standout at UMBC who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, retweeted a video Tuesday night of Julian dunking at Maryland’s Xfinity Center and wrote, “Still a Terp Mom,” indicating that Julian plans to remain with the program under new coach Kevin Willard.
Reese and Owusu aren’t the only high-profile players to leave the Maryland women’s program in recent years.
Guard Taylor Mikesell, one of the best 3-point shooters in the country and the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, transferred to Oregon in 2020 and later Ohio State. Standout center Shakira Austin, who’s expected to be a top WNBA draft pick this month, also left College Park that offseason for Mississippi, where she reunited with former Terps assistant coach Shay Robinson.
In 2017, Destiny Slocum, the reigning WBCA National Freshman of the Year, transferred from Maryland to Oregon State. Forward Kiah Gillespie, another former McDonald’s All American, left that offseason for Florida State after two quiet years with the Terps.
In all, seven recruits ranked in the top 50 of ESPN’s rankings have transferred from Maryland since 2017.
Before that, guard Lexie Brown left Maryland for Duke in 2015 after earning AP third-team All-American honors and advancing to the Final Four.
According to The Athletic, more than 1,000 women’s basketball players are in the transfer portal, including many of the nation’s top players. Of the 24 women who suited up for the 2019 McDonald’s All American Game, 13 have since entered the transfer portal, including Owusu.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who led the Gamecocks to their second national title on Sunday, last week called the transfer process “way, way, way, way out of hand.”
“Sometimes you have to leave. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do; no question about that,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said at the Final Four. “But 800, 1,000 of them? There’s only 365 Division I schools.”
Christy Winters-Scott, a former Maryland women’s basketball star and current color analyst for ESPN, The Big Ten Network and other networks, said the transfer portal has “become quite a monster.”
“I just know that it is difficult for everybody involved,” she said. “It’s difficult for the kids, the parents [and] the universities. ... You really don’t know what you’re leaving and what you’re going to.”
Frese, who turned to the portal two years ago to help build one of the nation’s best offenses, landed Florida transfer Lavender Briggs in January. Briggs, a guard, is expected to help lead the Terps next season along with Miller and guard Shyanne Sellers, who impressed as a freshman to earn the Big Ten’s Sixth Player of the Year award.
Benzan, who arrived from Harvard in 2020 along with Bibby, a Mississippi State transfer, wrote Tuesday on Instagram that she was “overflowing with love, gratitude and appreciation for my two years at UMD and coach [Frese].”
She added: “My teammates, my sisters for life. Thank you for accepting me for who I am, always being there when I needed you, and making absolutely all of it (covid, the bubble, back pain, foot pain, tears after losses, late nights, early mornings) worth it! I have your back forever and ever.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Ryan McFadden and Baltimore Sun Media reporter Katherine Fominykh contributed to this article.