Faith Masonius has always played the hardworking shadow.
While she scored over 2,000 points for her Manasquan’s basketball team in Spring Lake, New Jersey, during her high school career, she did so surrounded by others rattling off triple-figure career points. At home, Masonius is the middle child of 10, sister to a half-dozen athletes, daughter of two athletes.
Now, the Terps sophomore is the fierce competitor in a locker room of fierce competitors. She’s exactly what a team like Maryland wants, and needs, as the second-seeded Terps face No. 6 seed Texas in the Sweet 16 on Sunday night.
“She’s kind of been that unsung hero,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “Always making selfless plays for this team.”
It’s usually unnoticed. The tide of game play is still flowing, opposing teams still deploying attacks and defenses on the Terps, trying whatever tricks they can muster to neutralize the leading offense in the nation. The minute Masonius slips onto the floor off the bench, she shifts that tide. She’s battling in the paint to snag rebounds — 143 in a little under 600 minutes of play this season. Only four starters are better, as she averages 5.1 rebounds per game, and she’s pulled the second-most offensive rebounds on the team with 67.
Masonius’ scoring average lingers below double-digits (6.9) for no other reason than her role is whatever Maryland needs her to be at the time. Her 54.4% shooting rate is the second best on the team, and that’s with double the chances the leader, Alaysia Styles, has taken. Masonius proves time and time again she’s more than capable of scoring 10 points or more, as she did 10 times this season. The 6-foot-1 swing player exemplified just how dangerous a shooter she can be when she had 16 points against No. 7 seed Alabama in the NCAA second round Wednesday to become the Terps’ second-leading scorer on the afternoon.
Frese thinks Masonius is playing her best basketball, with the IQ and leadership skills that are quietly elevating Maryland to another level.
“Even though I don’t take many shots, I’m taking high percentage, and I take pride in that,” Masonius said.
With her numbers screaming a potential for more, Masonius could easily be the star on another team with shallower depth. That’s not what she wants. She came to Maryland to win.
“I came here to fight for national championships,” she said. “Going to any other program, anyone can be a star anywhere. It’s a matter of finding your role, and I feel like at Maryland, I’ve found it.”
That’s exactly the environment Masonius thrived in during high school. She was surrounded by talented basketball players, she said, from Amateur Athletic Union basketball, coached by her mother Ellen, to multiyear champions Manasquan.
Manasquan girls basketball coach Lisa Kukoda remembers a player never fazed by attention, duly given or spread elsewhere.
“It was very similar. She played with other 1,000-point, 2,000-point scorers, so there was always that balance to her,” Kukoda said. “She was always perfectly happy in doing what needed to be done to make the team be successful.”
Kukoda sees Masonius channeling that humility and poise into power as she helps drive Maryland deep into the NCAA tournament.
“Even as a freshman, her maturity and knowledge of the game has always been what’s set her apart,” Kukoda said. “If anything, she’s continued to develop that.”
However, humility doesn’t mean shyness. Masonius directed her teammates to positions she knew they’d have the most success, relaying commands on the court as the general. Kukoda sees that with the way Masonius navigates with her Terps teammates.
“There’s such a value to that, making sure everybody’s on the same page, keeping everybody positive,” Kukoda said. “I think that there’s a lot to be said for what that brings to chemistry on the floor.”
Masonius learned how to find her place among busy places before. She’s learned those lessons all her life, at home.
“I always say coming from a big family teaches me how to learn to be around different personalities, different types of people,” Masonius said, “that will help me in the real world. Everything I learned from being in a big family is going to help me moving forward. It made me competitive. It made me independent.”
Masonius’ role should continue to grow, beyond what she could do in this NCAA tournament. She’ll run the floor with sophomores Ashley Owusu, Diamond Miller and redshirt freshman Mimi Collins, freshman Angel Reese and more for the next couple years. Among them, she knows who she is.
“I’m just trying to be that steady, consistent player,” she said, “morph into a leadership role, or really just taking our team to new heights and changing the Maryland program for good. Making a true national championship team.”
NCAA women’s tournament Sweet 16
NO. 2 MARYLAND VS. NO. 6 TEXAS
Sunday, 9 p.m.