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Terps

For No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball, emergence of freshman Shyanne Sellers as starter is ‘perfect timing’

With junior point guard Ashley Owusu out for the foreseeable future because of a sprained right ankle, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese could have turned to redshirt junior power forward Mimi Collins or sophomore shooting guard Taisiya Kozlova as a replacement in the starting lineup.

Instead, Frese chose Shyanne Sellers, an 18-year-old freshman shooting guard who had made three starts in November. Sellers — the daughter of Brad Sellers, a former NBA power forward and current mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio — joined a group that included graduate students Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby, junior Diamond Miller and sophomore Angel Reese.

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“Yeah, it’s something to be proud of, but there’s a long road to go,” Sellers said before the No. 13 Terps’ 81-69 win at No. 22 Iowa on Monday night. “I’m definitely not satisfied of where I am or of where I should be. There’s a lot to work on.”

The 6-foot-2 Sellers is chipping in at the right time for Maryland (19-6, 11-3 Big Ten), which welcomes No. 18 Ohio State (19-4, 11-3) to Xfinity Center in College Park for an 8 p.m. tipoff Thursday. In her last seven games, she averaged 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals. In three consecutive starts in place of Owusu, she averaged 10.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.0 steals.

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For the season, Sellers ranks seventh on the team in points (7.8 per game) and sixth in rebounds (3.8), but second in total steals (42) and third in overall assists (67). Beyond the numbers, Frese feels at ease about starting the first-year player.

“You always have to see if they’re ready for it,” she said. “We knew how talented Shy was, having recruited her. So we felt like she was going to be more prepared than your typical freshman. I think that curve was accelerated. When you look at the minutes, she got a lot more when Diamond was out, and now as Ashley has been day-to-day, I think she’s really stepped into being comfortable.”

Reaching that level of familiarity took some time for Sellers, the all-time leading scorer at Aurora High School in Ohio and ESPN’s No. 22 recruit in the Class of 2021. In three starts in November for Miller against then-No. 6 Baylor, then-No. 5 North Carolina State and then-No. 7 Stanford (the latter two at the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in Nassau, Bahamas), she averaged 7.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals.

Those might seem like decent numbers for a freshman, but Sellers acknowledged that her ability to play defense at the NCAA Division I level was lacking.

“Coming in from high school, you didn’t really have to try on defense,” she said. “But here, you’ve got to work for it. Everybody here is just as good as you. So I think me just relaxing in high school didn’t do me justice and kind of set me back. So I was working on getting my feet quicker, and when I’m defending the ball, I have a lot of length on me. So I’m using that to my advantage. Defense is all about effort. You might not have a good offensive game, but your defense is always there for you.”

Frese echoed Sellers’ sentiment.

“She’s always been a high-energy player, but her confidence level has really improved and her defense,” she said. “I think that’s been an area that maybe before has kind of taken her off the court. But now she’s really starting to come into her own, which you oftentimes see a freshman either hit the wall or really take another step, and she’s really done that for us.

“I think all of these minutes she’s gotten to play for us starting down in the Bahamas in the nonconference [games] to where she is now, she’s really rounding into form and just understanding how hard she needs to play and really putting the whole game together, which is perfect timing.”

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Sellers quipped that Frese knew how to push the right buttons with her to get her to improve her defense.

“In practice, she was always like, ‘I can’t play you if you can’t play defense,’” Sellers recalled. “That kind of made me want to work harder and get it done for my team. She definitely knows how to light the fire and get you motivated.”

Frese said the turning point in Sellers’ development was a 95-89 loss at Ohio State on Jan. 20 in which she played a season-low 10 minutes and finished with two points, one rebound, one steal and zero assists.

“I thought that was a low-minute game for her, and I thought her response since then has been terrific,” she said. “It started with practice, it started with her defense, and it kind of started where she understands that she’s going to make an impact wherever she goes. If that means the team needs assists or the team needs her to guard, she’s been more than willing to kind of do all of those unselfish things to help this team fill a role.”

As a starter, Sellers said she has leaned on Benzan to provide guidance. Benzan, who has slid over from her natural shooting guard role to assume Owusu’s point guard duties, said she appreciates Sellers’ willingness to seek counsel.

“Shy is a great listener to the coaches and also the seniors as well,” she said. “I try to give her a little tidbit here and there as the point guard but also as her teammate. I want her to be the best she can be. So I’m just trying to be that mentor and that person she can go to for help or love and support.”

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Sellers said Benzan has aided her immensely, especially in one statistical category.

“When I don’t know what to do, I’m definitely turning to Katie,” she said. “Katie does have some wise words to say. I love playing with Katie. Katie definitely helps getting my assists up.”

Although Sellers has led the Terps in assists in six games, including three straight from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3, she has yet to pace the team in points and rebounds. But she said she prefers to contribute in several departments rather than focus on being the high scorer.

“I actually kind of like having that full stat line. It’s just better,” she said. “I think I don’t really feel the need to be a scorer right now. I know I can score, but it’s not really one of my big priorities. I’m just kind of helping our team. I’m really just trying to look at my assists-to-turnover ratio and how many steals I get. I’m not really into the points because I know the rest of my team can do that.”

A timetable for Owusu’s return has not been set, but conventional wisdom would suggest that when she does, she would be reinserted into the starting lineup, and Sellers would be the first player off the bench.

Ever the team player, Sellers said she is prepared for such a scenario.

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“I think we should stick with our bread-and-butter recipe, and I definitely believe that Ashley should be in the lineup,” she said. “It’s not going to change the way I’m going to play when I go back to the bench. I don’t really care about starting or not. It’s just when my jersey is called, I’m going to show up.”

NO. 18 OHIO STATE@NO. 13 MARYLAND

Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM


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