Brenda Frese jokingly indicated her former Arizona teammates have a choice to make in terms of who to cheer for when her second-seeded Maryland team faces the No. 7 Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday at College Park, Md.
Frese, at Arizona from 1988-93, remains very close with players from that era, all of whom were recruited to the program by June Olkowski and her staff. She was on the roster in Joan Bonvicini’s first season of 1991-92 but was hampered by a foot injury that required surgery the following season. She wound up serving as a graduate assistant coach in 1992-93 under Pima College coach Susie Pulido.
Frese and her former teammates have engaged in reunions and they communicate with each other often almost 30 years after they played for the Wildcats.
I asked Frese during Maryland’s postgame press conference after beating Holy Cross 93-61 on Friday about that dynamic of having to coach against her alma mater especially with her likely to get text messages and phone calls from her former teammates.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Frese said smiling. “We’re talking about doing a reunion in the offseason so I’m gonna have to see who they’re rooting for in this game.
“But yeah, you know, I mean, (attending) college are the best years of your life and so I am I’m really close to my college teammates that I was able to play with out in Arizona.”
The list includes former Pima coach Greta Naranjo (now an assistant with the Tucson High girls basketball program), Amy Livingston-Combs, Julie Meyer-Mendivil, Tina Giordano, and Mary Klemm, to name a few.
“We’ve been to the U of A one time in my coaching career,” Frese said. “We’ve taken a team back there, so you know, pretty ironic for them to be able to come back here.”
Arizona has traveled to Maryland twice, losing early-season games by double-digits in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. Frese might not remember those games well having coached 793 games (618-175 record) in her 24-year head coaching career.
Maryland beat Arizona 92-67 on Dec. 11, 2005, at College Park. The Terrapins went on to win the national title that season, Frese’s fourth year at the school.
The following season, the Terrapins again beat Arizona at College Park 75-61 on Nov. 18, 2006, in a tournament.
Frese coached Maryland to an 84-77 overtime victory in her first and only return to McKale Center during the 2004-05 season.
She had 41 people on her pass list for that game including four for her Arizona teammates and former assistant coach Bob Craig.
“I’m so proud of our team to come into a tough place like this and win,” Frese told the Arizona Daily Star after the game.
The matchup Sunday will pit two former Arizona players coaching against each other in an NCAA tournament game, which is a first for either the school’s men’s or women’s programs.
“Adia Barnes and her staff, they’ll have them ready,” Frese told ESPN after the win over Holy Cross. “They’re a great, great team. Two awesome teams.
“Any team that’s in the tournament right now deserves to be here and we’re going to have to come out and play a great 40 minutes.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.