By Zach Shapiro
For The Diamondback
Ieshia Small still remembers the September day she discovered the Maryland women's basketball team would represent the United States at the 2017 World University Games. As highlights flashed across her TV screen, it took a minute for the news to sink in for the then-redshirt junior guard.
"I thought it was a video for Shatori [Walker-Kimbrough] and [Brionna Jones], congratulating them on their accomplishments," Small said. "It kept going, and I was like, 'OK, yay, Shatori and Bri.' And then it finally hit me, like, 'Wait, we're playing!'"
"Then I called my parents and told them that we'd be playing for Team USA next summer," Small said. "It was such a great moment."
About 10 months after that moment, the Terps are more than halfway through with summer practice. Following a two-week break, coach Brenda Frese's squad returned to the court Thursday as it continues to prepare for an unfamiliar environment in Taiwan — one with different rules and without a welcoming crowd.
"We're going to be in some hotly contested games, where everyone in the stands is going to be against the U.S.," Frese said, recognizing the opposition often roots against favored, or American, teams overseas.
In the competition, the 3-point line is farther away than in college, and the shot clock resets to 15 seconds instead of 30 seconds after a dead ball or missed shot.
Adjusting may be tough, but players are excited about the opportunity. UNC Charlotte was the last full women's collegiate program to represent the U.S. in 2007.
"We definitely want them to understand the bigger picture — that we're not only representing Maryland but also the United States, in everything that we do," Frese said. "Credit our team. They've done a phenomenal job understanding that. They'll be able to transition and take that over there."
The Terps will look to build on the legacy of women's basketball in the biennial event. Since 1973, the first year U.S. women participated, the team has compiled a 109-22 record. Plus, four former Terps have competed in the past, and three have taken home gold, including Jones in 2015.
The Terps will practice through next week and most of August before taking the nearly 20-hour flight Aug. 14. They'll open against Uganda on Aug. 21, then play two more games against Poland and the Czech Republic. The event ends Aug. 30 after the medal rounds.
The extra practice and live competition, players said, will serve them well heading into the regular season. But they know the task ahead, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, is about more than basketball.
"There definitely is a high standard, especially because you go from having Maryland pressure to team USA [pressure]," guard Blair Watson said. "You're representing everyone here in America rather than just your university. It's a big challenge, but I think we're ready for it."