Maryland star guard Ashley Owusu enters transfer portal

A prosperous start to Ashley Owusu’s Maryland career came to an abrupt end Tuesday when the all-Big Ten guard announced she has entered the transfer portal.

The decision comes after a 2021-22 season that fell short of expectations in College Park. The Terrapins did not defend their 2020-21 regular season conference championship, were bounced from the Big Ten tournament without a win for the first time since joining the league, then lost in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. All of that came after returning every contributor from the 2020-21 team that led the nation in scoring and was expected to compete for a national championship.

Owusu made her announcement on Twitter and referenced “events that have transpired on and off the court.”

“I have never started anything that I haven’t finished, and finishing was the plan when I decided to come to College Park,” Owusu wrote. “My goal was to have a great career here and to win a national championship alongside an amazing team. I could picture my jersey hanging in the rafters at Xfinity Center.

“Unfortunately, events that have transpired on and off the court this year have led me to make the very difficult but necessary decision to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere.”

Owusu’s junior season was a step back after she was named third-team all-American and first-team all-Big Ten as a sophomore. She earned at least a share of Big Ten tournament most valuable player as a freshman and sophomore and led the team with 17.9 points per game her second year. Owusu’s numbers dipped in every category except three-point percentage last season as she averaged 14.3 points and shot just 42.4 percent from the field.

The offense evolved into using forward Angel Reese as the No. 1 option in the post as opposed to playing through Owusu. She also suffered an ankle injury and missed five games late in the season, and she finished the regular season coming off the bench before moving back into the starting lineup for the NCAA tournament. She averaged 22 points in the first two rounds of the tournament before looking out of sync and scoring four points in the season-ending loss to Stanford.

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Maryland Coach Brenda Frese was not immediately available for comment.

The Terps will now be without three starters as guard Katie Benzan and forward Chloe Bibby exhausted their eligibility. Owusu entered Maryland ranked the No. 1 point guard in the nation according to ESPN and a McDonald’s all-American. The change probably ensures that Big Ten sixth player of the year and all-freshman team selection Shyanne Sellers moves into the starting lineup. Guard Diamond Miller and Reese are both expected to return as starters.

Owusu is the latest high-profile player to transfer from the Maryland program. Frese recently lost Taylor Mikesell (Ohio State), Shakira Austin (Mississippi) and Olivia Owens (Kentucky).

The transfer portal was a discussion topic at the NCAA Final Four last week. Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said he understood that players leave all the time but questioned some of the decision-making behind the moves. There were reportedly 850 players in the portal last week.

“You know those 850 people in the portal? Three hundred of them are not going to find a school to go to because they’re going to realize it’s not the school they just left,” Auriemma said. “Just like last year, right? A thousand kids in the portal, 250 of them had no place to go, and the guys that they left don’t want them back. Whatever happened to go and figure it the hell out?

“Yeah, sometimes you have to leave. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do. No question about that. But 800, 1,000 of them? There’s only 365 Division I schools. It’s like three at every school.”

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South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley, who became the first Black coach on the men’s or women’s side to win two Division I national championships Sunday, called the process “way, way, way, way out of hand.” She acknowledged that some players did not sign up to sit on the bench for three seasons and want an opportunity to chase collegiate or professional goals. There are many, however, who are playing big minutes and still moving forward.

“I think the portal is much like social media,” Staley said last week. “It’s the fad. It’s a big ol’ fad that just keeps continuing. There are more people in the portal than there are scholarships.

“Some of them want to move up, some of them want to move down, the people that are in the portal. Is it out of hand? It absolutely is. I don’t know how you control it. But … it’s their way of controlling their own destinies, and it’s their way of — I don’t know if it’s an escape. I don’t know what it is.”

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