The Maryland women’s basketball team was floundering against Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. The Terrapins led 33-30 with 4 minutes 46 seconds left in the second quarter, but still, they needed a jolt.
So in to the game came Sarah Myers.
Twenty-five seconds later, Myers got a steal and assist to guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, one of Maryland’s senior All-Americans, for a fast-break layup. Less than a minute later, Myers assisted center Brionna Jones, Maryland’s other senior All-American, for a quick layup.
By halftime, Maryland’s lead grew from three to 13. And though Myers didn’t appear again in the game, the former South Forsyth standout’s impact was permanent. The Terrapins went on to an easy 100-89 win.
“It was a really cool moment,” Myers said, “to go on the court and the whole atmosphere of our team changed. Just feeling like I had a part in that tournament win was really, really cool.”
Myers’ part was smaller at Maryland this past season compared to the one she had the previous four years at South. The 6-foot guard rewrote the War Eagles’ record books, finishing with 2,350 career points and leading South to the state semifinals in 2014 and region championship in 2015. At Maryland, Myers appeared in 28 of the team’s 35 games and averaged 1.4 points in just 7.8 minutes a game.
But Myers relished it; there was so much to take in anyways. The preseason trip to Italy. The Thanksgiving tournament in Las Vegas. The primetime regular season games against Connecticut and Louisville. The Big Ten tournament title. The Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Everything happened so fast, just like they told Myers it would.
“I knew coming in as a freshman that there were going to be a lot of new things for me to learn and get through this year,” Myers said. “They were very vocal about being aware that your freshman year is going to be your hardest. There are a lot of things you have to learn about from school to basketball to just living in a new place.”
Myers felt it on the court, of course, where players were faster and stronger, and coaches put extra urgency on defense.
“The pace of the game at the college level is just a complete 180 from high school,” Myers said.
Myers felt it off the court, too, where classes were condensed into semesters. It took until Maryland’s winter session for Myers to feel in sync, and it took good talks with teammates, family and Stu Singer, a sports psychologist and consultant to the team.
“I had a lot of support through it,” Myers said.
By the end of the winter session, Myers found her role for the Terrapins. She would bring the energy, she decided, whether at practice or in games, no matter how much playing time she received.
“Just being consistent with my energy and effort was my role this year,” Myers said.
Myers also took the time to watch Walker-Kimbrough. The senior completed an accomplished career at Maryland. The two-time All-American finished fourth on Maryland’s all-time scoring list and led the Terrapins to three Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and back-to-back Final Fours. In her, Myers had a model example of competitiveness and work ethic.
Myers got a taste of Walker-Kimbrough’s unrelenting drive in practice. Maryland’s women’s team often practices against a scout team of men players, and Walker-Kimbrough would demand to be defended by the best one. In the sporadic moments when a defender exposed Walker-Kimbrough, she would taunt the offender, daring them to try again. Myers was the offender once, and Walker-Kimbrough “made sure it was just a slip-up,” Myers said.
Walker-Kimbrough even invited Myers to a workout with her personal trainer one morning before the season. Myers was struck by the efficiency of the workout; it lasted 45 minutes. And Myers noticed Walker-Kimbrough met with her trainer during the season, too, despite the physical demand placed on the team’s leading scorer.
“She always wanted to get better,” Myers said, “and that was really cool to see.”
Now, Myers is trying to get better too. The team’s official workouts will start in the next week or two. After finals, Myers will come home for a month to get away from the regimented life of a college athlete, but she’ll also work out with Dorian Lee, a prominent basketball trainer in Atlanta.
More is likely to be demanded of Myers next season. Maryland’s team has already shrunk considerably during the offseason. Jones and Walker-Kimbrough are headed to the WNBA. Three other players transferred, including West Forsyth’s Jenna Staiti and point guard Destiny Slocum, the WBCA National Freshman of the Year. Maryland has no commitments from recruits in the Class of 2017, which makes sense – Myers, Staiti and Slocum were a part of the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2016.
“I know that everybody’s going to have to step up next year,” Myers said, “and I’m excited to see where that’s going to take everyone, and everyone’s really excited and motivated.”
Already thinking about next year, about Maryland representing the US at the World University Games in Taiwan, about going for four straight Big Ten regular season and conference titles, about more NCAA Tournament memories.
Only this time, things won’t move so fast.
“All these new experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else was just really amazing,” Myers said. “I just felt myself grow so much as a person and a player from just this one year.”