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Laurel's Frese Guides Terps Amidst Family Challenge

Head coach of Maryland basketball team deals with son's leukemia.

Making it to the NCAA tournament is nothing new for Brenda Frese, a resident of Laurel and the head coach of the University of Maryland women's basketball team.

There was a slip last year as the Terps had to settle for the WNIT. Maryland is back in the NCAA field this year, but it is not business as usual for Frese; this has not been a normal year for Frese and her husband, Mark Thomas, a graduate of Laurel High.

Just before the season began, the couple, who live in North Laurel, learned one of their twin sons, Tyler, has leukemia.

He has been undergoing treatment since last fall. Frese told Laurel Patch on Friday he is in the middle of a challenging six-week stretch of care that included a nine-hour hospital visit, including a spinal tap, earlier this month.

"He is going through the most intense phase [of treatment]. He is doing really well, though," said Frese before practice on Friday, sitting in her office on the ground floor of the Comcast Center. Frese said his treatment is expected to last for a total of nearly three years.

At the same time, Frese is preparing her team for the NCAA tournament. The Terps beat St. Francis (PA), 70-48, on Sunday in College Park and will face Georgetown at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Thomas, who played football at Laurel High, handles most of Tyler's trips to the doctor and hospital. Thomas' mother is also very involved in the care of the twin boys.

When Frese was pregnant with Tyler and his twin, Markus, born in February 2008, she missed several games. Former assistant Daron Park, a former Laurel resident, filled in for Frese. Park is now the associate head coach at Louisiana Tech, which lost on Sunday to Rutgers in the NCAA tourney.

How does Frese compare that season with this season? "Both times we needed the support of those around us," said Frese, now in her ninth season as the Maryland coach.

Maryland won the national title in 2006. Frese said the team will travel to China for two weeks in June and play several games. The Terps played games in Europe in 2006 in a trip that was set up before Maryland won the national title.

This year's team, Frese said, is the first one she's had at the college level that does not have a senior on the roster. "I feel they have gone above and beyond expectations. People forget how young this team is," she said.

The Terps, now 24-7 overall, lost at Georgetown early this season. "We really showed our (lack of) experience. We really showed our youth," Frese said. "At times it is a challenge" with no senior leaders.

Tina Langley, an assistant coach under Frese, also lives in North Laurel.

Hoop notes: Laurel High graduates Chris Tolson and Milade Lola-Charles played for Hampton against Duke in the NCAA tournament on Friday. The Pirates' roster also includes Wesley Dunning, who grew up in Laurel and played in high school at Gonzaga.

Tolson made two of six shots and have five points in the 87-45 loss. Dunning missed his only shot from the field and made one of two free throws. Lola-Charles missed his only shot from the field and did not score. Duke senior Nolan Smith, from Upper Marlboro, had nine points.

Jonathan Arledge, a product of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, is a freshman forward for George Mason. The Patriots beat Villanova, 61-57, on Friday in the NCAA tourney. Arledge did not play. Senior Isaiah Tate, who played at DeMatha and is from Largo, had 10 points for Mason.

Mason lost to Ohio State on Sunday while Duke advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over Michigan. Arledge made both of his shots from the field and had four points against Ohio State.

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