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October 22, 2008

Maryland-bound Townsend continues improving

When Essence Townsend enrolled at Paterson (N.J.) Catholic High School in 2005, she was a lanky, 6-foot-2 freshman who had dabbled in basketball for less than a year.

Three years and five inches later, Townsend has developed into a legitimate high-major Division I basketball player.

The 6-foot-7 senior committed to Maryland on Saturday, picking the Terps over offers from Miami, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.

“It’s really kind of crazy because I always had high expectations for myself,” Townsend said, “but I never imagined going to the University of Maryland and playing for a great coach like Brenda [Frese] and just having the opportunity that I have now.”

Townsend, who committed to UM while on a visit to College Park for Maryland Madness, said there were times early on in her basketball-playing career when she thought about quitting.

While everyone assumed the 6-foot-2 freshman would immediately be an impact player, that wasn’t the case for Townsend. Those lofty expectations based solely on her height were difficult to deal with.

“My freshman year, my team didn’t do well and I didn’t have the support I felt I should have,” Townsend said. “I didn’t feel comfortable playing with my body then and I wasn’t developing.”

Thanks to encouragement from her aunt, Glenda Townsend, Essence stuck it out, sprouted to her current height, and dreamed of a future where she’d receive a free education for playing basketball.

“Nobody ever told me I had to play,” Townsend said. “It was always motivation for myself for playing basketball and my aunt. She always wanted what was best for me. I needed to do this for where I wanted to go in life. ... As time progressed I learned to love the game.”

According to Paterson Catholic head coach Dave Andre, Townsend’s love of the game has become evident. As a junior, she averaged 10.5 points, 10 rebounds and 8.5 blocks per game.

“She’s a long, athletic, shot-blocker with both hands,” Andre said. “Offensively she’s coming along every year, making progress. She’s basically just scratching the surface of her game. She had a real good AAU summer playing against really good, elite competition and just continues to get better.”

Andre said the Maryland coaches have told him they’re intrigued with Townsend’s potential, particularly once they get her in the weight room.

“They love her upside,” Andre said. “They see what we see, looking further into the future. Coaching her in the weight room, they think her potential is unlimited at her size. Once they have her on campus, I think the sky’s the limit.”

After getting a chance to see Terps fans in action at Maryland Madness, Townsend said she’s excited to suit up in Comcast and use that 6-foot-7 frame to her advantage.

“[UM fans] can expect me to work hard and block as many shots as possible, because that’s what I love to do.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:25 AM | | Comments (2)


Thanks for the timely feature.

Looks like Essence will be a good backup center initially, especially if Lynetta Kizer can play some power forward, giving Essence more minutes to learn the ACC game.

What about recruitment for a top PF (or the other post position in Maryland's two-post system)? I see where Kelsey Bone has taken the Terps off her list. What other recruits are the Terps looking at? How many scholarships are available now?

Alyssa Thomas looks like a big-time player. Will you be doing an article on her?

Ed -- I spoke with Alyssa yesterday and will have an article for tomorrow. As for UM's other power forward targets, they have Tianna Hawkins in the fold. Destiny Williams from Michigan is probably the best bet that's still on the board. ESPN ranks her the No. 8 player in the country for her class. On scholarships, I believe they have two more to give in the '09 class, assuming Jackie Nared still comes. My guess is they'd bank one for 2010.

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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