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Doron started something big

It could have been Harvard. Then where would Maryland be?

Brenda Frese had just been named coach of the Terrapins, and she had to begin convincing top recruits to come to College Park, Md. So, out of the hands of Harvard, she plucked now-junior Shay Doron, widely regarded as the recruit that began the revitalization of the Maryland program.

Doron had moved from Israel, where she played in high school in Tel Aviv and where her family still lives, to New York and Christ the King High School -- where, yes, she had to sit through Mass -- to jump-start a basketball career that she hoped would lead her to the WNBA.

She narrowed her college choices to Maryland, Duke, and Harvard. Then she dropped Duke.

It was Cambridge or College Park.

''For obvious reasons, Harvard," Doron said. ''For very different reasons, Maryland. It came down to the reason I moved from Israel back here was for basketball and Maryland was an ACC, Division 1 school, and the most professional way of playing basketball before the next level."

Now, three years into her stay in Maryland, she's in the NCAA final, something that likely wouldn't have happened with Harvard.

Doron's future remains a bit cloudy. She's not sure about the rules regarding international play. She's not sure whether she will have to fulfill Israel's mandatory military service. But, for now, she is focused on her last game of the season for Maryland, a team that originally wasn't even on her list.

''I went on an unofficial visit [to Maryland] due to a tournament in the area, out of extreme luck," Doron said. ''From then on, I met the coaches and I just clicked right away with the coaches and they bounced from out of my top 100 into my top five."

And then to No. 1.

Mid-season preview
The Terrapins thought they were coming to Boston just for a game against Boston College in January. Instead, it was a Final Four preview. After a practice, Frese diverted the bus to TD Banknorth Garden, site of the Final Four. ''None of us knew where we were going," Maryland sophomore Crystal Langhorne said. ''Just us being in the [Garden] made us realize what our goal was, where we needed to go, and what we needed to do to get there." . . . Think playing in front of 19,000 or so fans in the Final Four is just another game for the players? Listen to Duke senior Mistie Williams on her first trip to the final weekend of the season, her freshman year. ''With everything that was happening, I can barely remember the game," she said. ''That's how overwhelmed I was. My first year being here, I was just so overwhelmed, the crowd was so loud, I was just lost." . . . Neither Maryland nor Duke has won an NCAA title, though both teams have been to the Final Four. Maryland made trips in 1982 and 1989, though it never reached the championship game. Duke has been to three previous Final Fours, and played for the title in 1999, losing to Purdue.

Building blocks
Frese has built something out of nothing, which prompted the following from Kristi Toliver when asked about any recruiting irregularities at College Park. ''We came to a place that didn't have anything," Toliver said. ''That's our motivation. If that's illegal, I'm sorry." Toliver said she was a huge UConn fan growing up and didn't focus on Maryland until well into high school. She thinks the young Terps can start a mini-dynasty, ''just like UConn with the Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash teams." Those teams won four of five titles between 2000 and 2004.

Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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