Participating in Jimmy V Classic special for Maryland’s Frese, whose son Tyler battles leukemia

Currently ranked No. 9 in the latest Associated Press poll, Maryland will face No. 2 Connecticut in the 11th annual Jimmy V Women’s Classic presented by Corona Extra tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

University of Maryland women’s coach Brenda Frese and her husband Mark Thomas have four-year old twin boys Markus and Tyler. For Frese, there’s special meaning in participating the Jimmy V Women’s Classic: Tyler was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2010 and is currently in remission.

Frese spent a few minutes with Front Row discussing Tyler, her team and the meaning behind playing in the Jimmy V Classic.

What does it mean to the university to have the team participate in the 2012 Jimmy V Women’s Classic?
I think it’s just another way the University of Maryland is a part of the fight to beat cancer. It’s something that can help every single person on the planet. I’m really proud that we can play a role and wear Maryland on our jerseys while doing it. As for our program, it’s a huge honor and compliment that we were invited. It’s always great to perform on the bigger stages. We always want to be in that conversation and make sure everybody knows that this is an incredible place to go to school and play basketball.

And what does it mean to you personally?
When I got contacted about being a part of the Jimmy V Classic, I knew right away we were going to accept. Having a son who is a leukemia patient and knowing what it’s like for families to have to battle cancer, I want to do anything I can to help other people in this situation. I’ll never forget what it felt like to hear my son had been diagnosed with cancer. I’ll never forget being in the oncology unit and seeing what cancer does to people and families of every class, color and religion. If I’m in a position to do anything to help, you can count me in.

I read that the fall of 2015 is considered to be an important milestone to hit in Tyler’s remission. How is he currently doing?
The end of 2013 will be a huge step along the way for us. Tyler’s treatment protocol calls for three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, every day, with various medicines. In December 2013, we’ll give him what’s hopefully his last dose. After that, we have to wait a year and a half to see if the leukemia returns before he can be pronounced as cured. Hopefully, that happens around mid-2015. The incredible team of people that have treated Tyler at Johns Hopkins Hospital are very optimistic that he will be cured. He’s responded as well as possible every step of the way so far. I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I know we’re going to great news in 2015.

What fans should expect to see from the Terrapins tonight on ESPN2?
Maryland-Connecticut has the potential to be a fun game. I think Geno [Auriemma] and I both like to have our teams play attractive basketball. Right now, Connecticut has been nothing short of awesome. They’ve been scoring early knockouts in seemingly every game. We’re not a team that backs down. We’re a bit wounded with some injuries that have really made us adjust on the fly, but I’ve got a terrific group of kids to coach.

ESPN has a record number of women’s basketball games this season. Do you think the national exposure helps the women’s game?
There’s no question the record number of games on ESPN this season helps the game grow. Everyone has ESPN in their living room, on their phone, iPad or whatever. So people seemingly everywhere can see our program and other teams as well. That’s a huge help. Every time we play on ESPN, my phone blows up with text messages and phone calls from recruits, coaches and all sorts of people.