The transfer portal is changing the landscape of college basketball, and not just from a big-picture standpoint. Less than a month after the end of the 2022-23 season, the portal has seen talented players move from one team to another.
Several top players, like Aneesah Morrow, have yet to announce their destinations. But among those who have, here are the top five transfers based on overall talent and fit with their new squads.
The defending champions lost point guard Alexis Morris to the WNBA with the understanding the super senior would be difficult to replace. But Kim Mulkey once again showed her portal prowess by snagging another elite guard, with the commitment of Hailey Van Lith on Thursday. Van Lith and Morris don’t have many similarities in the way they play, but Van Lith excels in the midrange just like Morris did, adding another dimension to the LSU offense. The experienced, competitive guard makes the perfect addition to the Tigers’ roster.
Van Lith leaving Louisville surprised a lot of people, but her decision to play her final season at LSU shouldn’t. In high school, Van Lith narrowed her recruiting decision down to Louisville and Baylor, where Mulkey was the coach at the time. The two clearly have a connection. Plus, Van Lith’s intense competitiveness lends itself well to a program coming off a national championship. The guard wants to win her own title, and LSU is the place to do it.
Much of UCLA’s success this past season came from a talented freshman class that included No. 2 recruit Kiki Rice, No. 19 Gabriela Jaquez and No. 22 Londynn Jones. Point guard Charisma Osborne led the team in scoring, and 6-foot-4 forward Emily Bessoir provided height. The one thing the Bruins were missing was a true post, and now they get that at an elite level in Lauren Betts. The No. 1 player in the Class of 2022 played just 9.6 minutes per game as a freshman at Stanford but averaged 5.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Per 40 minutes, those stats look like this: 24.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.
With UCLA’s talented guard core, Betts will have room to operate in the paint and help create lanes and shots for players like Rice and Osborne. The addition of Betts makes the Bruins a title contender as early as next season.
The Gamecocks lost a lot of talent from their 2023 Final Four team, with five players getting drafted into the WNBA earlier this month. Still, the roster that remains is full of talent, including 6-7 center Kamilla Cardoso, forward Ashlyn Watkins and guard Raven Johnson. Dawn Staley was already in good shape with the roster she had, but Te-Hina Paopao fills an important role. Perhaps the lone weakness for South Carolina last season was the team’s lack of 3-point shooting, which contributed to their Final Four loss to Iowa.
Paopao brings long-range shooting and more with her to Columbia. The senior guard shot 42.4 percent from beyond the arc at Oregon last season, averaging 2.3 made 3s per game. She’s also a skilled playmaker who can run an offense. Paopao could be the piece that gets South Carolina back to the national title game.
Celeste Taylor, a defensive-minded guard, and Ohio State, a defensive-minded team, are a match made in heaven. Taylor was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year last season after averaging 2.2 steals per contest. Between her and Jacy Sheldon, the Buckeyes’ backcourt will feature two of the country’s best on-ball defenders.
Offensively, Ohio State’s attack will revolve around Cotie McMahon, who averaged 15.1 points per game as a freshman while showing off her strength and ability to get to the rim. But Taylor provides another scoring option that will help replace the point production Ohio State lost with the graduation of Taylor Mikesell. In addition to their defensive abilities, Taylor and Sheldon can both score and facilitate, making the Buckeyes’ attack even harder to defend.
The Terrapins started the offseason by losing their top two scorers, Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers, to the WNBA as first-round draft picks. But it’s not a total rebuild for coach Brenda Frese, especially with the addition of Jakia Brown-Turner. The 6-foot wing is a player Maryland recruited out of high school, so the Terrapins already know she will fit into their system. Plus, the Maryland native gets to return home for her final college season.
Brown-Turner averaged 9.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last season at NC State, and she will be a viable scoring option for the Terrapins alongside returners Shyanne Sellars, Brinae Alexander, Lavender Briggs and Faith Masonius. Brown-Turner, a four-year starter for the Wolfpack, also brings experience and poise, which should allow her to make a seamless transition to her new team.
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.