Hailey Van Lith is reportedly on her way to TCU, says Talia Goodman of The Next Hoops.

The former Louisville star joined LSU for the 2023-24 season, but a disappointing run in Baton Rouge saw her enter the transfer portal once again at the season’s end. Van Lith opted to use her fifth year of eligibility versus declaring for the WNBA draft.

Van Lith was admittedly less effective as a Tiger. Her field goal percentage decreased from .411 in 2022-23 with Louisville to .388 at LSU. She also went from averaging 19.7 points per game to just 11.6, due in part to a change of position from shooting guard to more of a point guard role.

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At an end-of-season banquet last week, LSU coach Kim Mulkey used her speech to wish Van Lith well, calling her "one of the hardest working players that I’ve ever coached."

"Her aspirations were to get drafted this year," Mulkey said, according to NOLA.com. "And she realized, 'I need another year, and I need to go back to a place where I can relax and get back to my normal position.'

"And what do you do? You hug her, and you wish her well."

The decision to commit to TCU may come as a surprise after Van Lith paid a visit to Mississippi State last weekend. The Horned Frogs finished out the 2023-24 season 21-12 overall, coming in 9th in the Big 12 and scoring an average of 69.5 points per game. The program also made headlines in January when they held mid-season open tryouts in response to an onslaught of sidelining injuries.

No.7 LSU topped Virginia at the Cayman Islands Classic, 76-73, with help from its transfers and younger players. 

With two starters out of their lineup — Angel Reese and Sa’Myah Smith — head coach Kim Mulkey and the Tigers had to look elsewhere for scoring production. And Aneesah Morrow delivered. 

Morrow knocked down 37 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in her biggest game at LSU yet. 

“That’s one of my prouder victories in all of my coaching career,” LSU head coach Kim Mulkey said to nola.com. “Under the circumstances this team has had to deal with, to win that game and have players playing out of position and ask them to do things that they’re not comfortable with, just a gutsy performance.”

The transfer from DePaul notched her second-consecutive double-double in a Tigers uniform after she collected 28 points and 10 rebounds against Niagara on Friday. Morrow is used to earning double-doubles — she only had 53 in her two seasons with DePaul.

Hailey Van Lith, a transfer from Louisville, also had a successful night for LSU. She was the only other Tiger to score in double-digits, scoring 12 points for her squad. 

“Aneesah and Hailey bring experience to our team right now,” Mulkey said to Tiger Rag. “They’re experience having played at the college level is helping us right now. What they don’t know about our system, they know about the toughness of the game at this level.”

The WNBA draft lottery is set for Dec. 10, with four teams in the running for the No. 1 overall pick — the Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm.

While the Mercury finished the 2023 season with the worst record, the WNBA combines the two seasons prior to the draft to determine the odds for the No. 1 overall pick. So the Fever, who won the lottery for the first time in franchise history in 2023, have the best shot at the No. 1 pick again in 2024.

Who will each team select when the draft rolls around in April? Just Women’s Sports projects the four lottery picks, based on the team odds for the draft lottery.

1. Indiana Fever: Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Clark is arguably the biggest star in college basketball.

Last year’s consensus player of the year, the Hawkeyes senior proved herself an elite shooter, leading the NCAA in 3-pointers with 140 and finishing second in scoring with 27.8 points per game. She also has the ability to make the players around her better — she led Division I with 8.6 assists per game. And she is putting on a show again this season, with a 44-point game on her stat sheet.

Clark has another year of NCAA eligibility remaining the 2023-24 season, and she has suggested that she may use it. But if she chooses to go to the WNBA, she’s a clear front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick.

Paige Bueckers has two years of eligibility remaining for UConn, but she also is a top WNBA prospect. (Lance King/Getty Images)

2. Phoenix Mercury: Paige Bueckers, UConn

Bueckers is another elite shooter and playmaker. She secured national player of the year honors as a freshman in 2021, and her shooting ability is nearly unmatched.

The Huskies guard, though, has significantly fewer college appearances under her belt than many of the other players qualified for the 2024 draft due to injuries — including a torn ACL that caused her to miss all of last season.

A redshirt junior, Bueckers has played just 46 games for UConn, and she is eligible to stay with the program through 2026. But after putting together a lackluster season in 2022 and finishing with the worst record overall in 2023, the Mercury may be willing to take a risk for a shot like Bueckers’.

Stanford's Cameron Brink averaged 3.47 blocks per game last year. (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

3. Los Angeles Sparks: Cameron Brink, Stanford

Brink is a versatile big who brings good offense and great defense to the table.

While she is not as prolific a scorer as Clark or Bueckers — a tall order, indeed — her defense makes up for it. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 3.47 blocks per game last year, placing her third in the league.

And she can score from the post and from the perimeter, making her a smart addition to any team. Brink posted 20 points and 17 rebounds as she showcased her scoring prowess against No. 9 Indiana on Nov. 12.

Aaliyah Edwards is leading UConn in scoring so far this season. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

4. Seattle Storm: Aaliyah Edwards, UConn

The departure of Breanna Stewart has left the Storm in need of a strong post presence, and UConn’s leading scorer could provide just that.

Edwards led the Huskies on the scoresheet last season, dropping 16.6 points per game, and she leads the team again through four games this season, with 18.0 per game.

Her size is also an advantage — the 6-foot-3 power forward is a force on the court and a fearsome defender and rebounder. She collected an average of 9.0 rebounds per game last season and her one-on-one defense is top-notch.

Kamilla Cardoso averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for South Carolina last season. (Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Honorable mentions

These players also would be great choices in the first round, in no particular order:

  • Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
  • Angel Reese, LSU
  • Hailey Van Lith, LSU
  • Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
  • Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech
  • Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State

Kim Mulkey didn’t hold back after top-ranked LSU basketball lost its season opener to No. 20 Colorado, citing players’ lack of leadership in the 92-78 loss.

“I’m disappointed and surprised in some individual players that I thought would just be tougher and have a little fight and leadership about them,” Mulkey said. “But I knew what we faced. When you have that many kids that played that many minutes together [as Colorado], we had our hands full. Colorado did exactly what I thought they would do.”

Some of the Tigers issues are ones Mulkey can “live with,” such as poor shooting, which led to a “tough night offensively,” the head coach said.

“What I don’t live with is just guts and fight and physical play [not being there],” she continued. “You got that dog in you. I just didn’t think we had that tonight.”

LSU freshman Mikaylah Williams (17 points) and sophomore Sa’Myah Smith (16) led the team in scoring. The pair “did all they could,” according to Mulkey.

“You’re talking about a true freshman and a true sophomore. We need more than just them to have a little bit of fight,” she continued, noting that the team’s second line of defense was “nonexistent.” Still, she notes that these things are “fixable,” though she doesn’t know how long it will take.

“We’re not the same team today we were when we won it all,” she said. “I don’t know if anything that went on this summer [with new players transferring in] has anything whatsoever to do with [our] locker room. I think [our] locker room is affected by Colorado being a very good team.”

Angel Reese set an NCAA single-season record with 34 double-doubles last season, and she picked up where she left off, with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Star transfer Hailey Van Lith added 14 points and 7 assists, while fellow transfer Aneesah Morrow had 6 points and 4 rebounds.

Angel Reese is taking her coach in her all-time starting five.

LSU basketball is tipping off its title defense against Colorado on Nov. 6 as part of the 2023 Hall of Fame Series. The four-game showcase, presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is being held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Ahead of the season opener, several Tigers stars shared their dream starting lineups, pulled from the illustrious list of Hall of Fame members.

“I’m starting strong with Lisa Leslie,” Reese said, before also naming Cheryl Miller, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to her roster. She pondered her fifth choice before opting for her head coach: “I need a shooter. I’m going with Kim Mulkey.”

Mulkey, 61, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. She won three national titles as the head coach of the Baylor Bears, in 2005, 2012 and 2019, and she won her fourth career title with the LSU Tigers in April.

Flau’jae Johnson joined Reese in naming Mulkey to her lineup, and she added O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson.

Hailey Van Lith, meanwhile, put Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon in her starting five, while also naming Leslie, Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan.

“That’s a tough starting five, right there,” Van Lith said. “Mad tough.”

Angel Reese enters the 2023-24 NCAA basketball season as the clear star for defending champion LSU. But she’s more than happy to share the spotlight.

After the Tigers’ run to the NCAA Tournament title in April, they added two star transfers in Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith and DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow. They enter the upcoming season at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and as odds-on favorites to win another championship.

While Van Lith and Morrow could pull some attention (and some points and rebounds) from Reese, Reese is willing to take that trade-off.

“I wanted a superteam,” Reese told The Athletic. “They want greatness and I want greatness. They want a national championship and so do I. So why not do it all together?”

Reese joined LSU as a transfer from Maryland last offseason, and her first season with the Tigers outpaced every expectation. Reese set a single-season record with 34 double-doubles, including in all six NCAA Tournament games, en route to the program’s first national title.

Two questions hang over her senior season: Can LSU do it again with their reloaded roster? And is this Reese’s final hurrah, or will she stick around for an extra year?

She toyed with the possibility in a recent social media post, though she later added: “I love stirring the pot.” And she has talked about her WNBA ambitions, so while she has an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what she will do next is anyone’s guess.

“Personally, I aspire to make it to the WNBA,” Reese said in September. “While I do have the option for another year, I do want to get out of college, start life outside of school, and pursue my WNBA dreams. It’s been a challenging but rewarding four years, and I’m excited to continue improving at LSU and beyond.”

Star transfer Hailey Van Lith is going to be tasked with a number of jobs for LSU basketball this season.

The 22-year-old senior will be playing both guard positions, according to Tigers head coach Kim Mulkey. While Van Lith traditionally has been a shooting guard, she’s also learning to be a point guard, Mulkey told Baton Rouge’s WBRZ.

“I’ve got returning players that played point last year with Alexis Morris,” Mulkey said, noting that it was actually Van Lith who wanted to learn to play the point.

“What Hailey wanted when she came here was for me to teach her the point guard position and for her to be able to do both,” Mulkey said. “Now as the season progresses, if she ends up being the true point guard and that’s where she stays then so be it. But right now I need Hailey to do both. I need her to play the point but I also need her to go back to what she’s been doing on the wing a lot because she’s a natural at that position.”

Of course, the No. 1-ranked Tigers are stacked in both guard slots. Flau’jae Johnson leads the contingent, alongside Last-Tear Poa and Kateri Poole, who are versatile guards in their own right. They also added Aneesah Morrow in the offseason, and are bringing on top prospects in Mikaylah Williams and Angelica Velez.

Still, the flexibility will be beneficial for Van Lith as she moves on to her professional career, which both she and Mulkey know. And at LSU, Van Lith is learning to not take as many shots.

“She’s a kid that shot a lot [at Louisville] because she needed to,” Mulkey said. “I think she’s quickly learning ‘I don’t have to take as many shots when I’m surrounded with these many kids that are around me that can score the ball as well.’”

To Mulkey, there are two types of point guards: those that are game managers and those that score. Van Lith, she says, is one of those that will likely be a scoring point guard.

“I think Hailey, when she is at the point, will be a scoring point guard because you don’t want to take that away from her,” she said. “But teaching her the little things, transition defense being one of them, she’s got to now change her mindset that, ‘I don’t pick up the ball in the back court. I’ve got to be the one back directing traffic like a center fielder.’ Those are the little things with playing point that the average person doesn’t understand.”

Kim Mulkey welcomes the target on the backs of her LSU Tigers.

For the first time in program history, LSU basketball is ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. With the Tigers entering the season as the defending national champions, that was somewhat expected. But the pressure doesn’t bother them.

“We understand that with a championship and with the preseason ranking that we really have a target on our back,” Mulkey told Baton Rouge’s WBRZ. “We get that, we welcome it to an extent in that we keep it in perspective.”

The 61-year-old head coach called it “great recognition” for LSU and for the program. The No. 1 ranking is something to be celebrated, but the team isn’t putting to much stock into it.

For Mulkey’s part, she doesn’t talk much to her teams about being ranked, saying it’s the next game that matters most. Rankings make headlines, but championships make the history books.

So even though the Tigers enter the season with a loaded roster, including Angel Reese and star transfers Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow, they still need to put in the work to live up to their sky-high expectations, Mulkey said.

“I’ve got some talent and that talent is not going to win championships unless we all get on the same page and we all pull for each other and so far it’s been great,” she said. “The deeper you dig the prettier the fruit and we know that people are going to know that that’s the defending national champions and we’re going to get their best shot.”

Aneesah Morrow is excited to show people what she can do on a team like the one she is joining at LSU.

The reigning NCAA women’s basketball champions, LSU is adding top transfers Morrow and Hailey Van Lith to existing stars Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson to create the Tigers’ version of a superteam. While all those big names could raise questions about the roster’s ability to gel, Morrow isn’t concerned. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why she chose to transfer to LSU in the first place.

“I’m super excited to join. I just know how hard I work. Every day, my stats showed that I was very consistent every game, I was a double-double last year at DePaul and the year before would be a national freshman of the year,” she said on Haley Jones’ “Sometimes I Hoop” podcast. “So I try to stay as consistent as I possibly can. But I also want to be challenged by my teammates and my coaching staff. I want them to have my back and I felt like LSU was the best fit for that.”

She also knows that winning will require sacrifices. She’ll no longer be the player putting up major points for her team in every game. But she has skills she wants to sharpen, and she believes LSU will give her the opportunity to do so.

“It’s really about what you want to sacrifice for your team,” she said. “I have this conversation with my parents all the time. They tell me, ‘Don’t change your style of play,’ and I say, ‘I won’t change my style of play, but there are things I want to get better in.’”

And as for her teammates, she feels as though they’ll “play great together.” While there are a lot of personalities to balance, she is willing to do what it takes in order to bring a second straight national championship to the Tigers.

“I feel like we’re gonna play great together. I know that a lot of people talk about like egos and whatever it might be, the personalities,” she said. “But at the end of the day, if it comes down to me getting 20 rebounds a game and not scoring a point, that’s that’s what I do for my team to win. Because at the end of the day, that’s all I want to do.”

Even still, she knows that joining a team seeking back-to-back titles can have its pressures. And victory isn’t guaranteed, even for a superteam.

“There’s no guarantee that someone is going to win,” she said. “Of course, every goal is to win the national championship, to win the tournament, to be the best in your conference. But it takes work on a day in, day out basis.”

LAS VEGAS — Cameron Brink, Deja Kelly and Hailey Van Lith sat courtside for the WNBA All-Star Game last month, looking directly at their preferred futures.

The three are heading into their senior years — Brink at Stanford, Kelly at North Carolina and Van Lith at LSU. And like the players on the court, their WNBA dreams are so close, they can almost touch them.

“God willing, this is a dream of mine,” Brink said. “So, I think seeing all this is such a good reminder of how much hard work it takes to get there. And what the players sacrifice to be in this league. I think it’s just a really humbling experience, and I’m just really happy to be here.”

Anyone who watches the WNBA or dreams of playing in the league is familiar with the difficulties of making a roster. There’s a lot of talent coming out of college basketball — Brink, Kelly and Van Lith included — but a limited number of spots.

This season, 15 of 36 draftees made opening day rosters, 15 remained on rosters from the 2022 draft, and just eight players drafted in 2021 were rostered to start the season.

For the three seniors, this upcoming season is crucial to raising their draft stock. The next two WNBA drafts could feature the deepest classes the league has ever seen.

As undersized guards, Kelly (5-8) and Van Lith (5-7) are both focusing on extending their range. Kelly shot 28% from beyond the arc last season, while Van Lith made 29% of her attempts. They’ve been effective getting to the rim off the bounce in college, but they know 3-point shooting is vital to success in the WNBA.

“I’m working on a number of things,” Kelly said. “But I think just being as consistent as possible, just playing within my game. That and really extending my range as well. I think as a guard and my size, it’s something I have to have.”

Brink also wants to improve her outside shooting as a skill that can set the 6-4 forward apart from other bigs. She looks to players like Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson for inspiration on how to capitalize on versatility while remaining dominant inside.

Versatility has become increasingly important in the WNBA in the last few years, as traditional, back-to-the-basket posts and guards who can’t create for themselves are becoming less effective. Posts have to have range, and guards need to be able to score in isolation.

Van Lith and Brink are coming off a successful stint in 3×3 basketball, where they claimed gold at the FIBA World Cup in June and Brink was named tournament MVP. The nature of 3×3, they say, promotes versatility.

“I think 3×3 is such a dynamic game, and it’s so volatile,” Brink said. “You have to be able to defend every position, be able to shoot, be confident in your shot. You have to be able to handle the ball and clear the ball in between possessions.”

Brink, Kelly and Van Lith pose with reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson during All-Star weekend. (Annie Schutz/Just Women's Sports)

With only three players on the court at a time, Van Lith even spent time in the paint, playing with her back to the basket. It’s an unexpected skill set that she hopes to show off next season at LSU, after transferring from Louisville to play for the defending NCAA champions.

“I have a post bag, and it is deep,” Van Lith said with a smile. “Just wait until I get to LSU, because it is coming out.”

Changes in women’s basketball are happening off the court, too. Brink, Kelly and Van Lith have witnessed the rapidly evolving landscape firsthand, coming into college during the COVID-19 pandemic and now being some of the first players to benefit from NIL.

The opportunity to accept sponsorships and marketing opportunities has allowed college players to build and monetize their personal brands, bringing more attention to themselves and the game. Players like Aliyah Boston, who is enjoying a successful rookie season, is proof that talent can get players to the next level, but personality and visibility can bring fans from college to the WNBA. Boston already has a strong following from South Carolina, and those fans have continued their support for the Fever post, voting her as an All-Star starter this season.

“NIL plays a huge role in that growth process, just because fans get to see what we are doing for NIL, and it makes them want to watch us play basketball even more,” Kelly said. “NIL hit my sophomore year, and a lot of people wanted to see our team and see what we were about. Once they saw we were actually good, it made them want to come back.”

Of course, not every NIL deal transfers from college to the professional ranks. Branding remains important at the next level, and several players have found ways to benefit despite not going to college during the NIL era.

Wilson, the two-time WNBA MVP, has deals with Starry and Ruffles. Stewart, another of the league’s most well-known players, has a signature shoe with PUMA.

Coinciding with more eyes on the league, fashion has become a big part of WNBA culture. Skylar Diggins-Smith launched an entire clothing collection with PUMA last season, and tunnel pregame tunnel outfits have dominated WNBA Instagram accounts for the last few seasons.

The differing styles among players are one of the many ways they express and market themselves. It’s also something that’s trickling down to the college level.

“I love it,” Van Lith said. “There is no pressure to put a label on it. They can dress masculine one day, and the next day they can show up in a dress. There’s so much range.”

Player fashion, Van Lith says, is bigger than just what brands they are wearing. Like the changing versatility on the court, it represents exactly what the WNBA is about.

“The league is just a great example of diversity in so many ways,” she says. “Fashion is definitely one of those.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.