NCAA Transfers to Watch in 2021-22
With so many players changing teams, it can be hard to keep up. Here's a list of the players we're focusing on.
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Every new college basketball season brings new players, but all the activity in the NCAA’s transfer portal means you may need a program to follow some of your favorite players that have switched schools for the 2021-22 season.
Few NCAA rosters have been untouched by transfers over the past year, which means that fans will be seeing unfamiliar faces and some teams will have to work even harder at learning to play together. Sorting out which of the new players will have the greatest impact on their new teams is tricky, too.
The task of evaluating transfers has been complicated by the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA (along with the chance to play immediately) and by teams that have undergone wholesale changes in the past six months due to transfers, including Duke, Syracuse and Texas Tech.
There are at least two ways to judge the impact of a transfer: by that player’s individual output and by the effect she has on the team’s overall performance. In an ideal situation, the transfer works for both the individual and the team, but it can be hard to know whether a player is successful because of the team context or would have done well in almost any context. In addition, there are teams with multiple transfer players; picking which one will have more impact carries some uncertainty.
With those factors in mind, here are the players I expect to be the most impactful transfers this season:
Dorka Juhasz, F, UConn (previously: Ohio State). A 6-foot-5 player with post skills and a perimeter shot, Juhasz could have a big impact on what is already a loaded UConn team. Here’s why: the Huskies’ talent leans toward the backcourt, and last season its opponents grabbed 9.7 offensive rebounds a game, which ranked 37th overall. Juhasz’s rebounding alone will make UConn harder to beat; her outside shot makes it costlier to help defend against UConn’s other offensive threats. It might seem a little crazy to write this, but I can see her having a larger impact this season than her teammate Azzi Fudd, the nation’s top recruit.
Kamilla Cardoso, C, South Carolina (previously: Syracuse). One of the nation’s top shot-blockers in her freshman year at Syracuse, Cardoso makes an already imposing South Carolina frontcourt even better. At 6-foot-7, Cardoso will be an immediate defensive presence alongside Aliyah Boston and could give her the chance to further develop an offensive game outside the paint. One issue for Cardoso has been fouls; she averaged 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes last season, putting her in the top 8% of players who started at least 20 games. If she can stay on the floor, she’ll make a difference to an extremely talented Gamecocks squad. That impact might seem limited when looking just at the stats, however.
IImar’I Thomas, F, UCLA (previously: Cincinnati). Thomas has been a consistent scorer and rebounder over three seasons at Cincinnati, and there’s little reason to think she won’t put up similar numbers in a new-look UCLA side that features several other transfers. Thomas won’t have to play 39 minutes a game like she did last season, which should help the reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year be a productive contributor to the Bruins, who need a go-to scorer now that Michaela Onyenwere is in the WNBA.
Maya Dodson, F, Notre Dame (previously: Stanford). Dodson, who opted out of Stanford’s NCAA championship season, provides an interior presence for the Irish, which should help Maddy Westbeld’s game. She’ll be expected to help shore up what was an average rebounding performance by Notre Dame last season.
Anastasia Hayes, G, Mississippi State (previously: Middle Tennessee State). The leap from mid-major to Power Five conference can be a big one, but don’t forget that Hayes averaged 9.3 points a game as a freshman at Tennessee. Scoring isn’t going to be the issue, although as a leader of the relatively young Bulldogs team she’ll need to be more efficient at the free-throw line, where she hit just 64% of her attempts last season. If Hayes can handle the rigors of an SEC schedule (and the attention of bigger defenders), she’ll be a big factor.
Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor (previously: Alabama). Lewis and fellow transfer Ja’Mee Asberry should give Baylor fans who want more backcourt scoring something to cheer about this season, and will go a long way in filling the void left by the departures of DiDi Richards, Moon Ursin and DiJonai Carrington. The defensive attention will go to Baylor’s stocked frontcourt, so Lewis has a real opportunity here if she can consistently hit the outside shot.
Lexi Gordon, G/F, Duke (previously: Texas Tech and UConn). Duke will rely on Gordon’s scoring and veteran leadership, especially early on as a team with multiple transfers finds its identity. Gordon, who started her collegiate career at UConn, averaged 15.8 points per game last season and shoots 80% or better from the free-throw line.
Celeste Taylor, G, Duke (previously: Texas). Taylor has a chance to be a pivotal player on a rebuilding Duke team alongside Gordon. A strong rebounder and defender, Taylor should benefit from playing in a more open offense under Kara Lawson. If Taylor can convert a higher percentage of her shots she’ll increase her value.
Nancy Mulkey, C, Washington (previously: Rice). The 6-foot-9 Mulkey doesn’t just bring more shot-blocking to the PAC-12, but that alone might be enough to put her on this list. The Huskies ranked 336th in defensive rebounds per game last season, and Mulkey’s presence should help improve that metric, too.
Moon Ursin, G, Tulane (previously: Baylor and LSU). Ursin’s energetic presence makes a good Tulane team even better, and she figures to be a fixture in the lineup. In her first game she attempted six 3-pointers (making three), which if that keeps up will add a dimension to her game that she didn’t show at Baylor.
Emily Engstler, F, Louisville (previously: Syracuse). An aggressive rebounder, Engstler will fill an immediate void at Louisville, which has just two other veteran frontcourt players returning. Given her physical play, if she can convert on more free throws she can be an important cog in the Cardinals’ free-wheeling offense.
Diamond Johnson, G, N.C. State (previously: Rutgers). Part of me would like to say that Johnson could be the most impactful transfer in the NCAA because of N.C. State’s already talented roster and her own ability to break down defenses. She’s an efficient scorer and playmaker, and her ability to contribute might be only constrained by the fact that the Wolfpack already have a pretty deep backcourt. I could see her becoming an increasingly significant factor as the season goes on.
Endyia Rogers, G, Oregon (previously: USC). Rogers, who was the primary engine for USC last season, will need to wait to make her Oregon debut after suffering broken bones in her left hand or arm. Oregon hopes to have her back by the end of the year, when the PAC-12 season begins. Rogers led USC in scoring and three-point field goals last season, and pairing her with Te-Hina Paopao (also currently sidelined by injury) should create headaches for opponents.
Koi Love, F, Arizona (previously: Vanderbilt). Love is one of the more intriguing transfers because she only played eight games last season before opting out. In that brief stint, she averaged 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Commodores. She saw a combined 19 minutes of action in two recent exhibition games for the Wildcats, who already have some depth in the frontcourt, but she could become a valuable contributor by season’s end.
Taylor Mikesell, G, Ohio State (previously: Oregon and Maryland). Mikesell’s qualities as a three-point shooter are well-known; she was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2018-19 and hit 41% of her long-range shots while at Maryland. Given that the Buckeyes have nine guards on the roster, including returning starters Madison Greene, Braxtin Miller and Jacy Sheldon, one challenge for Mikesell is just getting enough playing time - and shots - to bolster her impact.
Kayana Traylor, G, Virginia Tech (previously: Purdue). Traylor was a starter for most of three seasons at Purdue and averaged 15.8 points and nearly four assists a game last season. She should provide a third option for Virginia Tech after Aisha Sheppard and Elizabeth Kitley in a veteran Hokie lineup.
Carlie Littlefield, G, North Carolina (previously: Princeton). A three-year starter at Princeton, which did not play during the 2020-21 season, Littlefield can slot right in at point guard for the Tar Heels, who have a lot of offensive talent but not as much backcourt experience. Littlefield won’t be the headliner in Chapel Hill, but she could play a big role.
Jaelynn Penn, G, UCLA (previously: Indiana). It’s worth recalling that before injury cut short her season last year, Penn was a do-everything guard on an Indiana team that made it to the Elite Eight. A solid defender, she’ll be competing for time in a crowded backcourt at UCLA, but already knows how to complement other players.
Her Hoops Stats will be following these and other players who might make an even bigger impact this season, and we’d love to hear who else we should be keeping track of in this season of transfers.
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