New Team, No Problem
Ten transfers to watch in women's college basketball in 2020-21
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Every year, hundreds of women’s basketball players transfer to new schools. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely limited coaches’ ability to recruit and players’ ability to visit colleges, this offseason has been no exception.
Since fall 2019, 74 women’s basketball players have transferred into and 116 have left Power 5 schools. Those numbers are very similar to the 2018-19 transfer cycle, when 64 transfers joined and 119 left Power 5 schools.
Transfers can be particularly exciting for fans because they are new additions who also have some collegiate experience, so they may make a more immediate impact than a college freshman. But for every Chloe Jackson or Jessica Shepard, each of whom won a national championship after transferring, there are players who never quite settle in and make the anticipated impact.
How, then, can you know which transfers you should be watching in 2020-21? Here are 10 transfers who could shine on new teams (and five honorable mentions).
Note: This list includes only players who are eligible to play in 2020-21. Players are listed alphabetically, and their statistics are for their most recent season on the court unless otherwise noted. All stats are from Her Hoop Stats unless otherwise noted, and class years are as listed on 2020-21 rosters, if available.
Benzan is one of two Ivy League-to-Power 5 transfers this offseason, joining Laura Bagwell Katalinich, who went from Cornell to Minnesota. To make a transfer possible, Benzan—a three-time First-Team All-Ivy honoree—did not play basketball as a senior at Harvard in 2019-20. Yet she set a new Ivy League record for career 3-pointers (287) in just three seasons, shooting 35.6% from deep in 2018-19 on the ninth-most attempts (289) in the country. She paired that with a sparkling 2.27 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranked 53rd nationally.
At Maryland, she should fill in nicely for Taylor Mikesell, who transferred to Oregon after sinking 185 3-pointers in two seasons with the Terps, and share ball-handling duties with rising redshirt junior Channise Lewis, who missed the 2019-20 season due to injury.
Ben Dull did a phenomenal deep dive on Carrington when she announced her decision to attend Baylor, calling her “a sure thing” that the Lady Bears sorely need after losing three starters to the WNBA. Carrington becomes the third grad transfer guard in the last three seasons to choose to play for legendary point guard Kim Mulkey, following Jackson and Te’a Cooper. As Dull explained, Carrington checks a lot of boxes for Baylor: she can make threes, drive to the basket, post up smaller guards, defend, and rebound. For her part, Carrington is likely hoping that she can help Baylor to another national title and, like eventual second-round picks Jackson and Cooper, elevate her WNBA Draft stock in the process.
Jekot was one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation two seasons ago, ranking in the 90th percentile or above in points per game, points per scoring attempt (1.14), effective field goal percentage (55.8%), turnover rate (11.5%), and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.57). She missed the 2019-20 season with a knee injury but joined the Nittany Lions in January and will be eligible this fall. Her arrival will boost a Penn State team that could use more 3-point shooting and more efficient scoring: the Nittany Lions ranked tenth out of 14 Big Ten teams last season in 3-point shooting percentage and 13th in points per 100 possessions.
Lambert was one of the 2019-20 season’s best stories, returning to the court after 962 days and three knee surgeries to hit a 60-foot buzzer-beater to end the first quarter in a game against High Point. Her season statistics were slightly down from 2016-17—when she averaged 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while making nearly 40% of her 3-point attempts—but she showed she could still stuff the stat sheet. She was also a three-year captain for the Blue Devils, and new Texas head coach Vic Schaefer will look to Lambert to provide leadership alongside rising junior star Charli Collier.
Pellington hit the ground running at Oklahoma, scoring 23 points in her second career game en route to Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2017-18. As a sophomore in 2018-19, she took on an even bigger share of the offense, scoring in double figures in 15 of the 19 games in which she played at least ten minutes and posting the 35th-highest usage rate in the country. Pellington had to sit out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but she did play for Team Canada last winter, scoring 11 points in a win over Sweden that qualified Canada for the Olympics. During the three-game qualifying tournament, she averaged 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field.
Looking ahead to 2020-21, Pellington and Wildcats star Aari McDonald both have elite passing skills: Pellington assisted on 27.4% of her teammates’ baskets when she was on the floor in 2018-19 while McDonald assisted on 28.7% in 2019-20. Those numbers put them both among the top 5% of players nationally, and McDonald also scored 20.6 points per game (which ranked tenth nationally). Pellington and McDonald’s ability to create for themselves and each other could make them one of the most lethal perimeter duos in the country next season.
Perez’s numbers leap off the page: she had the 16th-highest scoring average in the country yet still averaged over four assists per game, which ranked 106th. She also grabbed over five rebounds per game despite standing just 5-foot-4. For her efforts, she was named Big West Player of the Year in 2019-20. The previous season, Perez scored less (12.9 PPG) but assisted more (5.0 APG), registering an assist on nearly one-third of the baskets her teammates scored when she was on the floor.
But, as Perez told AZCentral, she was looking to win on “a bigger stage,” and she found it in the defending ACC Tournament champions. Mitchell Northam, who writes the ACC-focused newsletter All in the Game, expects Perez to compete for the starting point guard position at NC State and to increase her assist totals playing alongside the likes of rising junior center Elissa Cunane and rising senior forward Kayla Jones.
7. Sedona Prince, redshirt sophomore forward, Texas to Oregon
Stats as a high school senior in 2017-18: 22.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.8 SPG, 4.7 BPG
Prince has completed two years of college but has yet to make her on-court debut. She broke her leg in August 2018 while playing on the USA Under-18 national team and endured several surgeries. She transferred from Texas after her freshman year because she felt “very unsafe,” “very alone,” and “neglected” by the medical staff.
If healthy in 2020-21, the 6-foot-7 Prince could be a difference-maker for an Oregon team that lost WNBA first-round pick Ruthy Hebard off of last year’s roster. Mikesell, Prince’s former USA teammate, describes her as “a mismatch problem” and “an energy kid” who “has the size of a post player but the skillset of a guard.” Playing alongside perimeter shooters such as rising senior Erin Boley and rising junior Taylor Chavez should help create space for Prince to go to work.
Slocum made my list of impact transfers two years ago when she transferred from Maryland to Oregon State after being named the 2016-17 National Freshman of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. At OSU, she teamed with Mikayla Pivec for two seasons to form one of the most efficient duos in the Pac-12, each averaging over 14 points per game last season and ranking in the 87th percentile or above in points per scoring attempt.
But Pivec graduated in 2020 and Slocum, too, is moving on, choosing a coach she considered playing for out of high school and a team that plays at one of the fastest tempos in the country. That will be very different from the methodical offense the Beavers play, and it’s possible that Slocum’s scoring and assists could both increase next year if she makes the most of head coach Mike Neighbors’s green light.
Smith was named a team captain at Louisville before playing in her first game, and co-captain Dana Evans says that Smith is a hard worker who “can pretty much do it all” on the court. Smith started 64 of 65 career games in her two seasons at Cal and made the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team in 2017-18. Nearly half of her shots as a sophomore were from 3-point range, and she made 35.0% of them, which will be important this season for a Louisville team looking to replace the outside shooting of WNBA Draft picks Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook. Smith can also play multiple guard positions and take some of the offensive load off of Evans, who was named ACC Player of the Year last season after averaging 18.0 points and 4.2 assists.
Westbrook was one of the nation’s top scorers and assisters in her sophomore season at Tennessee, but she could only watch last season as her new team played her former team for the first time since 2007. If Westbrook had been eligible last season, many observers thought she could have elevated the Huskies from a top-10 team to one that could hang with the “Big Three” of South Carolina, Oregon, and Baylor. Instead, she’ll team up with incoming freshman guard Paige Bueckers—the top incoming recruit in the country—junior center Olivia Nelson-Ododa, and junior guard Christyn Williams to try to get UConn its first national championship since—gasp!—2016.
McKenzie Forbes, sophomore guard, Cal to Harvard