April 17, 2021 

Diamond Johnson, Celeste Taylor among big transfers finding new homes

NCAA Division 1 Council adopts one-time transfer exception

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The NCAA Division 1 Council announced on Thursday that it has officially adopted a measure that allows athletes in all sports to transfer once without sitting out a season. The one-time exception, which has been available to student-athletes in most sports for several years, is now extended to student-athletes in football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, and baseball. The Division I Board of Directors is expected to officially ratify the decision on April 28th.

The women’s basketball transfer portal has been extremely active this off-season with a record number of players entering and landing at new programs. Many players who have entered the transfer portal are graduate transfers, perhaps looking to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility at a different program. After the Division 1 Council’s decision, a student-athlete will be immediately eligible to play at a new school if it is her first transfer. Below are a summary of key moves and how they will shake up major programs’ chances for the 2021-22 season.

Wolfpack pick up two rising stars

After winning its second-straight ACC title and clinching the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed, N.C. State Wolfpack will reload with two superstar freshmen transfers.

Diamond Johnson, who was a key contributor for Rutgers in her freshman season, announced her commitment to the Wolfpack. Diamond averaged 17.6 points per game, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, and was one of three freshmen named as a top-10 candidate for the 2021 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award. She will look to have an immediate impact in WBCA Coach of the Year Wes Moore’s rotation.

The Wolfpack also secured a commitment from Mississippi State freshman transfer Madison Hayes. The 6’0 guard will add height and versatility to the point guard position, which lacked depth at times this season for the Wolfpack. Hayes was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and ranked second in rebounding for the Bulldogs this past season.

“Madison Hayes is a player that excels in all three phases of the game,” said head coach Wes Moore. “Offensively, she can get to the rim as well as knock down the three. Defensively, her combination of strength and quickness allows her to be a lockdown defender. These same attributes make her a relentless rebounder on both ends of the court. We’re excited to add the talent and toughness of Madison to the N.C. State program.”

Kara Lawson making moves at Duke

Kara Lawson has been making moves this off-season, picking up four former five-star high school recruits through the transfer portal. Celeste Taylor, a transfer from Texas, announced last week that she’d be continuing her college career at Duke. Taylor was a Big 12 All-Freshman team selectee and led the Longhorns in steals this season. She shined in the NCAA tournament, scoring 24 points in Texas’ Sweet Sixteen upset of UCLA. Taylor is a big-time player who will immediately compete for a starting position in Coach Lawson’s rotation.

Duke also secured commitments from Texas Tech graduate transfer Lexi Gordan and Louisville redshirt sophomore Nyah Green. Gordan started all 25 games for Texas Tech this past season and averaged 15.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. She started her career at UConn before transferring to the Raiders in the middle of her sophomore season. Nyah Green, 2019 McDonald’s All-American and former five-star recruit also committed to Duke in January. Green redshirted her freshman season at Louisville and played just five games in the 2020-21 season.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lawson added a fourth major transfer to her roster in Syracuse graduate transfer Amaya Finklea-Guity. The 6’4 center will add size to the Blue Devils’ rotation and will bring a big defensive presence to the team’s rotation. Duke is now up to ten players on their 2021-22 roster.

Hayes trio headed to Hail State

Following the departure of six players including freshman star Madison Hayes, Mississippi State head coach Nikki McCray-Penson brought in sisters Anastasia, Aislynn, and Alasia Hayes. Last month, all three sisters announced their entry into the transfer portal. During the 2020-21 season, Anastasia was second in the nation in scoring at 26.5 points per game in addition to 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals per game. Sister Aislynn contributed 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Both played for Middle Tennessee. Alasia will be joining the Bulldogs after spending her freshman season with Notre Dame.

The sisters, who last played basketball together in 2017 when they helped Riverdale High School win its second of three consecutive state championships in Tennessee, will be joining Tulane transfer JerKaila Jordan next season in Starkville. Jordan averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game in one season with the Green Wave.

Wildcats and Bruins bring in new talent

After finishing second and third, respectively, in the 2020-21 Pac-12 regular season the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins have already brought in new talent to replace outgoing stars. Earlier this month, UCLA coach Cori Close got commitments from graduate transfers Iimar’I Thomas and Jaelynn Penn. Thomas was 9th in the nation in scoring last season, leading the Cincinnati Bearcats with 23.7 points per game en route to being named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Penn averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in her four years with the Hoosiers. She opted out of the 2020-21 season shortly after an ankle injury in January.

The Bruins also confirmed earlier this week that graduate transfer Gina Conti from Wake Forest will be joining the team next season. After leading the Demon Deacons to their second NCAA Tournament bid in program history, Conti left Wake Forest having scored 1,009 points and 491 assists, second in school history.

Pac-12 rival Arizona also got good news from the transfer portal, with commitments from Oregon’s Taylor Chavez and Vanderbilt transfer Koi Love. Chavez, a junior guard, averaged 4.1 points, 2.1 assists, and 1.9 rebounds in 19.0 minutes in 19 games this season. She was awarded Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year in her sophomore year behind former Oregon Duck and current WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu. She will look to make up for some of the offensive productive gap left after Aari McDonald’s departure for the WNBA.

Coach Adia Barnes also secured a commitment from forward Koi Love the day after the Wildcats learned forward Trinity Baptiste would not be returning for her extra year of eligibility. Love was averaging 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game when the Commodores opted out of the 2020-21 season after eight games. She has three years of eligibility remaining and will look to be a solid post presence in Baptiste’s absence.

Makurat goes pro and UConn gains another premier post player

Former Uconn guard Anna Makurat announced that she will pursue a professional basketball career in Europe, just days after entering the transfer portal.

“At this moment of my career, after having a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for the past two seasons with the UConn Huskies, I now feel confident to pursue my basketball journey in Europe as a pro-baller,” Makurat wrote in an Instagram post. “It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of such an incredible program.”

Recruited from Poland by coach Geno Auriemma, Makurat played two seasons with Arka Gdynia in the Polish Basket Liga Kobiet. She was named to the American Athletic Conference All-Freshman team in the 2019-20 season and played limited minutes this past season due to a stress fracture in her right leg.

The Huskies didn’t skip a beat, however, bringing in 6’4 Ohio State graduate transfer Dorka Juhász. In her three seasons with the Buckeyes, Juhász averaged 13.0 points and 9.6 rebounds in 75 career games. She will be an addition to Uconn’s already-stacked frontcourt that includes 6’5 senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa, 6’3 sophomore Aaliyah Edwards, and 6’5 incoming freshman Amari DeBerry. Juhász is immediately eligible to join the Huskies for the 2021-22 season and has two remaining years of eligibility.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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