March 30, 2021 

Diamond Johnson, eight Syracuse players among huge transfer portal surge

A huge group of impact players are seeking new homes

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SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 23: The University of Connecticut takes on the Syracuse University during the second round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.

San Antonio isn’t the only hub of women’s basketball news this week. The transfer portal has also been buzzing with major news over the past few days and some rosters could look very different next season. 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. Below are some key moves we’ve seen in the transfer portal in recent days.

Rutgers loses Diamond Johnson

Freshman star Diamond Johnson has entered the transfer portal. Johnson, five-star recruit and the No. 6 ranked overall freshmen in the 2020 class according to ESPN, was a key contributor for Rutgers this season, averaging 17.6 points per game. She was one of three freshmen named as a top-10 candidate for the 2021 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award. Her future looks bright and this early departure is a tough blow for C. Vivian Stringer’s squad.

Graduate transfer Mael Gilles also appeared in the transfer portal, perhaps looking to redeem her additional year of eligibility outside of New Brunswick. The transfer portal news follows notification from seniors Arella Guirantes and Tekia Mack that they will not be returning next season. Guirantes is expected to be a first-round draft pick in the WNBA draft on April 15th.

Eight Syracuse players in the portal

Over half of Coach Quentin Hillsman’s 2020-21 roster is currently in the transfer portal, highlighted by ACC co-Sixth Player of the Year Emily Engstler. Highly-touted out of high school in the 2018 class, Engstler came into Syracuse as the highest-ranked recruit in program history. Engstler was expected to be the leader for next year’s team, so Coach Q will need to do some re-orienting.

Following Engstler into the portal are graduate transfers Digna Strautmane, Amaya Finklea-Guity, and redshirt senior Kiara Lewis. Lewis was Syracuse’s leading scoring over the past two seasons and led the team in minutes per game as Syracuse’s go-to scorer and play-maker. The Orange also saw freshman Faith Blackstone, sophomore Taleah Washington, junior Lauren Fitzmaurice, and redshirt junior Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi enter the transfer portal.

All-SEC Freshman Hayes seeking out of Starkville

Following the departure of junior Xaria Wiggins, sophomore JaMya Mingo-Young, redshirt junior Sidney Cooks, and graduate transfer Yemiyah Morris, All-SEC freshman guard Madison Hayes has also entered the transfer portal. Hayes came to the program as a five-star recruit, and was a bright spot for the program in a disappointing year when they missed the NCAA tournament under first-year head coach Nikki McCray.

“I think in terms of the transfers, it’s part of the norm,” Head Coach Nikki McCray-Penson said. “I thank the players that have been a part of this program and I have wished them well … It’s not just our program, it’s every program as you can see. Three or four players are transferring at a time. But they have had to navigate through a lot. Anytime there’s a coaching change, you have to navigate. So you just have to wish them well, and then for me, my focus is on us getting back to that championship level.”

Boilermakers lose key pieces

Purdue junior Kayana Traylor announced on Monday that she will be leaving the Boilermakers and her name has appeared in the transfer portal. Traylor was a starter for the Boilermakers, averaging 34.8 minutes and 15 points per game. Traylor was named All-Big Ten Second Team by the coaches during the 2020-21 season and will be a valuable addition to another program’s roster.

Purdue guard Karissa McLaughlin, the program’s career leader in 3-point field goals made, has also entered the transfer portal alongside graduate transfers Fatou Diagne and Tamara Farquhar, who will take their extra year of eligibility to another program. Sophomore Bria Harmon, who saw limited minutes with the team, also entered the portal. This news comes after Purdue announced that Sharon Versyp will be coaching her last season in 2021-22, with associate head coach Katie Gearlds taking the reins the following season.

Conti to finish college career outside of Wake Forest

Wake Forest senior guard and leader Gina Conti will take her extra year of eligibility elsewhere. After leading the Demon Deacons to their second NCAA Tournament bid in program history, Conti will step away from the program having scored 1,009 points and 491 assists, second in school history.

After the team’s loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Conti said she was unsure about her next step.

“I’m still unsure whether I’m coming back or not,” Conti said. “I’m going to take this time to reflect over the next few weeks to see what my future looks like.”

Conti announced Monday on her Instagram that she would indeed be leaving Wake Forest next season. She will be a valuable addition to another program’s roster next season.

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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