April 9, 2023
Column: Even Stanford isn’t immune from the new world order
Three Cardinal players, including former No. 1 recruit Betts, enter transfer portal
So this is weird.
The transfer of three Stanford players over the course of two days is not what women’s basketball is used to seeing. It’s definitely not what Stanford fans are used to seeing.
Tara VanDerveer has said for a long time that her recruiting choices had better be good ones, because once they get to Stanford, they aren’t leaving. Because a degree from Stanford was worth sitting the bench for, it was worth being pushed by the Hall of Fame head coach, it was worth always playing in an environment of sky-high expectations both internally and externally.
But my, how things have changed. And quickly.
Players want to play. They want NIL opportunities. They want both development on the floor and exposure off of it.
The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up
The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.
The 6-foot-7 Betts, it was clear early in the season, would be more project than immediate prodigy for the Cardinal. VanDerveer admitted in December she would be starting on many other teams.
Stanford was both deep and experienced inside this season with Cameron Brink, Fran Belibi, Kiki Iriafen and Ashten Prechtel and Betts would be in learn-and-be-patient mode. That is so much easier said than done.
Her minutes went up as the season progressed, her productivity increased, but her impact was inarguably muted. She played a total of 18 minutes in two Pac-12 Tournament teams that saw the Cardinal bounced in the semifinals. She would play a total of 25 minutes in two NCAA Tournament games, only eight minutes in the second-round loss to Mississippi, going 0-for-1 from the floor with two rebounds and two blocks.
By the end of Saturday, Betts wasn’t alone. guards Indya Nivar and Agnes Emma-Nnopu had both put their names into the portal, too.
Nivar, also a freshman, came off the bench in all but one game this season. VanDerveer liked her perimeter defense, but what the Cardinal needed was more perimeter scoring. Nivar was scoreless in five of her last 7 games, and took just two shots in 20 minutes against Ole Miss.
Emma-Nnopu, a junior from Australia, started 11 games, averaging 13.4 minutes, 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds. She did hit 20 3-pointers on the season, and had a 17-point game against Arizona State during the conference season that included 5 3-pointers.
With a deep team, VanDerveer had 200 minutes a game to give out. It was not enough to keep some players happy.
The 6’7 Betts will be one of the biggest gets in the portal in every way. Instead of playing another season in Brink’s considerable shadow, and for a team that will have to figure out quickly how to rejuvenate its backcourt, she has a chance to be another team’s centerpiece.
It’s not as if Stanford hasn’t seen players transfer over the past 10 years. Lili Thompson went to Notre Dame as a grad transfer in 2017, as did Marta Sniezek in 2019 and Maya Dodson in 2021. DiJonai Carrington played her final season for Kim Mulkey at Baylor in 2021. Last season, guard Jana Van Glytenbeek also transferred to Baylor.
But three players, including the nation’s top recruit? That rattles some cages.
Stanford hasn’t always been able to play in the same recruiting sandbox as everyone else, because the admissions office had as much input as the head coach. And it’s why the transfer portal may not necessarily be a quick fix for the Cardinal.
Is the suddenly shaky ground at Stanford a larger barometer for the Pac-12, which had a disappointing NCAA Tournament as a whole, with no teams advancing out of the Sweet 16?
Oregon lost its starting backcourt in Te-Hina Paopao and Endiya Rogers, both of whom are transferring. Unlike last year, when transfers stayed in the conference, the top players are leaving — Jadya Curry from Cal to Louisville, Sedona Price (who sat out the season at Oregon) to TCU, with other big player decisions to come. UCLA and USC are on the way to the Big Ten after next season.
Arizona has seen significant roster turnover with seven players opting to transfer, head coach Adia Barnes as active in the portal over the past few seasons as any Power 5 coach in the country.
Barnes tweeted on Saturday that “Nil money is now one of the most important things with the transfer portal.”
Making a WNBA roster is difficult. The overseas options are becoming less appealing and less lucrative. The opportunity to nail down some financial security for many players will come during their college careers in this new world.
LSU’s Angel Reese, the star of a Final Four that may be a tipping point for women’s basketball into the future, perhaps said it best when she said “The price just went up.”
And so did the stakes. And now even Stanford isn’t immune.
Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine
Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.
Written by Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.