Hailey Van Lith says she admired LSU’s program from afar long before the former Louisville star decided to close her college career there.
“I actually said that several times throughout the season – even when I didn’t know I was transferring here yet – was like, ‘Man, I want to play on that team,'” the 5-foot-7 guard told reporters recently. “The energy the coaches coach with, the energy coach (Kim) Mulkey brings to the court, the energy the assistants bring to the court, the energy, the attitude the girls play with. I think the culture of the team really drew me in.”
Van Lith’s decision to switch schools was one of the biggest offseason stories in women’s college basketball and helped LSU follow up its national title by winning the transfer portal sweepstakes. LSU added both Van Lith and former DePaul guard Aneesah Morrow, who ranked fourth in Division I in scoring (25.7 points per game) and seventh in rebounding (12.2).
That means LSU has the nation’s only two players who ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding last season. LSU’s Angel Reese ranked fifth in scoring (23.0) and second in rebounding (15.4) while earning first-team Associated Press All-America honors and getting named most outstanding player of the Final Four.
Morrow said transferring was a tough choice that she contemplated “for a month, a month-and-a-half.” But once she decided to enter the portal, Morrow said selecting LSU as her new school was an easy decision.
Van Lith received honorable mention on the AP All-America team last season and led Louisville to a Final Four appearance in 2022, when she was named the most outstanding player in the Wichita Regional. She averaged 19.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season.
The additions of Van Lith and Morrow give LSU two of the most notable transfers as the top-ranked Tigers open their title defense. Some other transfers who should make an impact this season (former schools in parentheses):
LAUREN BETTS, UCLA (Stanford)
This 6-foot-7 center was rated the nation’s No. 1 prospect in her class by multiple recruiting services when she arrived at Stanford last year. Betts spent her lone season at Stanford coming off the bench for a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. She averaged 5.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 9.7 minutes last season, but her recruiting ranking suggests she’s capable of producing much more. She averaged 11.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for Team USA at the 2023 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup this summer.
JAYDA CURRY, LOUISVILLE (California)
Louisville has added six transfers to help restock a roster that lost Van Lith and several other key players from the team that reached a regional final last season. Curry may be the best of the newcomers. The 5-6 guard became the first freshman to lead the Pac-12 in scoring when she averaged 18.6 points per game in 2021-22; she was sixth in the league with 15.5 last season. Louisville also landed 2023 Sun Belt Conference player of the year Kiki Jefferson from James Madison as well as Nina Rickards (Florida) and Sydney Taylor (UMass).
LEXI DONARSKI, NORTH CAROLINA (Iowa State)
Donarski is a former McDonald’s All-American who scored 12.1 points per game at Iowa State last season after averaging 14.3 points in 2021-22 and 13.0 in 2020-21. She earned first-team all-Big 12 honors and was named the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2022, when she also ranked 17th nationally with 88 3-point baskets. The 6-foot guard made the Big 12’s all-defensive team again last season.
TE-HINA PAOPAO, SOUTH CAROLINA (Oregon)
Paopao, a 5-9 guard, was an all-Pac-12 player in 2020-21 and 2021-22. She averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals last season and put up remarkably similar numbers (13.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals) the year before. She shot 42.4% from 3-point range last season and averaged 2.3 3-pointers per game.
ENDYIA ROGERS, TEXAS A&M (Southern California, Oregon)
This 5-7 guard from Dallas returns to her home state after earning all-Pac-12 honors each of the last three seasons. She played her first two seasons at Southern California before spending the last two seasons at Oregon. Rogers ranked fourth in the Pac-12 last season with 15.9 points per game, and she also averaged 4.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals. Rogers has averaged at least 13.1 points per game each of her four seasons.
CELESTE TAYLOR, OHIO STATE (Texas, Duke)
Taylor comes to the Big Ten after getting selected as the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year and earning first-team all-ACC honors last season at Duke. The 5-11 guard has provided consistent production while playing at multiple schools. She has career averages of 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Taylor had 11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season.
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