Transfers hoping to leave their mark in women’s basketball
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) The 2013 high school senior class was one of the most talented in recent women’s basketball history.
It had a plethora of talented guards and post players led by Diamond DeShields, Kaela Davis and Taya Reimer. So far, though, the biggest mark the group has left at the collegiate level is the high transfer rate among its top stars.
Six of the top 10 players from that high school class have switched colleges from where they began. DeShields was the test case, leaving North Carolina after a stellar freshman year and heading to Tennessee. Soon after, other top players started transferring.
No. 2 Kaela Davis went from Georgia Tech to South Carolina. Fourth-ranked Taya Reimer left Notre Dame to head to Michigan State. Lexie Brown left Maryland for Duke after guiding the Terrapins to the Final Four in her first two years at the school.
”At the end of the day it’s all about people being happy,” said DeShields, who left North Carolina after a stellar freshman year. ”We’re all friends and a lot of them were texting me after I left to see what it was like.”
Brown, DeShields and Davis all grew up in Atlanta a few miles apart, playing on the same AAU team. Brown and Davis faced off last Sunday when South Carolina visited Duke. Brown’s team got the better end of the matchup, handing the Gamecocks their first loss of the season.
”I think it’s weird, a lot of the transfers have been players who played a lot or were the focal point of the team or the face of the team,” Brown said. ”Sometimes you forget there’s more to being a college athlete than the sport that you play. At the end of the day it’s about your happiness. I know some of those girls and they weren’t happy and it might not have even been the basketball situation.”
All the players had different reasons for leaving their first college choice. Many of them committed early to college, some, like Brown, before the end of their sophomore year of high school. Others like Stephanie Mavunga, Gray and Jessica Washington left North Carolina over fears of impending NCAA sanctions to the school.
”We all had our dream schools when we were 15 or 16,” Brown said. ”Now at 20 and 21 we’re at a different school then we would have imagined.”
Individually many of the players have done well so far at their new schools, putting up strong numbers. It will be seen if they can lead their new programs to conference or NCAA titles. Davis, who was an all-conference guard at Georgia Tech, has flourished so far in her first year at South Carolina. She said when she left Georgia Tech that she wanted to win at the highest level and compete for a national championship. She’s provided an outside shooting threat to compliment the Gamecocks’ strong interior game. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley also took in seventh-ranked Allisha Gray from North Carolina.
”You definitely do your homework and talk to the kids and see why they left,” Staley said. ”In the old days you would get transfers who just weren’t happy with playing time or such. Now it’s gotten a lot different.”
Ohio State has also become an oasis for transfers. Kevin McGuff’s 12th-ranked team has benefited from the addition of three transfers this season in Mavunga (North Carolina), Sierra Calhoun (Duke) and Linnae Harper (Kentucky).
”I think we’re going to keep seeing it,” McGuff said. ”It’s just hard. I think we’re in a generation when expectations aren’t met quickly, then kids move on to the next thing. I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.”
The numbers support the Ohio State coach’s thoughts. In 2013-14, 9.2 percent of women’s basketball players transferred according to the NCAA. That’s up from 6.8 percent a decade ago.
”Now, with social media, there is instant access to everything. You have all these fans like why aren’t you playing at so and so,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ”Fifteen years ago the kids didn’t have all that extra pressure for them. Now it’s a lot easier to take the easy way out.”
Walz and other coaches have said there’s not too much that schools can do to change this. All they can keep doing is be honest with kids when they are recruiting them.
”You can’t change who you are or who your program is,” Walz said.
When schools try to block a transfer it hasn’t gone well. In one high profile case, Kansas State didn’t want to let star guard Leticia Romero transfer a few years ago when the coaching staff was let go at the end of the 2014 season, claiming tampering. In the end, they relented and let her transfer to Florida State.
While no class may ever match the 2013 high school senior one as far as the high profile transfers, the numbers aren’t going to change any time soon.
”The culture has changed now,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ”Now, you get to sit out a year, lift weights and then get two more years to play. You don’t have to deal with difficulty if you don’t want to. The word transfer is no longer a bad word. It used to be your family would say `you’re committed, you’re going to stick it out.’ That doesn’t happen as much anymore.”
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this story.
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