Ranking the #HLWBB portal classes


There’s no denying that the transfer portal has become a dominant force in the construction (or destruction) of college basketball rosters, even to the point where coaches are reportedly eschewing traditional freshman recruits altogether and living exclusively in the portal. There is some sound logic behind that thinking, since players in the portal typically have some amount of experience and tape against Division I competition, removing the guessing game that can often come with high schoolers. It’s also a boon to one other group of people: college basketball bloggers, who can do things like, say, compile a list of transfers both to and from the Horizon League’s women’s programs and rank the portal activity of teams across the conference with a reasonable amount of information behind the effort.

With 698 of 1,090 women’s DI portal entrants finding a new home (as of June 18th), the number of those new homes located on DI rosters noticeably slowing down, and with over half of the Horizon League confirming their 2021-22 rosters, now seems like a decent time to examine how everyone’s performed in the transfer market. So without further ado…


Out: Jenna Cotter (DII Maryville)

In: Madison Wise (Iowa State), Rachel Kent (Saint Louis)

The Jags have been just about the quietest dominant team possible, cruising through a lot of their 2020-21 schedule before COVID-related cancellations severely punished them with the Horizon League’s standings formula (at 11-3, IUPUI had the league’s best winning percentage, but they finished fifth in the standings) and helped Wright State take over as the league’s standard-bearer. However, with a reasonably normal season expected in 2021-22, look out for IUPUI. Their only portal loss was Cotter, who played 11 minutes all last season, while most of the rest of the roster, including three-time conference player of the year Macee Williams, is confirmed to return. IUPUI’s portal additions include Wise, who was last seen wrapping up a solid four years in the Big XII with her second NCAA Tournament appearance, including 13 points in a first-round win over Michigan State. Kent also played in the postseason, dropping 24 points on Milwaukee to help the Billikens eliminate the Panthers from the WNIT.

2. Oakland

Out: Myka Cromwell (TBD), Chloe Guingrich (TBD), Teneea Heston (NAIA Columbia International)

In: Aalyiah McQueen (Illinois)

The Grizzlies were fairly unscathed on the outbound side, losing two non-rotation players and Guingrich, a versatile guard who had some big moments at OU, including her 12 point, 8 rebound effort in an upset at Wright State last season. Nevertheless, McQueen rates as one biggest portal prizes across the entire league as a player who was on the floor 25 percent of the time for a Big Ten team. Furthermore, prior to her season in Champaign, she was a highly-ranked recruit as the 22nd best wing prospect (and 106th overall, meriting four stars) in the class of 2020, according to Prospects Nation. The Flint native was seen as a proven scorer on multiple levels with good size and strength coming out of high school but just never found her groove with the Illini, going an abysmal 13-for-62 from the floor last year. If Jeff Tungate can help McQueen rediscover her game, she has the potential to be one of the top players in the conference.

3. Cleveland State

Out: Mariah White (Missouri State), JaMiya Braxton (Northwestern State), Meghan Kenefick (TBD), Amaya Staton (Merrimack), ZaMaria Polk (TBD)

In: Brittni Moore (UT Martin), Amele Ngwafang (Radford), Gabriella Smith (Iowa Western), Deja Williams (Cal State Northridge)

While the loss of White, one of the program’s all-time greats, was a significant blow, Chris Kielsmeier and his staff did a great job replacing her with numbers and quality. In fact CSU, along with Youngstown State, has been the league leader in the new “build through the portal” technique this year, as the Vikings are bringing in just one true freshman for 2021-22, Warren Harding High School’s Faith Burch. Williams might be the new player most analogous to White’s skillset, as she offers strong defense and court vision, but the group collectively seems like a minor shift from the teams of the last couple seasons into more of a committee effort. Williams (30.1 percent), Smith (39.1 percent), and Moore (44.7 percent) were all solid to stellar three-point shooters in their most recent seasons of competition, and with the Vikes returning Isabella Geraci (39.3 percent) and Destiny Leo (39.2 percent), CSU will have tons of options from deep. Ngwafang, while only listed at 6-0, is a classic banger who wins battles and makes her presence known on both ends, in the mold of a Nadia Dumas. The two of them, plus emerging star Aminata Ly, should give the defending WBI champions a good power game.

4. Northern Kentucky

Out: Janna Lewis (TBD), Emma Palmer (TBD)

In: Whitney Hay (Belmont), Joelle Johnson (Georgia State)

Hay could prove to be a sneaky good add for the Norse, as the former Kentucky all-state selection was a solid contributor for a Bruins team that won the OVC title and upset Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (she didn’t play against the Zags, but clocked 16 minutes and five points in the OVC championship game win over UT Martin). Johnson is a good shooter who adds some defense and rebounding, and both players still has most of their careers in front of them, they’re potential core pieces, not one-year stopgaps. With NKU returning every starter except Kailey Coffey from a solid team that was probably a bit better than its record, Hay and Johnson also have the luxury of easing into things a bit before nailing down specific roles in the rotation.

5. Youngstown State

Out: Mary Dunn (Pittsburgh), Nneka Obiazor (UNLV), Quinece Hatcher (DII Adams State), McKenah Peters (DII Nova Southeastern), Maddie Schires (DII Bemidji State), Taylor Petit (TBD)

In: Lindsey Linard (Duquesne), Lindsey Mack (Farleigh Dickinson), Paige Shy (Marshall), Megan Callahan (Robert Morris), Lilly Ritz (DII Wheeling)

Somewhere in the upper middle seems about right for the Penguins, who might lead the league if we were rating this based on “interesting” or “unknown,” since YSU is turning over half of its roster just through the portal. This summer saw the departure of stud forward Dunn, who will play her final season closer to home and at the high-major level, as well as Obiazor, an emerging star who shot a blistering 42.5 percent from three as a freshman. Those two alone represented nearly half of the Guins’ scoring in 2020-21, while solid supporting players Schires and Peters both left for Division II. The good news is that John Barnes and staff hit the phones hard, grabbing a starting point guard, Callahan, away from a conference rival, then doing some volume shooting with Linard, Ritz, Mack, and Shy. Linard and Ritz – the DII rebounding champion in each of the last two seasons, pulling down a whopping 17.8 boards per game in 2020-21 – will be counted on to fill at least some of Dunn’s large shoes, with the others joining Callahan in what should be a young, but very deep, backcourt.

6. Milwaukee

Out: Nobody

In: Nobody

Last year’s regular season co-champions have stood pat with respect to the portal… but then again, the Panthers didn’t really need to do anything more than that. They have already confirmed the returns of Miquela Santoro, McKaela Schmelzer, and Sydney Staver from the squad that blitzed Drake in the first round of the WNIT, leaving only Bre Cera and Brandi Bisping as graduation departures. Those latter two were important players, but Kyle Rechlicz undoubtedly feels that she can replace them internally and with the traditional freshman class while largely running it back (their words) with a title contender.

7. Purdue Fort Wayne

Out: Sierra Bell (TBD), Krisen Hunt (TBD), Rylie Parker (NAIA Indiana Wesleyan)

In: Sylare Starks (Detroit Mercy)

Coming off of a 1-22 season (1-19 in their first run through the HL) that resulted in a coaching change, it could probably be argued that no turnover is bad turnover for the Mastodons. But despite losing leading scorer Bell as a grad transfer, Maria Marchesano did inherit a few keeper pieces, including sparkplug guards Riley Ott and Shayla Sellers, a duo that combined for 39 points in PFW’s only win last year, against Robert Morris on February 19th. From there, she added a robust freshman class that includes Ott’s sister, Ryin, as well as Starks through the portal. In Starks, who is returning to her hometown, the Dons grabbed one of the biggest prizes from the Detroit Mercy piranha feed. She chipped in 6.6 points per game (third on the team) during the Titans’ abbreviated season but prior to that, Starks was a Horizon League All-Freshman Team selection and UDM’s leading scorer under more conventional circumstances that are probably a better reflection of her abilities in 2019-20. Starks is a very good shooter (32.7 percent from three, 84.6 percent from the line during her freshman year) who should immediately be one of PFW’s top options.

8. UIC

Out: Kimeira Burks (TBD), Abreanna Lake (TBD), Jada Nneji (TBD), Jealissa Presswood (TBD), Ahsha Spencer (TBD)

In: Justice Gee (East Carolina)

The Flames have had a decent offseason all in all, as what is still an extremely young team (with just three upperclass players) looks to take a few more steps in the coming year. Contrary to what the numbers would indicate, Tasha Pointer, at worst, was pretty much in neutral when it came to the portal. The biggest outgoing contributor was Nneji, who started seven games and chipped in 6.3 points per game from the post, but wasn’t terribly efficient in getting there, shooting 41.1 percent from the floor and just 43.6 percent from the free throw line. Meanwhile grad transfer Gee, part of an incoming class that also includes five true freshmen, is someone who can offer some immediate help in the backcourt. Her numbers with the Pirates weren’t exactly mind-blowing, but the former South Carolina high school player of the year should benefit from an expanded role and a change of scenery. If nothing else, she’ll be solid veteran leadership.

9. Green Bay

Out: Lyndsey Robson (UAB), Patricia Gallasovà (TBD)

In: Nobody

While grad transfers are simply a fact of life in the Horizon League (and most other places too), Green Bay’s outgoing one was significant, as Robson was the team’s third-leading scorer and an absolute sniper from deep, connecting on 42.9 percent of her shots behind the arc. She’s also someone who defies the one-note shooter stereotype and does a lot of other things well underneath the radar, including hitting the glass with regularity. Between the departures of Robson and graduating Caitlyn Hibner, the Phoenix are certainly going to have to retool a bit for 2021-22. The good news? The team returns all of its depth beyond Hibner and the two portal departures, and has signed four freshmen who seem to be great fits for the program. It’s hard to think of Green Bay as one of the frontline contenders right now, but they’ll certainly be in the mix once again.

10. Robert Morris

Out: Megan Callahan (Youngstown State), Holly Forbes (UT Martin), Riley Arrigo (DII California (PA)), Isabella Posset (St. Francis (NY)), Yasmine Sifaoui (TBD), Trinity Papamandjaris (USports Guelph), Dahomée Forgues (Farleigh Dickinson)

In: Nobody

There’s been a fair amount of tumult when it comes to RMU winter sports over the last month and a half, which has helped Colonials women’s basketball fly a bit under the radar. Good thing too, since the team is running minus-7 with the portal right now. To be fair, none of the outgoing players are stars on par with a Dunn, a White, or an Angel Baker, but both Callahan and Forbes were regular starters for Bobby Mo during their first Horizon League season. Callahan in particular has to sting a bit, with the Virginia native moving just an hour up the road to a conference rival. The Colonials have yet to announce their incoming freshman class, but if they found a big or two to complement Sol Castro and provide a few different looks, their overall ledger can still be a positive one.

11. Wright State

Out: Angel Baker (Ole Miss), Tyler Frierson (Memphis), Alexis Stover (Rice), Emani Jefferson (Memphis), Gabrielle Redden (TBD), Jada Roberson (TBD)

In: Nobody

Losing Baker, the two-time all-conference first teamer who gained mainstream notoriety when WSU upset Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament, would be enough to drop the Raiders pretty far down the list by itself. But Kari Hoffman inherited a tough situation down in Dayton after Katrina Merriweather left for Memphis with a U-Haul large enough to fit her entire staff, along with Frierson and Jefferson, arguably the team’s two best players after Baker. Hoffman wasn’t hired until the program was without coaches for nearly two months, costing them a chance to get in on the portal’s first wave. Ultimately, WSU will be okay – the champs have nine returning players rostered, and most are promising underclassmen like Destyne Jackson. Depth and experience may prove to be issues during the season though, should Hoffman fill her remaining spots with freshmen.

12. Detroit Mercy

Out: Everybody (no, seriously)

In: Irene Murua (Louisiana Tech)

If you haven’t been following the dumpster fire in Calihan Hall, you’ve been missing out on some of the most intense offseason drama you’ll ever see. To quickly recap, UDM shut down its season back in January after the team’s parents sent a letter to university administration alleging abuse by first-year head coach AnnMarie Gilbert. Most of the Titans entered the portal at that point. UDM, following an internal investigation, retained Gilbert and pushed most of the rest of the players into the portal. The lone exceptions were Maxine Moore, who exited the portal and attempted to return to the team, but was told no and went back into the portal, and Aly Reiff, who decided to quit basketball altogether. Then, shockingly, just two months after standing by Gilbert and chasing away literally its entire 2020-21 roster, the school abruptly announced that she had left the university and that LaTanya Collins (who had just added recruiting coordinator duties to her assistant coach role two weeks prior) would take over as interim coach. I probably haven’t done justice to it here, so feel free to read up elsewhere, with the link above being a good starting point.

Somehow, UDM has actually managed to add a few players through all of that, including four freshman signees and Murua through the portal. The second-year player from Spain didn’t see much of the floor for the Lady Techsters last year but did shoot the ball well over a small sample size (12-for-27) and pulled down eight rebounds in each of her first two games.

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