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Trinity’s 2024 Newsletter 02.23.24: WBB Transfer Portal

Hailey Van Lith on LSU after transfer portal
(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

As a women’s college basketball fan, the end of the 2022-2023 season was terrifying. Most years, all I had to worry about at the end of a college basketball season was whether or not players from my favorite schools would declare for the draft. I would immediately look for their replacement in freshmen commitments if they did.

But, last year, I was more worried about the potential of the transfer portal. 

We’ve seen it plenty within the world of football. Big names choose to make or break their careers with one decision: entering the portal. In the world of football, there has been some success, but with basketball — especially in the women’s game — that success is more challenging to obtain. 

Within every conference last year, there were difference-makers scattered across teams who’d just finished deep NCAA tournament runs. The sheer amount of talent and success from schools across the nation was something we had never seen before. So naturally, I was terrified of everything that could’ve become a reality. Some players were destined to move, while others remained vocal about their commitments to their university. 

Yet, alongside this, there was a slew of wildcard players like Hailey Van Lith

Season School Conf Class G GS MP PER TS% eFG% 3PAr FTr DRB% TRB% AST% TOV% USG%
2022-23 Louisville ACC JR 37 37 1364 21.8 0.514 0.457 0.318 0.292 11.4 7 17.5 16.1 29.6
2023-24 LSU SEC SR 23 23 703 14.9 0.498 0.449 0.336 0.327 5.7 3.7 19.2 20.2 19.4


Louisville Legend

Van Lith quickly became a legend at the University of Louisville. She became nationally known after her team’s March Madness appearance in 2022, leading the Cardinals to the final four. She proved her excellence and the fact that she was not a one-hit-wonder the following year in the Elite 8, where her team ultimately fell to Caitlyn Clark and the Iowa HawkeyesRegardless of this, her performances all season fermented her as one of the best players in the country. In the 2022-2023 season, her junior year, she was one of two Power-5 players, the other being Clark, to average at least 19 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game. Van Lith was the point guard you wanted on your team. 

Soon after Louisville’s tournament exit, questions surrounding where Van Lith would go, or if she would even leave the university, were online everywhere. What would this soon-to-be senior choose? Stay and continue to evolve her game, or head to another university and have the opportunity to win a championship? Then came Van Lith’s announcement that she had entered the transfer portal. Van Lith was not only leaving the ACC but her legacy as well. Throughout her three years at Louisville, she had accumulated enough accolades to cement herself as one of the greatest point guards in the university’s history. 

Yet, just a little over a month after Louisville lost to Iowa, Van Lith announced her transfer to Louisiana State University (LSU). 


Van Lith’s LSU Era

LSU is no stranger to the transfer portal, bringing in Aneesah Morrow alongside Van Lith and, of course, picking up Angel Reese in 2022. Van Lith spoke on her decision to leave the university in June to Bleacher Reports’ Taylor Rooks, saying she left Louisville because she wasn’t happy. 

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey told Sports Illustrated this summer she was excited to have her join the team.

“I am very familiar with the skillset and work ethic Hailey brings to Baton Rouge,” Mulkey said. “She will bring a wealth of experience and talent to our backcourt.”

The way things were shaping up in the pre-season, LSU was the team to beat. Van Lith had a vengeance and a skillset to go along with it under a coach who was familiar with her play. However, to make a long story short, Van Lith’s time at LSU has been more than disappointing and, honestly, upsetting. More memes and jokes have come out this year about LSU than actual, consistent group success. There are, of course, glimpses of what could be and wins to prove it, but really, parts of this team simply do not work together… at all.

As of today, Feb. 23, LSU sits at 13 in the AP polls and has a record of 23-4 and 10-3 in conference, placing them at number two in the SEC. This is by no means a bad place to be, especially when considering the fact they’re second to the number one team in the country, the South Carolina Gamecocks. Yet, with this varied success, other transfers brought in by LSU have upped their draft stock and have improved their game. So why hasn’t Van Lith?


The Transfer Issue

Since joining the Tigers, her draft stock has plummeted from five to not even on the board. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this happen, and it certainly won’t be the last. With a sport like basketball, one that is, at the end of the day, ten people on a court fighting to showcase their play, there’s no room to make mistakes.

In Van Lith’s case, it’s not that she’s made mistakes or played at a lower level, but rather, at LSU, she doesn’t have the ability to showcase her game as she did at Louisville. Additionally, the jump from universities was unexpected and abrupt. At this point in the year, the decision to move now looks like a pure choice made to ensure she grabbed a college championship before her eligibility is up. I don’t think this is the case, but it looks like it is because she transferred to a school with incoming 4-5-star freshman recruits and other top transfers in the country. 

What Questions Need To Be Asked?

The transfer portal in women’s basketball does not work as ‘simply’ as it does for college football, baseball, etc. In those sports, you can join a roster that is constantly going through a natural ebb and flow. For example, it’s normal to have different starting lineups for baseball, and it’s normal to rotate defenders and linemen on different plays. But for basketball, that’s not common. If you’re looking to transfer and for it to benefit you, the team you join must have an empty slot that needs filling. While LSU made room for Van Lith at the guard spot, they didn’t make room for her to lead. Those leadership roles that she needs to succeed have been and will continue to be filled by other existing members of the team. 

Due to this, Van Lith will never reach the level of play she had at Lousiville. So, is it fair to raise the question, ‘Is the transfer portal worth it?’ This leads me to ask, should it be removed, or is it even fair to abolish it? I’m not sure, but I do hold hope that Van Lith’s time at LSU can and will improve, hopefully in a tournament run this March. The reality, though, is that so far, Van Lith’s career will forever be tainted by her costly transfer portal decision.


Trinity Rea is a second-year student studying sports journalism along with women and gender studies at Ball State University. She works at the Ball State Daily News as an associate news editor. In this role, she focuses on storytelling within the community. Along with this, Trinity also writes for the sports section and showcases stories behind the athletes. Outside of her love for sports and writing, she likes to listen to music, read, and hang out with her friends.

Contact Trinity Rea with questions at or on X @thetrinityrea

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