By R.L. Bynum
For the first time in three offseasons, Coach Courtney Banghart won’t bring in any transfers at a time when hundreds of players are switching schools.
With her Carolina women’s basketball team projected by ESPN to be in the top 10 next season, the Tar Heels have all the talent they need after last season’s Sweet 16 run.
Banghart added Petra Holešínská and Stephanie Watts before her second season, then brought in guards Eva Hodgson and Carlie Littlefield before last season.
But, with the addition of freshman point guard Pauline Paris (No. 27 in ESPN’s Class of 22 ranking) and two redshirt freshmen — point guard Kayla McPherson (No. 17 in ESPN’s Class of 2021 ranking) and forward Teonni Key (No. 9) — finally set to make their college debuts after missing last season following left ACL surgeries, Banghart didn’t see a reason to fill her available scholarship spots.
“We feel really good about what we’re adding, and I guess we’re just going to keep riding this ‘we’re young’ thing because I know we’re young again,” Banghart said. “But the youth didn’t inhibit us last year. We just have to grow up quickly because now we’ve got freshmen that are going to need to contribute. And that has served us OK so far. We’re just going to keep trusting our recruiting.”
In addition, her Tar Heels will get back a veteran player in Ariel Young. She played in 23 games two seasons ago after transferring from Michigan, but missed last season recovering from a torn ACL.
“Every year you look at the end of the year what your needs are and you can use the portal like you’ve never been able to before to fill those needs,” said Banghart, who needed a shooter and a dynamic wing after her first season and point guards after her second season.
She knows that a transfer would likely want to play a key role and, to do that, they would take playing time away from some of the core group of last season’s 25–7 team.
“If you take somebody, they’re looking for an immediate contribution,” Banghart said. “You can’t offer them that, right? And so then you’re creating a dynamic that maybe isn’t true.”
If there is a player who is better than Kennedy Todd-Williams, Deja Kelly, Alissa Ustby, McPherson, Key, Hodgson or Anya Poole who would take their playing time, Banghart couldn’t find her.
“If that player comes in, what does that do to the player that you’ve been developing? So you’ve really got to think through that,” said Banghart, who had available spots because the NCAA wouldn’t grant guard Carlie Littlefield another season of eligibility and guard Morasha Wiggins decided to transfer after her freshman season.
“It’s hard to keep up 15 people playing and contributing and doing all that,” Banghart said.
Last season, only six Carolina players averaged more than 11 minutes per game. Banghart says that the last Final Four team in the last 10 years to regularly use more than eight players was Stanford. Some teams need the extra players to be able to run good practices, but UNC uses men students as practice players to help in that regard.
“I can’t say what’s going to happen next year because it depends on what our roster looks like and what our needs are,” Banghart said. “But I’m committed to ensuring that whatever I need to do through the portal or through recruiting, to have the best Carolina team I can every year, I’m going to do that. This is what I felt we needed this year.”
|RS Fr.||Kayla McPherson||PG||5–7|
|RS Sr.||Eva Hodgson||PG||5–9|
|RS Sr.||Ariel Young||W||6–1|
|RS Fr.||Teonni Key||F||6–3|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications