6-3 BC center Gakdeng transferring to UNC

By R.L. Bynum

Boston College center Maria Gakdeng has committed to North Carolina, Coach Courtney Banghart announced on Monday, giving the Tar Heels plenty of size next season.

The 6–3 junior will have two years of eligibility.

“I chose Carolina to be a part of something special,” said Gakdeng, who scored a career-high 22 points, along with six rebounds and four blocks, on Feb. 26 at Wake Forest in a 73–63 BC victory. “Not only did the coaches, players, and environment feel like home, but I would also be surrounded by a winning culture and a group that wants to see one another at their best on and off the court.”

Gakdeng, from Lanham, Md., started for the Eagles the past two seasons, averaging 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season, both team-highs, while shooting 57.8% from the floor. She had three double-doubles last season and leaves BC as its second all-time leading shot blocker with 131.

“We have been very intentional and selective in monitoring the transfer portal,” Banghart said. “Today is a great day, as we are thrilled to add someone of Maria’s talent and character to our Tar Heel family. She has great experience and success in our league, and she is aligned perfectly in our competitive and collective goals.”

Gakdeng will give Carolina six players 6–2 or taller, along with senior Anya Poole (6–2), freshman Rylee Grays (6–3), redshirt sophomore Teonni Key (6–4), senior Alexandra Zelaya (6–4) and freshman Ciera Toomey (6–4).

Gakdeng was third in the ACC in blocks (1.76 per game), 10th in rebounding and 20th in scoring last season.

Gakdeng was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team in her first season and was the Freshman of the Week five times. She averaged 2.21 blocks per game, first nationally among freshmen and 15th in the nation.

“Thank you to my family, coaches, teammates, and friends at Boston College for constantly pouring into me,” Gakdeng said in a Twitter post on March 14 to announce that she was entering the transfer portal. “The love and support as I’ve navigated challenges and celebrated great success is undeniable. Although it’s been a great two years, I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal.”

Gakdeng is one of three BC players to enter the transfer portal, along with two players who will be sophomores next season: Ally Carman and Taina Mair.

Gakdeng is a graduate of New Hope Academy and was a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee as a senior.

Gakdeng lost both games against the Tar Heels. In Carolina’s 73–55 home win over BC on Feb. 12 this past season, Gakdeng had three points, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three assists. As a freshman, she had 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a block before fouling out in Carolina’s 78–73 win at BC on Dec. 19, 2021.

Gakdeng’s career-highs

Points: 22 at Wake Forest, Feb. 26, 2023
Field goals: 9 (2 times), last at Syracuse, Feb. 5, 2023
Field-goal attempts: 13 (2x), last at Syracuse, Feb. 5, 2023
FG%: 1.000 (7–7), vs. Sacred Heart, Dec. 21, 2021  
Rebounds: 16 vs. Virginia, Feb. 3, 2022
Assists: 4 (3 times), last at Wake Forest, Feb. 26, 2023
Steals: 3 (4 times), last at North Carolina, Feb. 12, 2023
Blocks: 6 at Notre Dame, Jan. 1, 2023
Minutes: 40 vs. Albany, Dec. 10, 2022

UNC roster

Here is Carolina’s projected roster with their class for next season listed.

YearNo.Returning playersPos.Height
RS Soph.11Kayla McPhersonPG5–8
Senior25Deja KellyPG5–8
Soph.2Paulina ParisPG5–9
Senior1Alyssa UstbyF6–1
Senior31Anya PooleF6–2
RS Soph.13Teonni KeyF6–4
Senior0Alexandra ZelayaF6–4
YearNo.Incoming transfers
Sophomore24Indya Nivar (Stanford)G5–10
Senior20Lexi Donarski (Iowa State)G6–0
Junior5Maria Gakdeng (Boston College)C6–3
ESPN rankNo.Incoming freshmenPos.Height
30th10Reniya Kelly (4 star; Alabama POY)PG5–7
4Laila Hull (Indiana POY)W6–1
90th22Rylee Grays (4 star Alabama POY)F6–3
4th21Ciera Toomey (5 star)F6–4
15Sydney Barker (walk-on)PG5–7
ESPN rankClass of 2024
26thBlanca Thomas (5 star)C6–5
65thJordan ZubichG5–11
ESPN rankClass of 2025
20thLanie Grant (5 star)G5–9
College careers overPos.Height
Eva HodgsonPG5–10
Ariel YoungW6–1
Malu TshitengeF6–3
Outgoing transfers
Kennedy Todd-Williams (Ole Miss)W6–0
Destiny Adams (Rutgers)F6–3

Top photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications; BC photo courtesy of the ACC



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