(Photo of Ahlana Smith, Mykasa Robinson, Hailey Van Lith: Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The 2021-22 roster for the Louisville women's basketball for a moment found itself set just four days from their season-ending loss to Stanford in the Elite Eight, but there have a couple moving pieces regarding the roster over the last week.
Thanks to a pair of transfers, head coach Jeff Walz and his Cardinals now find themselves with two open scholarship spots. While he will most likely find transfers or late 2021 signees to fill those voids, let's take a look at how this team currently shakes out, as well who could see action at what positions.
Departures and Arrivals
Louisville already lost one player to the transfer portal well before the season ended. Sophomore guard and former McDonald's All-American Nyah Green entered the portal back on Dec. 17 after redshirting her freshman year and playing in just five games her sophomore year, then committed to Duke on Jan. 25.
Then on back-to-back days this past week, the Cardinals had two more players transfer out. Junior guard Elizabeth Balogun entered her name on Tuesday, as did freshman forward Malea Williams on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, senior guard Dana Evans also declared for the WNBA Draft, bringing the total number of departure up to four.
Fortunately, Louisville is bringing in a fair of amount of talent to an already loaded roster. The program has added a pair of transfer into the fold in Syracuse guard Emily Engstler and Vanderbilt guard Chelsie Hall. Engslter was the Co-ACC Sixth Player of the Year, while Hall was a 1,000 point scorer.
The Cardinals also signed a pair of high regarded high school seniors in guard Payton Verhulst and center Sydni Schetnan. Verhulst is a McDonalds All-American, Schetnan is a dual sport athlete with volleyball, and both helped guide their schools to state championships in their senior year.
Projected Depth Chart
Given all that we know now about the current state of Louisville's roster, below is an early look into what the depth chart next year could look like:
*Mobile users can scroll left & right on the table*
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
Hailey Van Lith
Louisville has some a few options to be their primarily ball handler next season, but Mykasa Robinson has earned that right. Out of all the returning players, Robinson's 4.2 assists per 40 minutes leads the team, and trailed Dana Evans by half an assist. Not to mention she had a strong showing in the second half of the season, and had a pair of highlight plays in the NCAA Tournament. Chelsie Hall will give the Cards consistency at that position as she is also a good ball distributor, and is a proven scorer. Merissah Russell is more than likely another year away from becoming a major contributor, mostly because of backcourt depth.
If there was going to be a 'star' on an already star-studded roster, it would probably be Hailey Van Lith. She made tremendous strides in year one thanks to her overall playmaking abilities, and was one of two Cardinals named to the ACC All-Freshman Team alongside Olivia Cochran. Behind her, it's a race between Norika Konna and Ahlana Smith at the backup two guard position, as both showcased their ability to shoot and distribute the ball.
Small forward/three-spot could arguably be the deepest spot on the roster next season. Kianna Smith had a tremendous first season as a Cardinal, as the Cal transfer finished as Louisville's second-leading scorer (11.4 ppg) and was one of four player with over 60 assists on the year. Emily Engstler could be a starter or even Louisville's go-to player off the bench, and Payton Verhulst very well could be a day one contributor.
If there were any 'questions' about the roster, it would likely be in the frontcourt. With both Elizabeth Balogun and Malea Williams transferring out, Elizabeth Dixon slides into the starting four spot. While Walz went with guard-heavy lineups this past season, both her and Olivia Cochran did start alongside each other in their first matchup against NC State. Out of the two backup post options on the roster at this point, Ramani Parker looks to have the 'biggest' impact next season, unless Walz finds a transfer frontcourt option.
Finally we have the center spot. Louisville has a bright future here at this spot, as Olivia Cochran showed her long term potential many times this season, as evidenced by her ACC All-Freshman Team nod. Sydni Schetnan is probably a year or two away from being a regular contributor, so If Walz does bring in another signee before the start of next season, it will probably be a center.
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