LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz made a pretty substantial withdrawal from the transfer portal on Sunday. The school announced that three former McDonald's All-Americans have signed with the Cardinals, led by the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year.
Two of the transfers come from Georgia Tech, leaving the program amid allegations of player mistreatment on the part of longtime coach MaChelle Joseph, who was placed on leave in February and fired in March.
When they will be eligible to play depends on whether the NCAA would consider a hardship waiver, given the situation in Atlanta. The ACC no longer imposes a season-of-competition penalty for transfers within the conference. Nell Fortner was named the new coach at Georgia Tech last week.
Elizabeth Balogun, a 6-1 guard from Nigeria, started all 30 games for Georgia Tech and averaged a team-best 14.6 points per game, winning ACC Freshman of the Week four times and the Freshman of the Year award after leading all ACC freshmen in scoring.
"Elizabeth is an explosive, versatile guard," Walz said. ". . . She is a determined worker who can score from beyond the arc, midrange and at the rim. With her size, length and passion to play the game, she has all of the tools to rank among the nation's elite."
She's joined by teammate and classmate Elizabeth Dixon, a 6-5 forward who was named to the All-Freshman ACC team, averaging 11 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
"Liz is versatile and can play inside and out," Walz said. "She has great hands, an explosive quick jump and is a relentless rebounder. She is hungry to learn and develop her game and will be an immediate impact player on our front line."
The third transfer is Kianna Smith, a 6-1 guard from Moreno Valley, Calif., who played two season at Cal. She helped the Bears to two trips to the NCAA Tournament, and averaged 9.8 points per game as a sophomore.
"Kianna is a leader and a winner," Walz said. "She is a long point guard with an exceptional shooting touch. She is an extremely intelligent player because she was raised around the game. Her father John Smith is the head men's coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and her uncle Steve Smith has coached for several teams in the WNBA."
Should Balogun and Dixon be immediately eligible, they would be major contributors to a team losing some important pieces.
In a statement this morning, U of L women's basketball spokesman Nick Evans said, "The university will explore all options in the best interest of the student-athlete, the team and the university," in eligibility matters.
All three join a freshman class that is already highly touted. Nyah Green, a 6-1 guard from Allen Texas, was a McDonald's All-American, and Ramani Parker, a 6-4 forward from Fresno, Calif., and Norika Konno, a 5-10 guard from Sendai, Japan, are expected to contribute.
While the Cardinals' lose three major pieces from a team that went 66-6 the past two seasons and made the Final Four in 2018, they return ACC Sixth Player of the Year, Dana Evans and several other key players, including Kylee Shook and Bionca Dunham on the front line, and forward Jazmine Jones. They also expect transfer forward Yacine Diop to gain an additional season of eligibility after being injured early last season.
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