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NCAAW: Hailey Van Lith, Celeste Taylor highlight transfers to watch in 2023-24

The transfer portal was full of elite offensive and defensive players that immediately will impact their new teams.

Louisville v Iowa
After three seasons at Louisville, Hailey Van Lith joins defending national champion LSU.
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The transfer portal is the biggest asset in college sports right now. With hundreds of athletes entering the portal every season, the fortunes of a program can be impacted overnight. This summer was no exception, as some of the biggest names in college basketball departed for new schools. Here are five transfers to watch for in the 2023-24 season:

Hailey Van Lith (Louisville to LSU)

Likely the biggest name to enter the transfer portal this summer, Hailey Van Lith is joining the defending champs, who are returning most of their championship core. Alexis Morris was the biggest departure from the team, which left a big hole at point guard that the Lady Tigers needed to fill.

Enter Hailey Van Lith, who in three years at Louisville showcased why she is one of the best guards in the country and a first round pick in next year’s WNBA draft. Van Lith played most of last season off-ball, averaging almost 20 points per game. However, when it comes to Van Lith, her playmaking and perimeter defense are perhaps the least discussed aspects of her game.

Louisville wasn’t a great offensive team last year, but Van Lith still showcased the ability to create for teammates and generate paint touches, despite commanding all the defensive attention. At Louisville, she saw an unhealthy dose of box-and-ones from opposing defenses. Those days are over now as she joins a vaunted LSU team that fits her skillset like a glove.

Celeste Taylor (Duke to Ohio State)

Last season, the Duke Blue Devils posted a defensive rating that was over seven points better than the next best team in the ACC. Duke was one of the best defenses in the country last season, and Celeste Taylor deserves a lot of the credit for that.

She now joins an Ohio State team that may not have been as good defensively, but was solid in their own right. The Buckeyes generated a lot of turnovers last year, leading all Power Five schools in steals per game with just over 11. The Buckeyes love to trap and press other teams, and Taylor is very familiar with this from her time at Duke.

Perhaps the biggest thing to look out for this season is her offense and how it will fit with Ohio State’s five-out system. Shooting is one of Taylor’s biggest weaknesses so it will be interesting to see how she adjusts.

Te-Hina Paopao (Oregon to South Carolina)

Not for a second did we think that Dawn Staley would forget about her team’s NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa back in March. After shooting an abysmal 20 percent from 3 and seeing Caitlin Clark torch the South Carolina point-of-attack defense, changes had to be made. With the loss of Aaliyah Boston, Brea Beal, Zia Cooke and Victaria Saxton to the pros, Staley retooled with one of the best guards in the portal.

Paopao averaged 13 points on 42 percent three-point shooting in her junior season at Oregon. Paopao’s ability to be a cerebral and phenomenal on-ball defender and a versatile offensive guard that can both score and facilitate makes her the definition of a two-way player.

In 2021 and 2022, she earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors and in 2023 she saw drastic improvements to her 3-point shotmaking, improving her percentages by over 12 points. Paopao was one of the best players in the portal this summer and you can expect her to make an immediate impact on this new-look South Carolina team

Jayda Curry (California to Louisville)

Louisville had a rough summer, losing all three of the backcourt starters and their superstar. Head coach Jeff Walz and the Cardinals were left a massive void to fill.

In 2022, Jayda Curry became the first freshman in Pac-12 history to lead the conference in scoring. Louisville struggled mightily scoring last year, so Curry will provide the Cardinals with the offensive spark they desperately need. Curry can score from all three levels and is accustomed to facing heavy defensive attention from her time at Cal. Louisville may be a change in scenery, but not in role or opportunity for Curry, who will be able to showcase her incredible offensive abilities.

Aneesah Morrow (DePaul to LSU)

Yes, another transfer player joining the defending champs. Morrow is a double-double machine, posting the stat line in 53 of her 66 career games. The craziest part about this acquisition for LSU is that Morrow still has two years of eligibility left.

Morrow has the ability to play the forward and space the floor for an LSU offense that will likely have a different offensive approach this season. Despite being undersized for her position, she’s a great rebounder and provides some scoring value.

In her two seasons at DePaul, she led the Big East in rebounding and was second in scoring, averaging almost 26 points. 3-point shooting is probably the biggest weakness in her game and is the reason her field goal percentage dropped so drastically from her freshman to sophomore season. If Morrow can improve her shotmaking, it will add another element to her already impressive scoring profile and make this LSU team even more potent.