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UConn WBB Weekly: How should the Huskies approach the transfer market?

UConn’s roster has some holes, but should it use the transfer portal or player development to fill them?

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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How aggressive should UConn be in the transfer market?

The first dominos of UConn’s offseason roster movement fell on Wednesday as Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook, and Christyn Williams all declared for the WNBA Draft.

Even though all three had the bonus COVID season available if they wanted to use it, this decision has long been expected. All three should get picked; they all also have a chance of being picked in the first round. None of them are likely to improve their stock significantly with one more year of college.

So Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook, and Williams are gone, but Dorka Juhász will be back for her fifth season. Incoming freshmen Ice Brady and Ayanna Patterson will also join the team.

It’s possible that’s all the roster change we see. But in this era of unprecedented player movement, it seems unlikely. With over 1,000 players in the transfer portal, UConn could certainly find someone that could improve next year’s team. The big question is: How aggressive should the Huskies be?

The biggest area of need is in the backcourt. Strictly in terms of talent, the Huskies are set with Paige Bueckers, Caroline Ducharme, Azzi Fudd, and Nika Mühl. However, those are their only four guards and this past season showed just how quickly injuries can deplete depth.

At the very least, UConn needs an extra guard, even just to help out in practice. It won’t be easy to find someone, though. Anyone they add would almost certainly be fifth on the depth chart and might not see many minutes if everyone is healthy and playing well. The Huskies need to locate someone who is both good enough to play at this level, but would also be willing to take on a smaller role. That could be a tough ask.

UConn could take the international route to find a reserve guard. Back in 2019, the Huskies found themselves with just one incoming freshman — Aubrey Griffin — and a backcourt that of Crystal Dangerfield, Molly Bent, and Williams. To shore it up, they added Anna Makurat out of Poland, who proved to be an important player as a freshman. If UConn doesn’t find anyone that fits in the portal, maybe it would look overseas again.

The questions in the frontcourt aren’t as straightforward. While the Huskies could use another veteran next to Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhász, there needs to be a balance between short-term gain and long-term reward. Brady and Patterson are both set to come in and should both be counted on to contribute right away as top-10 prospects. Geno Auriemma has already said he expects Brady to be an impact player from the jump.

“By the end of June, that kid’s gonna help a lot. A lot. A lot,” he said back in January. “She’s got a great way about her.”

There’s also sophomore Amari DeBerry, who didn’t play much as a freshman before getting thrown into the national championship game for a few minutes, where she held her own. Afterward, Auriemma expressed optimism about her potential going forward.

“She’s got this great attitude, this great skill set,” he said of DeBerry. “She’s already committed to being there all summer long to work on her game and I’m excited about what she’s going to do for us.”

Meanwhile, Piath Gabriel is entering her junior year and is frequently lauded by Auriemma for her work ethic, so it’s possible she could factor in as well. Aubrey Griffin should also be back after missing the entire season due to injuries.

All that’s to say that UConn doesn’t have anyone proven behind Edward and Juhász but it has plenty of high-upside options. Is it worth adding a transfer to the frontcourt to help out in the short-run if it pushes Brady, DeBerry, Gabriel, Griffin, and Patterson down the depth chart? That’s a question Auriemma and his staff will need to answer in the next few weeks.

The transfer portal era (2018-present) is still relatively new, so it’s still hard to know exactly how the Huskies want to utilize it. Exactly when to expect any possible additions is still unclear, too. UConn has only brought in three transfers since 2018: Juhász committed 10 days after the loss to Arizona last year but Westbrook and Evelyn Adebayo didn’t announce until May.

Regardless, the Huskies seem like they’ll be a player in the transfer market one way or another.

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