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Big 5 Offseason Alarm Watch (Women)

05/15/2024, 9:15am EDT
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It has been a wild offseason in the Big 5, with all sorts of transfer movement both in and out of the city (and in several cases, from one local school to another). Now that things are starting to calm down somewhat, we figured it’s a good time to take a look around the various Big 5 programs to see how the offseason had affected them thus far. 

Let’s start with the women, where we’ll take a quick look at the comings and goings and rate each program’s player movement from a scale of 1-5 alarm bells:



Amaris Baker (above) leads the returning core for Drexel. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

It’s been a relatively quiet offseason at 34th and Market. Amy Mallon and staff have had three players hit the transfer portal, though only junior Momo LaClair (3.2 ppg) was in the rotation. They were hit harder by graduation, with Brooke Mullin (10.2 ppg) and Hetta Saatman (4.9 ppg) both exhausting their eligibility. The staff picked up a nice portal addition in Archbishop Wood product Deja Evans, who averaged 8.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg as a freshman at Albany and should step right into quality post minutes in a Dragons uniform.

Mallon does still have most of her CAA championship rotation slated to return, led by Amaris Baker, Chloe Hodges, Grace O’Neill, Jasmine Valentine, Erin Sweeney and Laine McGurk. Incoming freshman Mariah Watkins is a talented wing who won’t have to be forced into duty right away, though she could give them more quality depth at the ‘2’ and ‘3.’ The Dragons won’t likely be favorites to repeat after winning the CAA tournament as the No. 7 seed, but they have the pieces to be a higher seed next year and maybe pull off another March run.

Offseason Rating: 2 alarm bells


La Salle

After an eight-win season, Mountain MacGillivray is going to have to start almost from scratch. Of the 15 women on his roster, three were in their final year of eligibility and nine have hit the transfer portal; only Jolene Armendariz, Julie Jekot and Aryss Macktoon are set to return. The biggest departure was no doubt freshman guard Nicole Melious, who led the Explorers in scoring last year (10.9 ppg) and is off to Seton Hall; Tiara Bolden (8.0 ppg), Gabby Turco (5.4 ppg), Emilee Tahata (5.2 ppg) and more have all moved on as well.

The Explorers’ coaches have largely replenished the roster thus far, doing so with a mixture of high school signings and transfer portal commitments, both from Division I and the junior college ranks. A couple familiar local products, Perkiomen School wing Lauren Patnode and O’Hara guard Joanie Quinn are both going to have opportunities to play in MacGillivray’s uptempo system from the get-go. The Explorers added Fairfield grad transfer Mackenzie Daleba this week, and keep an eye on Saint Louis transfer Ashleigh Connor, a Western PA native who has three years of eligibility remaining. There won’t be many rosters in the country with as little D-I experience, as for the second year in a row MacGillivray 

Offseason Rating: 4 alarm bells


Penn Quakers

It’s been steady seas for the Quakers, whose only transfer portal departures were expected ones: Jordan Obi (14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and fellow senior Michaela Stanfield had to leave to play as graduate students, as the Ivy League doesn’t allow non-undergrads to play on its athletics teams. Also graduating is Floor Toonders (2.3 ppg), though the center has not put her name in the transfer portal after an injury set her back her senior year. 

Aside from that turnover, a rather young Quakers group will generally stay together and mature as it heads into 2024-25. Senior Stina Almqvist is set to lead a rotation that’ll be packed full of sophomores and juniors with a bunch of in-game experience, led by reigning Big 5 Rookie of the Year Mataya Gayle and her classmates Ese Ogbevire and Abby Sharpe. They’ll be bolstered by a five-woman, national recruiting class that includes Hockaday School (Tex.) guard Ashna Tambe and Camas (Wash.) wing Reagan Jamison. But the Quakers will still be chasing Princeton and Columbia to get back atop the Ivy League after falling a step or two behind.

Offseason Rating: 1.5 alarm bells


Saint Joseph’s Hawks

Laura Ziegler (above) and St. Joe's didn't lose anybody to the transfer portal. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Cindy Griffin has to be feeling good. After her team set the program record for wins in a season (28) and advanced to the WBIT quarterfinals, Griffin’s roster remained together throughout the entire transfer portal window. It’s true that grad student Chloe Welch (10.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is out of eligibility after the Davidson transfer put together a strong year in a Hawks uniform, but the core of forwards Talya Brugler and Laura Ziegler plus wing Mackenzie Smith all will come back for one more year together, and that’s the key if the Hawks want to hoist an A-10 trophy for the first time in 11 years.

Just as important as Griffin’s stars staying was their depth. Freshmen Aleah Snead and Gabby Casey both got valuable minutes their rookie seasons, and their collective improvement is a significant factor this offseason. Having Julia Nystromg, Paula Marina and Emma Boslet back as well means Griffin will have continuity like nobody else in the Big 5 and few teams nationally. As long as they stay healthy, expectations will be high

Offseason Rating: 1 alarm bell


Temple Owls

There’s been some comings and goings for Diane Richardson as she heads into her third year as a head coach, both by the transfer portal and by graduation. One of her stalwarts from her transition from Towson to Temple, Aleah Nelson, is out of eligibility after scoring 1,658 points in her career; Kendall Currence, Demi Washington and Denise Solis also are finished with their college years. The rotation took further hits with the departures of Ines Piper (6.8 ppg) and Rayne Tucker (7.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) to the transfer portal, meaning five of Richardson’s top nine were out the door.

Back are Tiarra East (13.3 ppg) and fifth-year Tarriyona Gary to lead the way, while a pair of promising freshmen in point guard Tristen Taylor and forward Jaleesa Molina are set to take big steps forward. Richardson did a good job in the transfer portal, as well, bringing in Alabama A&M freshman guard Kaylah Turner (11.2 ppg), Towson transfer Anissa Rivera and Loyola Marymount’s Amaya Oliver to supplement a four-woman recruiting class including Westtown’s Savannah Curry. Richardson has talent to work with and a solid deal of experience, but they’ll have a good bit of work to do to be ready.

Offseason Rating: 2.5 alarm bells


Villanova Wildcats
There’s no doubt the program hit hardest by the transfer portal this offseason has been Denise Dillon’s Wildcats, though she’s brought in some pieces to help offset some major losses. No doubt the biggest departure was that of Lucy Olsen, the standout junior and nation’s third-leading scorer (23.3 ppg) going to Iowa, where she’ll be a major part of the Hawkeyes’ plans to replace Caitlin Clark. Olsen was one of six to depart with eligibility remaining, along with starting center Christina Dalce (Maryland) and starting point guard Zanai Jones (SMU); further losses to graduation mean that Dillon has a full-on rebuild on her hands despite going 76-29 (.723) in the last three years. 

So far, she’s offset her losses with three transfers: Holy Cross grad transfer Bronagh Power-Cassidy (16.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Santa Clara grad transfer Lara Edmanson (7.7 ppg) and Archbishop Wood alum Ryanne Allen, who averaged 4.3 ppg in two seasons (60 games) at Vanderbilt. That’s in addition to a three-woman freshman class arriving on the Main Line this summer, led by four-star recruit Jasmine Bascoe, a 5-7 point guard from Kings’ Christian (Ont.) who has an opportunity to be a starter from the get-go.

Despite the departures, Dillon has herself a full complement ready to go for 2024-25, including a good dose of versatile wings with size led by returners Maddie Webber, Kaitlyn Orihel, and Brynn McCurry; getting forward Denae Carter back after she missed last season with a torn ACL would be a significant boost to the frontcourt. But after so much continuity the last few years, this is a full-page turn for Dillon in her fifth season, and there’s a lot of work to do to find the level of success they’ve seen both recently and historically.

Offseason Rating: 3.5 alarm bells


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