KU women’s basketball’s leading scorer Franklin returning, injured forward Chatzileonti entering transfer portal

Kansas senior Zakiyah Franklin (15) is jubilant against Western Kentucky during the first round of the WNIT on Friday, March 17, 2023.

The Kansas women’s basketball program received good news from another key starter this week, when senior guard Zakiyah Franklin announced her plans to return to KU for her super-senior season.

Franklin, who led the Jayhawks in scoring this season while earning all-Big 12 first-team honors and a spot on the WNIT’s all-tournament team, announced her plans on Instagram, with a post that included a graphic, featuring photos of her in front of the words “I’m back” in the background.

The graphic also included the words “Not done yet.”

Franklin joins senior center Taiyanna Jackson in announcing her intention to return to Kansas for the 2023-24 season. Jackson announced her plans to remain a Jayhawk in a similar social media post earlier in the week.

In addition to leading the KU women in scoring this season at 15.7 points per game, she set single-season program records by hitting 49.5% of her shots from 3-point range (48 of 97) and 87.8% at the free throw line (108 of 123).

Shortly after watching Franklin, Jackson and senior guard Holly Kersgieter lead the Jayhawks to six wins in a row to win the WNIT crown, Kansas coach Brandon Schneider was asked if he thought the trio of upperclassmen would return for their super-senior seasons. Schneider said that was the expectation, and the Jayhawks are now just awaiting the official word from Kersgieter on her future plans.

If she elects to join her teammates in returning to KU for one final season, Kansas likely will have its entire starting five back from its most recent team, which won 25 games, including a 9-9 mark in Big 12 play.

Adding five-star signee S’Mya Nichols to that bunch, which also includes point guard Wyvette Mayberry and forward Chandler Prater, should position the Jayhawks to be among the top contenders in the Big 12 next season.

One player who will not be back with the Jayhawks next season is junior forward Ioanna Chatzileonti, who announced this week that she was entering the transfer portal.

After starting 45 games for Schneider’s team during her first two seasons in Lawrence, the 6-foot-3 forward from Athens, Greece, played in just 11 games this season because of injuries.

In an Instagram post announcing her transfer portal plans, Chatzileonti said the university and the people at KU would always have a special place in her heart.

“I would like to thank all the people at KU for welcoming me in Lawrence for the past three years and making KU feel like home,” she wrote. “To my current and past coaches and teammates, I will forever cherish all the memories, on and off the court, and the bonds we created together that will last a lifetime.”


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