Trio of transfer portal entries leaves KU women’s team needing new depth

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider instructs his players against Houston Christian Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Lawrence.

Returning players will be the minority on next year’s Kansas women’s basketball team.

Paris Gaines, Skyler Gill and Zsófia Telegdy are all in the transfer portal, a KU spokesperson confirmed Monday, running the total number of offseason departures from the Jayhawks’ roster to seven.

Changing out seven of its 13 scholarship players is far from calamitous for KU — after all, it’s not too far off what the Jayhawks experienced last year, ahead of a solid season — but this year’s tally also includes three super-seniors in Zakiyah Franklin, Taiyanna Jackson and Holly Kersgieter whose names are all over the record books (two of them played in Lawrence for five years). There’s also super-senior Ryan Cobbins, the sixth woman this past season during a year when at times the rest of the bench left a lot to be desired.

What else will KU be losing?

Gill is the biggest name of the transferring trio, as she was next after Cobbins off the bench. The Wichita native transferred from North Alabama last offseason with back-to-back conference defensive player of the year honors under her belt, but tallied just 12 blocks and 14 steals in her 31 games with the Jayhawks, playing an average of 10 minutes. She never scored more than five points in a game.

Telegdy actually carved out a regular role as a freshman forward during the 2022-23 season, scoring 10 points once in a win over Iowa State and hitting a pivotal 3-pointer in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament semifinal against Washington. But it was a different story in her sophomore year, as one outlier game at Kansas State with Jackson injured in which Telegdy played 31 minutes encompassed a third of her playing time for the entire season. She did not play a full minute in a game after the month of January.

Gaines, a 6-foot-3 freshman from Orlando, Florida, served as a backup post player but was only called upon to participate in nine games. She scored six points and grabbed two rebounds and two steals against Central Arkansas on Dec. 16.

photo by: Sarah Buchanan/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas’ Skyler Gill lobs up a shot against Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Lawrence.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas center Paris Gaines makes a layup Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, against Northwestern State.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas forward Zsófia Telegdy fires a 3-pointer against Oklahoma State Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Lawrence.

The result of those three portal entries is that beyond S’Mya Nichols and Wyvette Mayberry — the latter recently confirmed her return after going through senior-day festivities in March — KU is currently expected to bring back four players with a combined zero career starts.

That includes centers Nadira Eltayeb, the presumptive Jackson replacement who is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, and Danai Papadopoulou, who stepped in for Eltayeb as the backup post player this past season but averaged just one point, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 fouls in about eight minutes per game.

There are also this year’s freshmen Laia Conesa, who showed promise on KU’s summer international trip but missed time early due to injury, and McKenzie Smith, a late commitment who was originally signed to North Texas. If they stay they could provide depth in the backcourt.

Three new first-year players are already signed as well: 5-foot-11 guard Zoe Canfield, a Topeka native whom head coach Brandon Schneider called a “three-point sniper”; 6-foot-1 guard Carla Osma, a former teammate of Conesa’s on the Spanish national team; and 6-foot-2 forward Regan Williams, who “treats every rebound and loose ball as if they belong to her,” as Schneider put it, and could be an early contributor.

That leaves four scholarships to fill at present, likely in the transfer portal (or from late freshman signings in the vein of Smith). As of Friday, The Next, which keeps a database of women’s basketball transfers, does not yet list any commitments for KU, and certainly the team has announced no signings.

KU should have enough ball-handling options with Nichols, Mayberry and the returning reserves, but the players responsible for 328 of the Jayhawks’ 543 3-point attempts are gone, so adding long-distance shooting (besides Canfield) could be a priority.

KU could also seek a proven post player to pair with a Eltayeb, even if it’s not likely to find a rim protector in the same stratosphere as Jackson, who holds the school’s all-time blocks record despite playing just three seasons in Lawrence.

Of course, the portal is open until May 1, so there could still be further departures.


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