It’s not often that Stanford and the transfer portal are mentioned in the same breath; until now, and not for the reasons Cardinal fans might hope.
Three Stanford women’s basketball players — freshman center Lauren Betts, junior guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu and freshman guard Indya Nivar — have all entered the transfer portal less than three weeks removed from the team’s early exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday afternoon, Betts’ decision was the first to be announced. The 6-foot-7 center entered college rated as the No. 1 player in the country in the class of 2022 according to both ESPN HoopGurlz and Prospects Nation. In her one season on the Farm, Betts posted 5.5 points per game in just 9.7 minutes per contest. She scored her career-high 18 points in the second game of the season, versus Cal State Northridge.
Just hours after it was announced Betts had entered the portal, news broke that her teammate Emma-Nnopu had done the same. The junior has had an illustrious Stanford career, winning the NCAA Championship in her freshman year to go along with three regular season Pac-12 titles and two Pac-12 Tournament Championships. Although known for her defense, Emma-Nnopu made strides on the offensive end this past year, averaging career highs in points per game and 3-point percentage with 3.2 and 42.6%, respectively.
As the weekend progressed, things did not bode well for Stanford. Nivar’s decision reached the media on Saturday, tallying the third Cardinal to enter the portal in just two days. The 5-foot-10 guard finished high school as a five-star recruit and logged 12.6 minutes per game this past season.
The sudden outflow of Cardinal into the transfer portal raises several questions. No reports have indicated any unifying factor for the three players’ decision to enter the portal. Historically, few Cardinal have departed the team through means other than graduating. Last offseason, guard Jana Van Gytenbeek transferred to Baylor, marking the first undergraduate to leave Stanford early in years. If Betts, Emma-Nnopu and Nivar ultimately leave, this offseason will mark an even more significant period of turnover for a program that didn’t perform how it wanted this past year.
Stanford’s early NCAA Tournament loss in March, their earliest elimination since 2007, concluded a season that many felt fell short of expectations. Just two years removed from an NCAA championship, the team suffered upset losses to multiple unranked Pac-12 opponents in the regular season and did not appear in the Pac-12 Tournament Final for the first time since 2016. Moments of offensive stagnation and disarray uncharacteristically hindered the team throughout the year, making them unrecognizable as a Tara VanDerveer squad at times.
Seniors Ashten Prechtel, Fran Belibi and Haley Jones are gone, with Jones declaring for the WNBA draft as well. It helps that senior Hannah Jump will be returning to use her final year of eligibility, but First Team All-American and the team’s leading scorer, junior Cameron Brink, will be the only other senior rostered next year if Emma-Nnopu leaves.
How VanDerveer will replace those minutes has yet to be determined — Betts, Emma-Nnopu and Nivar all contributed meaningful minutes, and their departures won’t amount to nothing. Three players — all top-40 recruits — are committed to join the team next year: Courtney Ogden, Nunu Agara and Chloe Clardy. In 2021, Jordan Hamilton ‘22 became the first graduate transfer in program history; however, the portal has gone largely unused under VanDerveer outside of Hamilton.
For a team trying to return to national championship contention, how VanDerveer and the program respond to these departures very well may determine whether or not they’ll be playing late into next season.