While most usually focus on the men’s basketball transfer market among winter sports, the past 2 offseasons have seen the biggest moves happen for different winter programs, reminding everyone that it’s just not football and men’s basketball where coaches can find lots of talent in the transfer portal.
Last year, it was Tony Robie and Virginia Tech wrestling adding a trio of starters via the transfer market in Korbin Myers, Billy Miller, and Tom Sleigh.
This offseason, it’s been Kenny Brooks and Virginia Tech women’s basketball using the transfer market to reload after losing five seniors not only to add immediate help for next season but also start to bring some long-term balance to the roster.
So far, the Hokies have made a trio of additions including a pair of grad transfers in point guard Taja Cole from Georgia and post player Lydia Rivers from Radford along with a more traditional transfer addition in post player Asiah Jones out of USC.
Add in the fact that Kenny Brooks signed a four-person 2019 class highlighted by five-star center Elizabeth Kitley and not only does Brooks have a significant infusion of talent coming in this offseason, but he’s also keeping his class sizes balanced and using the transfer market to add more immediate help.
While some wondered if the Hokies may take a big step back next season given the talent they were losing, it’s clear that Brooks has found the pieces to go with star Dara Mabrey and company to keep the Hokies pursuing greater heights under Brooks.
It starts with the addition of Taja Cole who has to have been one of the best grad transfers available this offseason. The Georgia star led the SEC in assists this past season averaging 7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 11 points per game this past season for the Bulldogs.
Not only is Cole a proven point guard at the highest level but on a team that didn’t have a single player average over 3 assists last season and one that loses two of their top 3 assist leaders, Cole gives the Hokies a true point guard that the Hokies were likely hoping to have in Shaniya Jones before her transfer during last season.
WIth Cole being able to take over at point guard, Dara Mabrey should be able to stay in her more natural spot as a two guard that should thrive working off-the-ball. Cole’s addition should also give the Hokies the option of using a player like Aisha Sheppard or Kendyl Brooks, both proven scorers, as a change-of-pace scorer off the bench.
Cole wasn’t the only proven player that the Hokies added as Virginia Tech added one of the best post players available in Radford’s Lydia Rivers.
Rivers was a double-double machine averaging 12.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, and just over one block per game while leading the Highlanders in shooting percentage at 47.7% on their way to dominating the Big South and reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Rivers may not be as good as Regan Magarity but there’s no doubt that she’s a proven player that can lead a frontcourt and fits well with Trinity Baptiste who profiles as a good rebounder and stretch 4 who shot 55.3% from three-point range on her way to averaging 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Like Cole, Rivers fills the Hokies’ another need in their starting lineup as a more traditional center that will compliment what Baptiste brings to the game perfectly.
On top of that, Cole and Rivers give the Hokies some veteran leadership and a pair of players who have experience playing in the NCAA Tournament, something that the Hokies have yet to reach under Kenny Brooks but are clearly building towards with these moves.
Of course, those weren’t the only two additions as the Hokies made an addition for the future in USC post player Asiah Jones. Jones not only helps give the Hokies some class separation but also fits in the long-term frontcourt rotation alongside five-star recruit Elizabeth Kitley and the aforementioned Baptiste who still has two years of eligibility remaining.
Jones may not have had a large role at USC but she proved she’s a more than capable player averaging 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game, proving that she can at least project as a quality backup with the potential to develop into a quality starter in Blacksburg.
While most of the attention goes to transfers in football and men’s basketball, Kenny Brooks and Virginia Tech have used the transfer market to fill their biggest needs and build a lineup that definitely has the talent to make a run at making its first NCAA Tournament under Brooks.