The 2022-23 Virginia Tech Women's Basketball team will be remembered as the greatest basketball team in school history taking their program new heights with many firsts including a first ACC Tournament championship, first 1 seed, first 30+ win season, and first Final Four appearance.
Going into this offseason, the Hokies have star Georgia Amoore back for sure while two-time ACC Playear of the Year Liz Kitley and sharpshooter Cayla King both have the option to return and use their COVID year. Additionally, Tech has a top 15 recruiting class coming in this offseason with 4 top 100 caliber recruits while also having some promising young players ready for larger roles including Charlise Dunn and Carleigh Wenzel who redshirted this past season.
However, there are some questions for the Hokies entering this offseason as they look to build on their first Final Four appearance. Here's my top 3 questions for them this offseason.
1. Will Liz Kitley and Cayla King Return?
The first and biggest questions surrounds whether Liz Kitley and Cayla King will return to use their COVID year?
We'll have answers on this question very quickly as the WNBA only gives players who reach the Final Four 48 hours after their season ends to decide whether they will declare for the draft or not if they are eligible. That's a borderline cruel situation for these players to be put in given the magnitude of that decision and the short time they'll actually have back at home to process and make a well thought out decision.
Regardless, Tech will have some significant answers on those realities very quickly. Cayla King definitely seems more likely to return and would be a big returnee as a top sharpshooter on the wing who helps open up Tech's offense for post players and slashers. She's also proven to be a solid defensive player who would be a valuable, experienced veteran for a Tech team that has aspirations to get back to the Final Four.
Meanwhile, Liz Kitley has a much bigger decision on her hands as she has to choose between the prospects of starting her pro career as a likely first round draft pick or returning for one more shot at winning a national championship. Obviously, she would make a pretty decent salary in the pros but Tech's NIL situation may be able to match or exceed what she could get in the WNBA.
The question for Kitley is whether she feels ready to move on to the professional level or still has some unfinished business.
If she does return, Kitley will immediately be the top returning center in the country and a clear Preseason First Team All-American. ESPN's Rebecca Lobo recently told that Roanoke Times that she felt that Kitley should return for one more season and work on developing her outside shot more to prepare her for all that is required to play in the WNBA. Tech will also instantly be a national title contender even if the Hokies still have some work to do in the transfer portal to fill some holes around Kitley, Georgia Amoore, and Cayla King.
If she doesn't return, center becomes a bigger priority but the Hokies still have the potential to go on a deep run and with the right pieces, build another Final Four contender led by Amoore.
2. Who Will VT Get Out of the Portal?
Regardless of whether Kitley and King choose to return or move on, the Hokies will be busy in the portal.
Yes, the Hokies have a talented freshman class coming in along with talented young players like Carleigh Wenzel and Charlise Dunn who should be ready to take on significant roles next season. There's no doubt that the long-term core for the Hokies looks very strong.
However, the Hokies also have a star in Georgia Amoore who they can build a national title contender around for next season especially if both Kitley and King use their COVID year and return to VT.
Tech will need some additions on the wing and in the frontcourt surrounding this team with Tech needing someone who can bring size, physicality, and toughness like Taylor Soule and D'Asia Gregg brought in the frontcourt this season. Additionally, the Hokies could use another scorer on the wing to go with their group of King, Wenzel, and Dunn.
One player who seems like a potential really good fit is JMU star forward Kiki Jefferson who was the Sun Belt Player of the Year this past season and is coached by former Kenny Brooks JMU assistant Sean O'Regan who replaced Brooks after he left for the VT job. Jefferson should have some familiarity with what Brooks and the Hokies do given that O'Regan is off the same coaching tree.
She would absolutely fit the Soule role as a 6'1'' forward who averaged 16+ points and 6.5+ rebounds each of the past three seasons while also providing lots of offensive versatility having shot 33.9% from three-point range during her four seasons at JMU.
Finding a backup center who could provide 5-10 minutes would also be a big plus though four-star incoming freshman Clara Strack definitely has the potential to do just that. Wenzel and talented incoming freshmen Mackenzie Nelson and Samyha Suffren should provide some good depth behind Georgia Amoore. Wenzel has the talent to potentially step into a smaller version of a Kayana Traylor type off-ball role for 20ish minutes next season.
Of course, Tech will absolutely be in the market for a starting center if Kitley decides not to return. One possible option could be Boston College center Maria Gakdeng who may not bring the star power of a Kitley, but could be a good rim protector and quality scorer and rebounder for the Hokies with Strack backing her up.
It's also important to note that women's basketball gets 15 scholarships instead of 13 for men's so there's a little more room to work with. After bringing in 3 transfers last offseason, it wouldn't be surprising to see Kenny Brooks go get three or four this offseason.
3. Choosing a Third Assistant
One of the impressive things about the job that Kenny Brooks has done is the fact that he's only had two of his allotted three primary assistants after his offseason addition from outside the program quietly left before the season.
With the success that Kenny Brooks has had combined with his growing coaching tree that now includes Shawn Poppie in addition to JMU's Sean O'Regan and more, this job should have plenty of appeal to ambitious young coaches.
There will be plenty who would love to see Brooks bring back former long-time VT assistant Britney Anderson who is at Stanford now. While she would be a great addition as a top assistant on this staff, it wouldn't be surprising if she's content to keep learning at Stanford while searching for her shot as a head coach.
Tech did go internal with one of the two assistant spots that they had open last season with Radvile Autukaite who proved to be a good promotion to the staff. If Brooks chooses to go that root and the bring in someone in a lower spotlight role, he could promote Director of Player Personnel Will Sims who like much of the staff took on more responsibilities.
Regardless, Brooks has an opening to fill on his staff that should definitely have tons of appeal with his coaching tree combined with his first Final Four run.