CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner never forgot the frustration of watching Boston College’s Cameron Swartz tear up her team’s defense, even in an otherwise ordinary Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season game.
”She’s just eating our lunch, we never could guard her,” Fortner said Tuesday. ”It was like, `If that kid ever goes in the (transfer) portal, we better be the first phone call she gets.”’
Now Swartz is preparing to suit up for Fortner’s Yellow Jackets along with Florida State transfer Bianca Jackson. They’re not alone, with six other players moving from one ACC school last year to another for the season ahead. Three earned all-conference honors last season.
It’s a reminder of how quickly rosters can change in a new era of easy player movement compared to years of players generally being unable to transfer within the same league.
North Carolina State coach Wes Moore, whose team added post River Baldwin from Florida State, quipped he was having a hard time keeping up during the league’s preseason women’s basketball media day.
”It’s been a little weird here,” Moore said Tuesday. ”I mean, you’re walking down the hallway, and it’s, `Oh wasn’t she wearing a different uniform last year here at media day?”’
Louisville and Virginia Tech joined Georgia Tech in bringing in two ACC transfers. The Cardinals added guards Chrislyn Carr from Syracuse and Morgan Jones from FSU as they reload after a fourth Final Four trip under Jeff Walz.
The Hokies added a pair of Boston College transfers in 1,500-point scorer Taylor Soule and post Clara Ford to bolster the roster, which returns 6-foot-6 fourth-year big Elizabeth Kitley as the reigning ACC player of the year and an Associated Press third-team All-American.
And at Virginia, first-year coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton lured a former McDonald’s All-American in Notre Dame forward Sam Brunelle back to her home state.
”Usually coming from a good conference and playing with a good team, you want to try to stay on the same level that you are,” said Jackson, who started her career at South Carolina before playing the past three seasons at FSU.
Hokies coach Kenny Brooks said he sees value in adding talent from within the conference. Those players already have experienced the grind of playing in one of the nation’s top leagues and know what to expect, even as fill-in-the-holes additions on talented rosters.
”Obviously for the longest time, you weren’t able to transfer in conference,” Brooks said. ”So it’s starting to happen to the point where it’s normal now. I’ve had players who have transferred to other teams in the conference. You can’t help but notice programs.”
The flip side, though, is teams facing players who chose to head elsewhere. In this case, both BC and Florida State each lost three such players.
”It’s the new normal,” first-year Seminoles coach Brooke Wyckoff said. ”Initially you’re like, `Oh, OK, well we’ll see them in a different jersey next year.’ But it’s what was for the best for them, and that’s what we always want.”
For the players, the familiarity that comes with remaining in the ACC has been a positive.
Both Swartz and Brunelle wanted to play closer to their hometowns. But Swartz said understanding how the Yellow Jackets played from facing them helped as she mulled her decision, while Brunelle pointed to the value of knowing how to play through multiple ACC seasons.
At N.C. State, returning wing Jakia Brown-Turner has jokingly bonded with Baldwin over their common history: playing against each other as the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles for the 2020 ACC Tournament title.
It even trickles down to team pickup games, with Cardinals guard Hailey Van Lith chuckling that she has teased Jones and Carr about knowing the scouting report on how best to guard them.
”Last year we had a couple of transfers that came outside of the ACC, so it took them a little while to really get the feel of what it’s like to feel like you just got ran over by a truck after every single game,” Van Lith said.
”I think having a lot of people come within the ACC, they know. They know what it is, they know the expectations and it’s going to be a lot easier.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
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