LSU’s Hailey Van Lith enters transfer portal after 1 season with Tigers: Where could she land? |T

Mar 30, 2024; Albany, NY, USA; LSU Tigers guard Hailey Van Lith (11) dribbles the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the second half in the semifinals of the Albany Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

LSU guard Hailey Van Lith has entered the transfer portal and will be eligible to play during the 2024-25 season, a source familiar with the situation told The Athletic. Many had assumed she would enter her name into the 2024 WNBA draft after this season.

Van Lith transferred from Louisville to LSU ahead of last season after playing three years with the Cardinals. She was a highly sought-after transfer portal recruit, averaging 19.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game during her junior season. The Tigers, coming off a national championship, aggressively pursued Van Lith, recruiting her to be the team’s lead guard for the 2023-24 season. The transfer meant playing out of her natural shooting guard position but was seen as a positive given that it would allow her to both expand her game and play alongside an arsenal of weapons like Angel Reese, Flau’jae Johnson and Aneesah Morrow as they looked to repeat as national champs.

However, the year was challenging for both Van Lith and the Tigers, who fell short of their national championship hopes, losing to Iowa in the Elite Eight this past weekend. Van Lith started 33 games, averaging 11.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. During the NCAA Tournament, Van Lith’s numbers dropped to averages of 6.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to make winning plays,” Van Lith said after the Sweet 16. “I would rather be known as a winner than a scorer, because at the end of the day, if all you’re going to ask me to do is score, that’s something that I can definitely do. I think at this point it’s about making winning plays.”

Van Lith should have her pick of schools. Last year, she considered Stanford and South Carolina in addition to LSU. The Tigers knew that her departure was a possibility, though most assumed it would be to the WNBA, so they likely were already considering entering the portal to find a point guard replacement to add to their big three of Johnson, Morrow and MiKaylah Williams.

How did Van Lith reflect on her experience at LSU?

While the Tigers were in Albany, N.Y., Van Lith was publicly introspective about her experience at LSU. She said it had “been a fight for me all year,” adding, “but I’ve been willing to get in the battle every time. … I’m getting back in the ring. I’m getting back in there to fight.”

She discussed her work with Derick Grant, a trainer and life coach, with The Athletic.

“The big thing with Hailey was realizing the power you have in your perspective,” Grant said. “We get told what a good or a bad game is. Oh, you didn’t score 20? You didn’t get 10 assists? You didn’t do this. That shapes our perspective of ourselves.

“Obviously, this year has not been exactly the way she had expected on the court. But the beauty of it is, you still have the ability to re-shift your perspective. Instead of, ‘How many shots did I get?’ it’s, ‘Am I getting my teammates involved? Am I knocking down the shots that I do get?’ It’s a shift in the way she sees herself.” — Ben Pickman, women’s basketball writer

Van Lith’s WNBA potential

Van Lith likely would not have been a first-round pick had she entered the 2024 WNBA Draft. One general manager, granted anonymity to allow them to speak openly about Van Lith and others who could have entered the upcoming draft, described her game in the following way.

“She hasn’t shot the ball like people thought she would. I don’t know if it’s good or bad for her that she went to LSU and was forced to play point guard. But she’s had to work on some ballhandling and some passing skills because of what their team needed.”

Added another general manager: “Good outside shooter, decent at getting to the rim, but midrange game is a question. Plays hard — scrappy, competitor, love the fire. Reminds me a little bit of Dana Evans. Probably a more natural two than a one, but her size will require her to mostly play at the one. Still, questions about whether she can be as effective as a one.” — Pickman

Where could she transfer?

Last year, Van Lith told Bleacher Report she had talked with Stanford and South Carolina before committing to LSU (though it seems unlikely she’d end up with the Gamecocks given the few expected departures this offseason). Finding a coach she meshes will be imperative as she thinks about her future, as well as playing in a system that augments her strengths.

Several schools, like Ohio State, UCLA and Syracuse are also losing high-volume playmaking guards and could potentially give her an opportunity to flourish. — Pickman

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