Stephanie Watts returns to UNC. Also, notes!

Joanne P. McCallie calls it quits at Duke, John Swofford announces his retirement, transfers and more.

Welcome back to All in the Game, y’all.

Before we get to UNC’s latest addition, a lot happened at Duke this week. I wrote about Sara Anastasieska transferring there and head coach Joanne P. McCallie resigning for The Next. Check that out. Also, I updated the ACC transfer tracker.


North Carolina’s outlook for the upcoming women’s college basketball season just got a whole lot brighter.

The program announced Monday that Stephanie Watts is coming back to Chapel Hill for her final year of eligibility.

Watts spent the first three seasons of her career at UNC before grad-transferring to Southern California last offseason. She played just four games for the Trojans though before a knee injury derailed her 2019-20 campaign. The NCAA granted her an extra year of eligibility, and she’s decided to return to Chapel Hill to play it under Courtney Banghart.

“I like to believe that everything happens for a reason,” Watts said in a statement. “When thinking about my last season of college basketball coming up, it just didn’t feel right spending it anywhere other than my alma mater.”

A native of Wesley Chapel, North Carolina — a small town southeast of Charlotte — Watts began her career at UNC with a bang in 2015-16, claiming ACC Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per-game and setting a UNC freshman record for three-pointers made with 76. Watts averaged 16.8 points per-game as a sophomore and also set the program record for most three’s made in a single game with 10 vs. Charleston Southern. She missed her natural junior year, but came back in 2018-19 to average 15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from behind the arc.

Watts was one of several players to transfer away from UNC in the 2019 offseason. Around that time, longtime head coach Sylvia Hatchell resigned after a program review found that she made “racially insensitive” comments and that she pressured players to play through injuries.

At USC, Watts was solid through her first four games, which included a 14-point and 12-rebound outing against Virginia. It looked like Watts would be a spark for USC and play a key role, but a knee injury forced her to miss the remainder of the season.

Now healthy, when she got the opportunity to return to UNC this summer, she jumped at it.

“UNC is home for me and I’m excited to have the opportunity to play for Coach Banghart and be back wearing Carolina Blue,” she said.

Watts has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from UNC and will look to finish her master’s degree in entrepreneurship there. She is already in the Tar Heels’ record books as a 1,000-point scorer.

“The fact that Steph wanted to come back to finish her playing career in Carolina Blue speaks volumes to her love for and trust in this place and program,” Banghart said.

With Watts back in the fold, UNC has the makings of a backcourt tandem that could be explosive from three-point range. Graduate transfer Petra Holešínská shot 41 percent from behind the arc last season for Illinois. If defenders guard her and Watts too closely, Janelle Bailey and Malu Tshitenge could score with ease in the paint.

The potential is there for the Tar Heels to have a very versatile and potent offense in Banghart’s second season at the helm.


Around the ACC

  • ACC commissioner John Swofford announced last week that he will retire after the 2020-21 academic year. Swofford has held the post since 1997 and oversaw the conference’s expansion from nine to 15 members. He was also instrumental in launching the ACC Network, starting the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and hiring the league’s first full-time women’s basketball administrator. I contributed to a nuts-and-bolts news story about Swofford retiring for WUNC. At Extra Points, Matt Brown explains why its critical for the ACC to nail the hire for who replaces Swofford.

  • Miami guard Yasmeen Chang has transferred to Florida. She will have to sit out a year but will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Chang played 7.1 minutes per-game this past season as a freshman at Miami.

  • Duke announced Tuesday that its women’s basketball team will return to campus on Aug. 2.

  • North Carolina extended an offer to Kamorea Arnold, a five-star 2023 prospect. A 5-foot-6 native of Germantown, Wisconsin, she also holds offers from Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, South Carolina, Louisville, Utah and Pitt, among others. ESPN calls her an “athletic lead-guard armed with a scorer’s mentality.”

  • Former Georgia Tech guard Francesca Pan has signed a pro contract with Reyer Venezia in Venice, Italy. Pan made the All-ACC Second Team and the All-ACC Tournament Team this past season. A native of Bassano del Grappa, Italy, she averaged 13.4 points. 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per-game in 2019-20.

  • Former Boston College guard Taylor Ortlepp signed a deal with the Adelaide Lightning in Australia. She started 11 games for the Eagles this past season, averaging 3.7 points per-game.

  • Louisville added to its 2020 class recently, signing 6-foot-4 forward Malea Williams from Georgetown, Kentucky. Williams averaged 19.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per-game in her final high school season. She also had offers from Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and Syracuse.

  • Former Virginia Tech player and assistant coach Brittany Anderson is heading west to join the staff at Stanford. The Roanoke Times has more.

  • The Connecticut Sun signed former Miami player Beatrice Mompremier. The Next and the Hartford Courant have more.

  • Florida State head coach Sue Semrau joined the Her Hoops Stats podcast.

  • Virginia formally welcomed its offseason additions in a press release. The ‘Hoos confirmed that Charlottesville native and graduate transfer Emily Maupin is a walk-on and Florida State transfer London Clarkson will have to sit out this season. Maupin is a former All-CAA selection after averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per-game at Elon as a sophomore. Virginia also brings in five freshmen.

  • Details of 2020-21 schedules are beginning to trickle out. According to @LongwoodStats, Duke will host Longwood on Nov. 12.

  • Daniel Metzelfeld, who was UNC’s Director of Player Personnel, Development and Recruiting Operations, has joined the staff at Davidson as an assistant coach.

  • Virginia Tech offered Talaysia Cooper, a four-star 2022 guard from Turbeville, South Carolina. She also has offers from Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, UNC, East Carolina and Ole Miss. She has visited Clemson and South Carolina. ESPN calls her an “explosively athletic guard.”

Spanning the South

  • Brandon Sudge has been on the UGA beat for a few years now, covering the Dawgs for the Athens Banner-Herald and the Macon Telegraph. His Georgia women’s basketball coverage has a new home now at “The Lady Bulldogs’ Report.” Here, he dove into how Georgia landed five-star talent Reigan Richardson.

  • USC Upstate head coach Becky Burke has finalized her staff for the upcoming season, her first year on the job. Joining Burke’s staff are Candyce Wheeler, Drew Landers and Nicole Ambrose. Wheeler, a teammate of Burke’s at Louisville, comes to Upstate from Bellarmine University. Landers (the son of former UGA head coach Andy Landers) was previously at Mercer. Ambrose was last at Indiana University Southeast.

  • Kentucky announced Monday that Deasia Merrill will transfer away from the program. A freshman, she did not play a single minute for the Wildcats this past season after suffering a knee injury in October. The 6-foot-1 forward from Villa Rica, Georgia was tabbed as the 62nd best recruit in the 2019 class, per ESPN, and also had offers from Duke, Pitt, Miami, N.C. State, Virginia, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.

  • Clayton, North Carolina native and former Liberty guard Asia Todd has landed at UCF. Barring an unlikely waiver from the NCAA, she will have to sit out a year, but will have three seasons of eligibility left. Todd was an ASUN All-Freshman selection after averaging 8.6 points per-game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc for the Flames this past season. Todd left Liberty earlier this month citing the school’s “racial insensitivities and culture.”

  • Tiffany Hayes will not play in the WNBA in 2020. At The Next, Bailey Johnson takes a look at what that means for the Atlanta Dream. Renee Montgomery is also taking the season off to focus on activism.

  • Jacksonville State will visit Georgia Tech (Nov. 11) and UGA (Dec. 9) this upcoming season.

  • Campbell has one of the better smaller college basketball arenas I’ve ever been in. Bright, intimate and it gets loud when Camels’ fans pack it in. The new court looks great.

Elsewhere in women’s basketball…

  • First-year head coach Tim Taylor has solidified his staff at the Naval Academy. Joining Taylor is Anna Cho, Kelsey Wolfe, Kevin Leatherwood, Marlena Tremba and Jimmy Colloton. Cho was previously the director of operations and recruiting at Virginia, Wolfe was most recently on staff at Old Dominion, Leatherwood was an assistant at Georgia State, Tremba was previously a recruiting coordinator at Division II Chatham, and Colloton is a holdover from Stefanie Pemper’s staff.

  • Delaware State is not leaving the MEAC, despite rumors of the Hornets going to the NEC. Perhaps it says more about the conference’s current state when a school has to announce that it’s not leaving. By the summer or 2021, the MEAC will have just eight full-time members and just six that play football. Read HBCU Gameday for more.

Also read

  • Set for its first game in 2022, Pitt is starting a women’s lacrosse program from scratch. At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Craig Meyer takes a look at how that’s proceeding during the pandemic and the challenges ahead for head coach Emily Boissonneault.

  • At the Athletic, Brittany Ghiroli has a fantastic in-depth look at the transformation of the Washington Spirit. Today, the players appear to love soccer; the team looks professional, and they look a squad that could potentially win the NWSL Challenge Cup. But back in 2018? The great Kim McCauley says it best: “You could see on the players’ faces that they just looked f**king miserable. They looked like they hated going to work every day.”

  • Always read Jay Busbee on NASCAR.

  • Last week, I wrote a story for WUNC about the NWSL’s Challenge Cup, how it’s happening, and how the North Carolina Courage prepared for it. The Courage are 2-0 in the tournament after winning Wednesday night.

Stay safe. Y’all be good.

Share


(Subscribe below. When you hit the subscribe button, you’ll notice there’s options for free, monthly and yearly subscriptions. For now, all of these posts are going to be free and visible to everyone. But if you want to throw me $5 a month, I won’t stop you.)


“If I hear the music, I’m gonna dance.”


Mitchell Northam is an award-winning journalist based in North Carolina. He grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is a graduate of Salisbury University. He is a digital producer at WUNC, and his work has also been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, NCAA.com, the Delmarva Daily Times, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Sports Now and elsewhere. He is a member of APSE, NWSLMA and USBWA. He’s on Twitter @primetimeMitch. More of his work can be found at MuckRack.