Unloading the ACC Notebook: Banghart on Semrau, portal madness
And more notes around the ACC!
Welcome back to All in the Game, y’all.
Between the first and second weekends of the NCAA Tournament, Sue Semrau announced her retirement from being the head coach at Florida State.
Aside from a hiatus during the 2020-21 season – in which Semrau left the team to spend time with her ailing mother – she coached the Seminoles from 1997 through 2022, leading FSU to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of ACC titles. Before Semrau’s arrival in Tallahassee, FSU had been to just three tourney’s, and never played in the Sweet 16. She turned the Seminoles into a program that is a consistent winner.
Semrau has also long been a vocal advocate for equality in the women’s game, and she leaves her post at Florida State with more than 200 ACC wins. Since Semrau’s announcement, Florida State announced that Brooke Wyckoff would succeed her. Wyckoff – who played and coached under Semrau – filled in for Semrau last season and led the Seminoles to an NCAA Tournament.
Ahead of North Carolina’s matchup with South Carolina in the Sweet 16, I asked Tar Heels’ coach Courtney Banghart about Semrau. Here are her comments:
“So, I first met Sue — well, really go to know her — when she was the president of the (WBCA) board, and I was on the board with her. And she's just been a tireless woman of commitment to our game. And I'm saying that, not from a coaching standpoint, right? That was with me on the board. And she was so adamantly passionate about the growth of our game. You know, the board's an enormous amount of time, and it mattered to her to do it. And, for a younger coach like me, I was like, I'm going to do it too, if I'm needed – because look at (Sue). She's doing it, and all that she's carrying.
“And then, when I won my first ACC game (in the 2019-20 season), I got a package from her. And she wrote something like, ‘I've always been a fan. So glad you're in the league, and you're doing a great job,’ or something along those lines. I think that things that Sue does for the people in this business go unnoticed by the outside because she's not looking for it. You know, she’s truly about growing the game. And that's been really fun to see.
“I love that she's going out on her terms… I'm so happy for her, that she gets to go out on her terms. And I’m not surprised that she didn't give herself a farewell tour. That's just not Sue.”
N.C. State’s Elissa Cunane and Louisville’s Emily Engstler are among the 12 prospects invited to attend the 2022 WNBA Draft in-person in New York. It’s the first-time since 2019 that the draft has been held in-person. Live coverage on ESPN begins at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, April 11.
Also for Cunane: She leaves the Wolfpack as sixth in all-time scoring with 1,855 points. She is the program’s record-holder in free throws made with 513. Cunane has the chance to be the 17th N.C. State player drafted, and the first since Kiara Leslie, who was picked 10th overall by the Washington Mystics in 2019.
And Engstler finished her final NCAA Tournament run with 23 steals, which tied a record set by Old Dominion’s Ticha Penicheiro in 1998 for the most steals in a single tournament.
Incoming Duke freshman Ashlon Jackson won the three-point shootout at the McDonald’s All-American game with 18 points – the most ever scored in the women’s competition. In the actual game, Jackson started and totaled seven points, one rebound, one assist and one block in 15 minutes of action. ESPN has tabbed Jackson as the 16th best player in the 2022 class.
Former Louisville player Becky Burke has been hired to succeed Felisha Legette-Jack at Buffalo. Burke was most recently the head coach at USC Upstate for two seasons. This past season, she guided the Spartans to a 19-8 record – just their second winning campaign since 2014.
Sam Purcell, now a former Louisville assistant, is filling up his staff positions at Mississippi State. Purcell hired Joi Williams as the assistant athletic director for women’s basketball on Wednesday. Williams was previously the director of quality control at Clemson.
Former Pitt player Kate Popovec has been named the head coach at Bradley. She was previously the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Northwestern.
Aside from the Final Four contests, the most-watched game of the 2022 women’s NCAA Tournament was the double-overtime clash between N.C. State and UConn. It attracted more than 2 million viewers and was the most-watched Elite Eight game since 2006.
Louisville picked up a commitment on Friday from Sole' Williams, a 2023 combo guard from Ohio. A composite top 50 prospect, the 5-foot-9 Williams also had offers from UNC, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, N.C. State, UCLA, LSU and Kentucky, among others.
Here are my top 10 ACC players in the portal, in no particular order: Morgan Jones (Florida State), Cameron Swartz (Boston College), Rita Igbokwe (Pitt), Sam Brunelle (Notre Dame), Chrislyn Carr (Syracuse), Azana Baines (Virginia Tech), Makayla Dickens (Boston College), Genesis Bryant (N.C. State), Anaya Peoples (Notre Dame), Sammie Puisis (Florida State)
At the Final Four, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz — who landed three starters on this Louisville team through transfers — was about the transfer portal phenomenon and had this to say: “It's part of what's going to take place from here on out. You're definitely looking to recruit high school players. That's our first place that we look at. Now, you can look and say, ‘Hey, what voids do I have; what can I fill in; what areas can I look to increase or get stronger in?’ I think that's what's going to happen. Now, I do think you have to be real careful, because you've got to make sure you're getting kids that are going to fit into your program, fit into your culture, and make sure they understand what you're trying to do. It's not all about them, and I think that's what's one of the things that we have here, is we have kids that want to win, and it goes a long way.”
One source close to the situation said that Louisville may be a potential landing spot for Jones of FSU.
North Carolina, a source said, is not in the mix to land Princeton’s Abby Meyers, who was recruited to the Ivy League school by current UNC coach Courtney Banghart.
Swartz is in the portal as a graduate transfer, but she could have two years of eligibility left, depending on a waiver ruling. Swartz’s camp is trying to get a medical waiver for her freshman season at Colorado, where she appeared in just seven games. That waiver was previously approved by the NCAA, but denied by the ACC, a source close to the situation said. The source added that Swartz finding a landing spot close to home in Marietta, Ga. is a “factor” will be a factor in her decision, but not the main one. At least one team from every Power 5 conference has contacted Swartz, who averaged 16.1 points per-game and shot 35.5% from three-point range this past season.
Syracuse announced that Saniaa Wilson and Georgia Woolley are following Felisha Legette-Jack, and have transferred from Buffalo to Syracuse. Leggette-Jack said of Wilson: “The world has not yet seen how good Saniaa will be. She is a back to the basket post who loves contact.” And of Wooley, the new Orange coach said: “Georgia is the most angle-smart defensive player I’ve coached in a long time. She is tough as nails and smart as they come.”
According to ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, former Georgia Tech guard Kierra Fletcher has landed at South Carolina. A 5-foot-9 native of Michigan, Fletcher did not play for the Yellow Jackets this past year after suffering a preseason injury. In the 2020-21 season, she averaged 13.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 21 games for Georgia Tech.
Former Pitt guard Jayla Everett has landed at St. John’s for her final season of eligibility.
Some quotes I never got around to using…
Hailey Van Lith on Payton Verhulst: “She’s a shooter. She can knock down a three with a hand in her face. And she does bring a special link to the defensive end. She's a sneaky blocker, like, you don’t think she’s in the play, and then she gets a hand on the ball. Being in passing lanes and altering shots is a big deal at this level.”
Deja Kelly on building up UNC: “For me to be kind of the first step to that growth of Coach Banghart’s plan, that’s really exciting. I take pride in that. I was the start of something great that we’re building here at Carolina.”
Clemson’s Amanda Butler on Wake’s Jewel Spear: “She’s just a tremendous scorer. Her three-point range – I think when you look at her growth – her handle and her ability to create her own shot, some of those things just make her very worthy of being at the top of the scouting report… She’s had a great year. She’s a very talented young lady and a quality human being and a tremendous representative of our league.”
Wes Moore on Diamond Johnson: “She’s fit in unbelievably well with our team. She loves the game. She loves being around it. The way she’s accepted – you know, we had all five starters back from a team that won the ACC Tournament… She’s been great about it. One thing I like to do when I watch film is, how is everybody on the bench reacting? She’s the first one up cheering… We would not be here without Diamond. She’s stepped up and won some big games for us.”
Two things I wrote this week: First, on the transfer of Mimi Collins away from Maryland, which includes a bit of reporting on the situations of Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese as well. And then I went long on Louisville, what Jeff Walz has built, and what another Final Four means for the Cardinals.
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