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Tech WBB Departures and Incoming Transfers

Nell Fortner brings in two big pieces to fill in for Lahtinen, Bates, and Cubaj

Photo by Caitlin Aycock Student Publications courtesy The Technique

NEW FTRS PERSON ALERT!!

Hello! My name’s Jack Purdy and was recently added to the FTRS staff. I graduated from The Institute a whooping day and a half ago with a business degree, I suppose making this is my real world debut post-Tech. I spent the last couple years writing for the sports section at The Technique, so writing and podcasting here will be a natural stepping stone. I ran a podcast at the ‘Nique called Tech Lively, which while not sport specific most of the time, did dive in every once and awhile into the sports scene on campus. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to keep up my coverage of Tech sports, where I mainly have focused on Volleyball and Women’s Basketball.

Holler at me on Twitter anytime (@JackNicolaus) or find me at your nearest Wild Heaven Beer location.

Ok now onto the real article, go Jackets!


Another offseason with newer transfer rules and NIL money thrown in the mix has made for a new playing field in the NCAA. Anyone and seemingly just about everyone is deciding to leave on a whim for schools that may have more NIL money (cough…Texas A&M…cough cough). The timing for the Yellow Jackets couldn’t be better though to have a consecutive set of successful seasons to become a more appealing destination for those in the transfer portal. Back-to-back March Madness appearances with record breaking players have helped prove that head coach Nell Fortner has a possible annual contender building during the third act of her coaching career.

Departures

Tech’s departures really began at the beginning of the season when guard Kierra Fletcher went out for an injury before playing, and fellow backcourt guard Loyal McQueen transferred to Alabama a couple games in. This put lots of the guard duties largely on the Finnish senior, Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, who while playing out of position still performed well from the free throw line and was a vocal leader for the team. But, with all three of them gone now that Fletcher has transferred to South Carolina, a glaring hole was left.

On top of that, forward Lorela Cubaj had used up all of her years of eligibility, spending a fifth year at Tech where she became the Institute’s all-time leading rebounder and led the starters in assists per game (4.25). After her stellar season, Lorela was drafted by the Seattle Storm in the 2nd round of the WNBA Draft, but was traded to the New York Liberty immediately after, joining the most notable first round pick of recent memory, Sabrina Ionescu. The Liberty began play in the 2022 WNBA season on Saturday against the Connecticut Sun.

Beyond losing the best Tech player of at least the last five years, sixth man Sarah Bates departed for West Virginia for her fifth year of eligibility for grad school. With the depleted lineup, Sarah was the go to sixth-man all season and started eight games primarily while Digna Strautmane was out injured for a stretch of games mid-season. She at times was Tech’s most dangerous scorer as a three-point threat, and at times got rolling quite well with Lahtinen to create a Splash Bros. effect in some games.

Strautmane was Tech’s big time acquisition from the transfer portal last season, filling in a forward spot with three point range and an ability to drive to the hoop when needed. She effectively replaced the hole Lahtinen left by shifting to guard and reinforced the size advantage Tech often had until deep in ACC play. The Latvian now starts at center for the Ringwood Hawks in the Australia-State League, averaging 11.7/11.3/2.3 over three games.

Between the four of them departing, and a whole starting lineup if you count Fletcher, this left forward Eylia Love and center Nerea Hermosa as the remaining starters.

Incoming Transfers

The big splash Fortner landed is the 2021-22’s ACC Most Improved Player, Cameron Swartz, transferring from Boston College for her final season of eligibility. The Marietta native in her Twitter announcement said “I will be forever thankful to the Boston College community and fans who supported me in my three seasons in the Heights. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle. But for my grad transfer year, this Georgia girl is coming home!”

She fills in a massive scoring hole left by Lahtinen and Cubaj, who both averaged over 10 points per game and were key cogs in keeping the offense moving. Cameron averaged 16.1 points per game and shot 35% from three. She also averaged 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. She shot 84% from the line which instantly would be the best of any Yellow Jacket that played last season. Hermosa was the only Jacket with consistent playing time that averaged even over 70%. Swartz had a career high 39 points against Clemson last season

Considering Tech down the final stretch of ACC games and the NCAA Tournament repeatedly had issues figuring out means to score when the Cubaj/Hermosa hi-low game wasn’t working, Swartz becomes vital to whatever offensive structure Fortner puts in place to reinforce the defensive identity Tech had all last season

Before Swartz was announced, Tech also landed Bianca Jackson from Florida State, another guard who last season finished third in scoring for the Seminoles. She played a key role in Tech’s overtime loss to Florida State, scoring seven but landing a critical shot that put them over Tech 65-63. She also will be a huge lift at the free throw line, shooting 80% last season in 35 attempts. She significantly improved her ball handling last season, decreasing her turnover total from 61 to 37.

Jackson ultimately just didn’t have a spot in FSU’s starting 5. She started all 19 games she played in during the Covid season, but only started 7 of the 26 she appeared in last season. She likely will fill in at the two, but can be interchangeable with Swartz.

Projected Starting 5 for 2022-2023

Transfers of course could still come in, but this is what Tech’s lineup + sixth man could be as of now:

Cameron Swartz (5th year) - Guard

Bianca Jackson (5th year) - Guard

Eylia Love (junior) - Forward

Aixa Wone Aranaz (senior) - Forward

Nerea Hermosa (senior) - Center

Sixth Man - Avyonce Carter (junior) - Guard