The 2023-24 brings us to year five of Head Coach Nell Fortner’s run at Georgia Tech, one that has brought the team to fantastic highs and understandable lows. This season, we enter year two of the Tonie Morgan/Kara Dunn/Kayla Blackshear era, with Morgan at the forefront as a highly versatile point guard who showed incredible raw talent last year as a freshman. At her best, she was named the ACC Rookie of the Week twice, as well as making the ACC All-Freshman team. Yet at times, she also looked like a freshman that can be turnover prone. Nonetheless, Tech has a core that Fortner has committed to developing and expects to be contending in big games in the next couple of years.
What happened in 2022-2023
Last season for Tech WBB played out with two plans seemingly going on at once. On one end, to replace program stars Lorela Cubaj and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, restarting with young talent was critical to preserve a future for the team down the line, but with Nerea Hermosa, Aixa-Wone Aranaz, and Avyonce Carter as the only upperclassmen on the team, 5th-year’s Cameron Swartz (Boston College) and Bianca Jackson (Florida State) transferred in to be the starting guards and bring in lots of playing experience to an otherwise extremely young team.
On the other end, Tech recruited Tonie Morgan, Ines Noguero, and Kara Dunn as freshman core to piggyback on Swartz/Jackson’s offensive dynamism and gel around each other as the leading group of Tech’s next era. What we ended up seeing was instead of a highly potent offense that Swartz, Jackson, and Morgan theoretically could’ve led, Tech was a super streaky team, playing super confidently in non-conference play (9-2) before going on a losing streak from hell in ACC play (finished 4-14). Jackson at times became unplayable. Swartz was either on or off, no in between. Hermosa did not end up making a leap in her senior year, losing her starting spot to Aranaz.
By the end of the season, the initial plan to run a quick offensive style reverted back to the defensive focused play that brought Tech to two straight NCAA Tournaments. If there’s one game to point back to from last season to give a glimpse at what the best version of Tech can look like this season, it’s their 66-63 win over #15 NC State.
#5 Tonie Morgan | 5’9’’ | G | So.
2022-23: 9.8 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 3.8 APG | 2022-23 ACC All-Freshman
If one was forced to hinge Tech’s success on one player, it would be Tonie. She is the face of this team and will continue to be throughout her time at The Flats. Her game is physical, she drives downhill fast, and is great at dishing the ball. Her 2022 was highlighted by a near triple-double against Furman with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Her best scoring game came against Boston College where she put up 18 points in Tech’s first round loss at the ACC Tournament. She had 12 games in double figures scoring.
#4 Anisa Clark | 5’7’’ | G | Sr.
Anisa similar to last year will likely only come off the bench in garbage time situations, having never seen more than three appearances in each of her three seasons at Tech. She is a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll recipient majoring in psychology.
#11 Aixa Wone Aranaz | 6’3’’ | F | 5th
2022-23: 2.8 PPG | 2.6 RPG | 0.8 APG
One of the best surprises last year was the emergence of Aranaz. After Nerea Hermosa was expected to be the starting center after a great year in 2021-22, she did not make any noticeable leap in her game, creating a chance for Aranaz to be an impact player in 2022-23. The Spaniard started 22 of 28 games with a career high 545 minutes. She was one of Tech’s primary rebounders last year, primarily on the defensive glass where 41 of her 74 rebounds came. While she was a little turnover prone, Aranaz provided toughness inside that was not coming from Hermosa, making her the interior enforcer of the team.
#13 Kayla Blackshear | 6’1’’ | F | Jr.
2022-23: 8.8 PPG | 6.4 RPG | 1.0 APG
Kayla in a lot of ways is the secret sauce of this team that actually isn’t a secret. Her intensity played a massive part in the team’s rebounding ability, leading the team with 193 last season, averaging 6.8 per game, and nearly equal amounts on offense and defense. Her ability to give Tech second chance opportunities down low combined with improvements in Kara Dunn and Tonie Morgan’s scoring ability has a chance to be immense if they need to show up in a big moment.
#15 Avyonce Carter | 5’10’’ | G | Sr.
2022-23: 3.3 PPG | 1.6 RPG
Carter remains one of the most fun players on this team. While riding the bench, she gets slotted in every game and at any moment can land a three pointer, dig for a tough rebound against a much taller center, and be an uptick in energy on the court. When she’s on the court, she’s going to shoot, and that’s what they’ll need from her when she plays.
#22 Inés Noguero | 5’9’’ | G | So.
2022-23: 3.6 PPG | 1.5 RPG | 0.7 APG
Inés Noguero we liken to the Sergio Busquets of this team. Great court vision. Gets in the right spots, makes good passes, and can shoot the deep ball. Last year, she showed flares of her potential in all of those facets of her game, but ultimately was a size problem when it came to defending. This year, she’s noticeably gotten stronger, and in the first two games of the season has played significantly better on defense and continues to find gaps to get open shots.
#25 Kara Dunn | 5’11’’ | G | So.
2022-23: 7.6 PPG | 3.4 RPG | 2.4 APG
Kara has the chance to be one of Tech’s most dynamic players in a long time, playing similar to Digna Strautmane’s game as a 3&D player, but also with nimbleness inside at the glass. Nell Fortner said her game was at the highest it had been before she was hurt in the first couple minutes of the Coastal Carolina game. She can be counted on to get an open corner three on the right every game plus contribute to perimeter defense.
#1 Caitlyn Wilson | 5’10’’ | G | 5th
2022-23: 9.8 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 3.8 APG | Cincinnati
From film she’s a good outside shooter, and that’s likely where she’ll find most of her usage this season under Fortner. Her experience and maturity will be great to have in the locker room, even if she has to earn her way into playing time.
“She can really shoot it. She’s got deep range,” noted Alverson.
#21 Sydney Johnson | 5’9’’ | G | 5th
2022-23: 12.8 PPG | 2.8 RPG | 3.3 APG | Boston
A Lovett School alum, Sydney won the Patriot League Championship at Boston University last year before losing in the 1st round of NIT to Rhode Island. She became the first in BU program history to be named First-Team All- Patriot League multiple times plus led BU in 2022-23 season in assists and steals, while ranking second in points per game.
#12 Jada Bediako | 6’3’’ | F/C | Fr.
Jada had limited playing time in both the exhibition game and against Coastal Carolina, and will likely a small amount of playing time.
“She’s very vocal and brings defensive energy. We’re excited about her development,” said Alverson.
#21 Ariadna Termis | 6’6’’ | C | Fr.
Ari continues the legacy of Spanish centers on Fortner’s teams (Hermosa, Aranaz, and her) and will see playing time as the backup center to Aixa Wone Aranaz. In the exhibition game, her defensive reads by the basket were good, she’s not afraid to shoot from deep, and provides necessary rebounding with her size. There will be minutes this year where Fortner opts to have Blackshear play as the primary center while Aranaz is out, but nonetheless we will see Termis get playing time this year as she likely will be one of the primary centers in 2024-2025.
“Ari was someone we identified really early in her recruiting process. She’s a solid 6’6’’ and has played at a really high level. She’s done double duty all of her summers in Spain. When she was playing 17U, she was also playing 18U. When she was playing [Spanish National Team] 18U, she was also playing 19U,” said Alverson. “She can move really well and be a rim protector but also be an offensive threat throughout.”
#23 Rusne Augustinaite | 6’0’’ | G | Fr.
Siaulia, Lithuania/Monteverde Academy, FL
Rusne shot 36% FG percentage her senior season, was 3rd on her team in steals (22), and the entire starting 5 of her high school team are all playing at power 5 schools this season. Her team won the 2022-23 Max Preps GEICO National Championship with a record of 26-1 last season.
She played 32 minutes in place of injured Kara Dunn against Coastal Carolina, and brought tons of energy to the team, hitting four threes on nine total shots. Fortner also sees her as an offensive rebounding threat, something that was missing in Tech’s first game.
“She’s a gym rat, she goes so hard,” said Associate Head Coach Blanche Alverson about her game. “What’s special about her is that she might miss three in a row, but she’ll shoot the fourth one with major confidence.”
#32 D’Asia Thomas-Harris | 6’2’’ | G/F | Fr.
Katy, TX, Houston Christian High School
A two-time SPC State Champion and co-MVP of the 2023 SPC State Tournament, her Houston Christian team went undefeated her junior year winning their ever state championship.
“D’Asia has a super high ceiling with phenomenal energy. Her personality jumps off the page. She plays extremely hard. I think her youth is refreshing. Every day she’s a sponge. Every day she’s getting better and better and better. She’s a phenomenal rebounder, she’s one of our leading rebounders since we started practicing,” said Alverson.
Eylia Love -> Louisville
After starting on the bench in 2022 and scoring 10+ points only once, Love was dismissed from the team after the December 29 game against Virginia and announced her transfer to Louisville soon after.
Raeven Boswell -> Pitt
Boswell was part of last year’s freshman class that largely became highlighted by Tonie Mogan and Ines Noguero. Sitting behind them and 5th-year’s Cameron Swartz and Bianca Jackson, Boswell’s minutes were few and far between, so she opted to transfer to Pitt for more playing time.
Carmyn Harrison -> Belmont
Harrison similarly was not getting many minutes last season, and with a full recruiting class coming in to compete for a thin number of available minutes, it was likely a good call by Harrison to use her free transfer to find playing time elsewhere. (Jack)
Tech’s non-conference schedule is noticeably more entertaining than it was last year, with games against #22 Creighton and New Mexico in Cancun, along with hosting Florida for the ACC/SEC Challenge, and a visit to Lincoln to play Nebraska on December 2.
Tech opened the season against Coastal Carolina on November 6 at 11:00 am for their Education Day game, where nearly 5,000 Atlanta Public School kids attended who took part in Tech’s Buzzer Reader’s competition where they could earn tickets to the home opener. Their other fun road trip will be to Houston to play Rice on November 16.
The local non-conference schedule includes hosting Furman, Kennesaw State, Mercer, Georgia State, and USC Upstate. This year’s version of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate takes place in Athens.
In ACC play, the Jackets will be loaded with serious competition, as the ACC boasts five ranked teams in the pre-season top 25, all of whom Tech will be playing (#8 Virginia Tech, #10 Notre Dame, #16 North Carolina, #17 Louisville, #18 Florida State). Tech will play every ACC team as usual, this season with home and homes against Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, and Miami. The ACC Tournament begins March 6, 2024 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
This team is still in its development phase to becoming the fullest version of itself. Are they better than last year? Yes, absolutely. The freshman are more polished than Dunn, Morgan, and Noguero were when they showed up, and clearly playable for extensive minutes as we saw against Coastal Carolina.
For me, the question is when they hit a wall or lose a couple games in a row, will they have the fight in them to get out of the funk immediately or will it impact them down the line? Last year, they hit that funk and they lost seven of eight games in ACC play. They have the defense to get out of a funk, but it’s to be seen if they can consistently shoot their way into wins as well.
I think they will find ways out of that funk and not end up 4-14 in conference play again. But, the ACC is stacked. There will be a ton of really tough games against older teams and ranked teams. The non-conference portion of the schedule will give us the first taste of what a team truly led by Tonie Morgan at point guard will look like.
I’ve got Tech going 14-16 this season, only one win more than last year but a balancing out of a couple more ACC wins with a couple non-conference losses. Next year is when I expect this team to really make the leap being on the older side of the ACC, so anything above .500 as a fan and as a person closely watching this team would be a welcome treat.
I agree with Jack on most fronts. I don’t see this year being THE year for this team, but I see it as one step closer. Kara Dunn and Tonie Morgan made huge impacts last season as freshmen, so their stock can only go up. I think grad transfer Sydney Johnson will fill the leadership gap that Cameron Swartz left. Her experience and scoring ability will be an integral piece of the Jackets’ success. I think this team could run into trouble later in the season with potential injuries/fatigue. I haven’t seen much of the true freshman yet, but I think they could fill some essential roles this year.