Rutgers women’s basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer returns for her 27th season on the banks next season and will look to lead the program to its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance during her tenure. However, she will have the task of doing so with an almost entirely new team. The program has added eight newcomers to the roster, including six transfers this offseason. After completing two top three finishes in the Big Ten in the previous three seasons behind a core of Arella Guirantes and Tekia Mack, the Scarlet Knights will look vastly different this coming winter.
Replacing the top five scorers from last season’s team is no easy task. However, Stringer continues to recruit at a high level as Rutgers aims to reload rather than rebuild next season. Of the six transfers added to the roster, two were First Team All-Conference Selections and one was a Second Team selection for their respective schools last season. The other three additions all come from high major programs.
Osh Brown is a 6’1” senior forward is a huge addition to the program and is using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19. Brown is the all-time leading rebounder for Ball State and one of just two players in program history to post over 1,000 career points and rebounds. The two-time First Team All-MAC selection led the Cardinals this past season with 18.9 points, 12.9 points, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal in 34.0 minutes per game. She shot 52.7% from the floor and 63.6% from the charity stripe. Brown will have the opportunity to make a big impact next season and could produce the best season for Rutgers from a post player since Stasha Carey. This is a tremendous pickup by Stringer and her staff. For more on Brown, click here.
Lasha Petree played three seasons at Bradley and produced a 33 point, 5 block, 4 rebound performance in a first round loss to Texas in the NCAA Tournament in March. The 6-footer was a two-time First Team All-MVC selection, as well as a two-time MVC academic honor roll recipient. The now senior led the Hawks last season in scoring with 18.0 points per game while shooting 39.0% from the floor, 28.6% from three-point range and an impressive 83.5% from the free throw line on 139 attempts. She added 3.8 rebounds and a team high 2.2 blocks per game. By adding Petree and Brown, along with returning forward Tyia Singleton and a pair of sophomores who were former 4-star recruits in Chyna Cornwell and Sakima Wlaker, Rutgers could have its best frontcourt in a very long time.
Victoria Morris is a 5’9” guard that led Old Dominion in scoring and minutes played last season. The two-time Second Team All-Conference USA selection averaged 15.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists while also leading the Monarchs in made field goals (132) and three-pointers (56), which she made 33.3% of attempts for sixth best in the league. Morris was also top ten in Conference USA in scoring and assist to turnover ratio. She finished her career at ODU with 1,379 points, 23rd most in program history. The grad transfer should have the opportunity to be the best perimeter scorer on the team next season.
Rutgers will be the fourth school for 5’10” guard Shug Dickson, who is transferring from Missouri after beginning her career at Tulsa and then Texas Tech. She averaged 10.4 points, 3.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds last season for the Tigers, including 47.9% from the field and 35.4% from behind the arc. An experienced player who could be productive in whatever role she takes on next season.
Arkansas transfer Jailyn Mason just finished her fifth year and will take advantage of the NCAA ruling of granting an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. The 5’9” guard started 97 of 98 games in her first three seasons at Arkansas, averaging 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 31.0 minutes per game. The 2017 SEC All-Freshman Team selection shot 36.9% from three-point range on 312 attempts over her first three seasons. After redshirting the 2019-2020 season due to a foot injury that required surgery, she returned to play a key reserve role last season. Mason started just 3 of 27 games, but was sixth on the team in minutes played averaging 3.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 20.5 minutes per game. Mason did make 21 of 59 attempts for 35.6% from deep while also having a solid 2.2 assist to turnover ratio for a team that went 19-9 and made the NCAA Tournament. Her experience and shooting ability makes her a valuable addition.
Sayawni Lassiter is a 5’10 point guard who transferred from Florida State where she was a four-time All-ACC academic honor roll recipient. However, Lassiter missed the 2017-2018 andentirely due to knee injuries. She did play in 18 games last season, averaging 2.7 points in 13 minutes per contest. Lassiter was voted Defensive Player of the Year for the Seminoles by the program and should fit right in with Stringer’s style of play.
In addition to the six transfers, Stringer and the coaching staff signed two players in the 2021 recruiting class in JUCO All-American Awa Sidibe and 4-star point guard Kierra Sanderlin.
Sidibe is a 5’11” guard was the two-time Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year for Salt Lake Community College in Utah. In 21 games this past season, Sidibe averaged 17.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.4 steals in 27.8 minutes per game. She led Salt Lake to an eighth consecutive SWAC regular season title. Expect Sidibe to receive additional honors as the season just concluded. She was named a NJCAA Second Team All-American and WBCA NJCAA Player of the Year after her freshman season in which she averaged 14.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.5 assists in 24.7 minutes per game. She led Salt Lake to a Region 18 Championship and was named Tournament MVP. Off the court, Sidibe perfomed at a high level academically, making the Deans List.
Sanderlin finished her high school career as an All-State selectionwhile averaging 16.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.7 assists in leading Judson high school to the Texas state semifinals. She scored 1,413 points in her scholastic career as well as 543 rebounds, 338 steals, 288 assists and 70 blocks during her Judson stint. Sanderlin can create off the dribble and finish at the rim, while also being an elite defender. She is tailor made for Rutgers and could flourish in Stringer’s system.
The eight newcomers bring plenty of talent and potential to a roster that returns veterans like returning starter Tyia Singleton, as well as reserve guards Stephanie Guihon and Joiya Maddox. In addition, four members of the acclaimed 2020 top ten recruiting class return in center Sakima Walker, who was invited to USA Basketball U19 World Cup Team Trials this summer, as well as power forward Chyna Cornwell, wing Erica Lafayette and guard Liz Martino.
While the Scarlet Knights will have a much different roster for next season, the talent level and versatility of the personnel remains strong. Stringer will have plenty of options off the bench with lots of experience as well. The real key to next season is establishing strong team chemistry and developing cohesive lineups that play well together. Rutgers should certainly be in contention to finish in the top half of the Big Ten and for another NCAA Tournament bid next season. It will be interesting to watch this team establish themselves in non-conference play, which will include a trip to the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands.
A major key is for Brown, Petree and Morris to remain productive while adjusting to the step up to a high major conference. Getting contributions from Mason and Lassiter in their second year removed from major injuries is important as well. The entire team needs to buy in and accept their new roles.
Stringer deserves a ton of credit for adapting to the changing culture within college basketball and finding so many potential contributors on the transfer portal this offseason. While the transfer of Diamond Johnson, as well as Tekia Mack, Zippy Broughton and Mael Gilles were significant losses, she did a good job of restocking the roster. With just one freshman, Stringer has a veteran group that should be well equipped to succeed under her tutelage. Now the hard part is bringing this group together as a team and continuing to foster a winning culture within the program. With summer workouts underway, next season’s journey has begun.