Evina Westbrook is reminder Lady Vols often fall short of UConn at point guard
Tennessee point guard Evina Westbrook transfers to UConn as the two women’s basketball programs prepare to renew their once-prominent rivalry. How appropriate.
The teams will play for the first time in 13 years next January at UConn. And, if the NCAA continues its lenient approach to transfers, Westbrook could be in the Huskies' starting lineup.
As good as the Lady Vols were in winning eight national championships, point guard play often has favored UConn, which has increased its national championship total to 11 since it last played Tennessee in January 2007.
The short list of Tennessee’s greatest players includes Candace Parker, Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Bridgette Gordon – none of whom was a point guard. Conversely, two of UConn’s best players have been point guards, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
UT has had good point guards, like Michelle Marciniak and Kara Lawson, but you wouldn’t put them in the same class with Taurasi and Bird. More recently, point guard has been a problem position for Tennessee.
But don’t assume Westbrook’s departure will exacerbate the problem. In fact, Tennessee could be better off at the position if star recruit Jordan Horston makes a smooth transition from high school to college.
Horston, who was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game, might not match Westbrook’s 14.9-point scoring average in 2018-19, but she was a spectacular passer in high school. She has the potential to make everyone else on the team better. As talented as Westbrook is, she didn’t consistently elevate the play of her teammates at UT.
In fact, if the NCAA grants Westbrook immediate eligibility, don’t expect to see her at point guard on a full-time basis.
Crystal Dangerfield, already a two-year starter as UConn's point guard, will be back for her senior season. Also, the Huskies have added Polish point guard Anna Makurat to the 2019 recruiting class.
Paige Bueckers, the No. 1 ranked player in the 2020 recruiting class – and another point guard – has committed to the Huskies. So has Croatian point guard Nika Muhl.
The Huskies shouldn’t have to worry about that position for the next five years. Perhaps Horston will stabilize the position at Tennessee for the next four years.
Horston’s passing skills should create more scoring opportunities for her teammates – if they can capitalize. Coach Kellie Harper’s first Tennessee team will enter the 2019-20 season with both its post play and outside shooting in question.
The Lady Vols will rely on first-time players to solidify their inside game.
UT signed two 6-foot-5 recruits, Tamari Key and Emily Saunders. They also added 6-3 transfer Jaiden McCoy, who played at Farragut. Lou Brown is a 6-foot-3 forward who redshirted this past season after transferring from Washington State.
UConn isn’t well stocked at the post, either. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who averaged only 14 minutes per game, probably will start. So might Murray State graduate transfer Evelyn Adebayo, who averaged 18.2 points and 11.4 rebounds last season. She scored 28 points in a 98-77 loss to Tennessee season.
But unless Horston excels right away, UConn’s biggest advantage against Tennessee next season could be at point guard. Nothing new about that.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.
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