Less than a week after Georgia Tech named Nell Fortner as its new women’s basketball coach, the team’s two most promising players have transferred to Louisville.
Guard Elizabeth Balogun, the ACC rookie of the year, and forward Elizabeth Dixon, named to the ACC all-freshman team, have transferred to the rival ACC school, Louisville announced Sunday.
At her introductory news conference this past Wednesday, Fortner said that keeping the roster intact was her No. 1 priority. That effort may have been most directed at Balogun and Dixon, who were both McDonald’s All-American selections and two of the most significant signees of former coach MaChelle Joseph’s 16-year tenure.
Dixon had already entered the transfer portal at the time of Fortner’s hire, and it was believed that Balogun had also. Balogun led Tech and all ACC freshmen with 14.6 points per game. Dixon averaged 11.0 points per game and 6.4 rebounds, the latter of which led all ACC freshmen.
At least two other Yellow Jackets players are known to have entered the transfer portal, starting guards Francesca Pan and Kierra Fletcher. Pan was Tech’s second leading scorer and a starter in each of her first three seasons. Fletcher started in both of her first two seasons and was named to the ACC’s all-freshman team in 2017-18. Fletcher will leave Tech, according to her AAU coach Jarvis Mitchell, while Pan was investigating her options, according to a person familiar with her decision.
Both Balogun and Dixon attended Fortner’s news conference, when she made her case for why team members should stay at Tech. Players who transfer would have to adjust to both a new coach and a new team, while they would only have to learn a new coach if they were to stay.
Fortner said she and her staff “plan to help them be champions on- and off- the court.” She went so far as to say that “I hope everyone will help and encourage them to stay right here.”
Joseph left behind a group with potential. Tech finished 17-13, and all five starters had eligibility remaining. At Fortner’s news conference, athletic director Todd Stansbury said that the Jackets, in his mind, were a Sweet 16 team.
However, the desire to start anew elsewhere would be understandable. Joseph was fired after players brought forward concerns of mistreatment and an investigation found that players said that Joseph was mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive. Joseph has denied the allegations.
Balogun and Dixon join a powerhouse. The Cardinals have reached the Sweet 16 nine times in coach Jeff Walz’s 12 seasons and have shared the past two ACC regular-season titles. Louisville had three players selected in Wednesday’s WNBA draft, including No. 2 pick Asia Durr, a graduate of St. Pius.
Both Balogun and Dixon have three years of eligibility remaining. Given the circumstances of Joseph’s firing, they would seem clear candidates to receive immediate eligibility though hardship waivers.
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