One of the top scorers for the Kansas women’s basketball team this past season, forward Tina Stephens won’t be coming back for a super-senior season next year.
Head coach Brandon Schneider said Tuesday during a video press conference that Stephens, who opted out of her senior season in February, will move on from the Jayhawks.
KU reserves Brittany Franklin, Bailey Helgren and Emma Merriweather also opted out earlier in the season. Even at the time Schneider wasn’t expecting any of the three to come back to KU, with the help of the NCAA’s blanket waiver for an extra year of eligibility. He wasn’t sure what would come of Stephens’ future until after the season.
“They will all graduate either this May or in the summer, and they will not return,” Schneider said of Stephens, Franklin, Hellgren and Merriweather.
Stephens, listed at 6-foot-2, averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Jayhawks (7-18 overall), while playing in 17 games and starting 14 this past year.
Since KU’s season concluded with a narrow loss to TCU in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament on March 11, Schneider said no other players have left the program. That’s a development that encouraged the team’s head coach, considering the way many players across college athletics are making use of the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“We had 11 players finish the season with our program and have not had any of those 11 put their names in the transfer portal,” Schneider said.
While the Jayhawks will return most of the core players from their rotation and have three freshmen lined up to join for the 2021-22 season, Schneider noted KU also still has an open scholarship it can use. He said the staff is “actively recruiting” players he thinks “can come in and impact our program” next year.
KU will bring back two of its three best scorers from this past year, guards Holly Kersgieter (17 points per game) and Zakiyah Franklin (9.9 points), as well as its top rebounder, forward Ioanna Chatzileonti (7.1 rebounds a game). Kersgieter and Franklin will be juniors, while Chatzileonti will be a sophomore.
Although Schneider said he has been able to meet Travis Goff since KU hired its new athletic director in early April, their conversations about the women’s basketball program haven’t yet been too in depth.
Schneider said most of their interactions so far have come in group settings with other head coaches and/or athletic department staff during meetings.
“I know that he’s still in the transition phase of getting to Lawrence and he’s got some big things on his plate right now,” Schneider said, referencing KU’s football coaching search. “But I do look forward to the opportunity to spend more time with him individually.”
The head coach at KU since 2015, Schneider has a record of 61-115 after six seasons with the Jayhawks.