Last season, guard Kateri Poole went from a young playmaker off the bench to a starter for the Ohio State women’s basketball team. Poole stepped into a role vacated by an injured Madison Greene, who was out before the season even began with a knee injury. A year after an up and down season ended, Poole is an NCAA champion.
The conversation surrounding the NCAA title game on Sunday landed somewhere near the Iowa Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark losing despite a historic tournament run, who is and is not allowed to taunt on the court and a historic win for the LSU Tigers basketball program. What isn’t gaining as much traction is the role the transfer portal had to play in the championship.
LSU entered the 22-23 season losing their biggest, most productive names. Guard Khayla Pointer and center Faustine Aifuwa each graduated and entered the 2022 WNBA Draft. There were nine other departures including graduations and transfers, and the Tigers were looking at a full rebuild.
Filling space, literally and figuratively, was forward Angel Reese. The former Maryland Terrapin freshman star joined head coach Kim Mulkey’s LSU team and was nothing short of game changing. Despite playing a weak non-conference schedule, as a means to gel practically a brand new team together, Reese averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds per game.
While not in the same realm of productivity as Reese, Poole was another name from the Big Ten who transferred to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and helped the LSU Tigers turn the NCAA on its head.
Poole entered the Ohio State program in the 20-21 season out of Bronx, New York. The guard’s abilities included finding holes in the defense and driving into the lane. Plus the ball handling that allowed Poole to move around defenders, creating lanes herself.
During the 21-22 season, when the Buckeyes needed a starting point guard, Poole stepped into that role following a 20 appearance, five start, freshman season. Poole started 13 games in a row for Ohio State, averaging 7.2 points and 3.5 assists in 21 minutes per game.
Against the Northwestern Wildcats on Jan. 9, 2022, Poole suffered a minor shoulder injury in the game. Poole didn’t play again until Jan. 27, but at that point it was too late to get back into the starting lineup. That’s when guard Jacy Sheldon shifted to point guard and the rest is history.
The Buckeyes won the Big Ten regular season championship and defeated the LSU Tigers in the NCAA Tournament’s Second Round, in Louisiana. The run ended there, with Ohio State losing to the Texas Longhorns by three points in the Sweet Sixteen. That’s when Poole transferred.
Often times, mostly from fans of a university, when a player transfers out there’s frustration, anger and bad jokes.
Also, if you are someone who comments “who” when a player enters the portal of the team you follow…let’s leave the comedy to the professionals— Bucketheads (@BucketheadsLGPN) March 30, 2023
It was clear once Sheldon slid into the role that head coach Kevin McGuff had the lineup he wanted. In response, Poole made a decision that every coach and team official had the right to do before the players received the transfer portal in 2018, and went to a team where she had a better chance of competing.
Poole did what any college player has the right and privilege to do these days: Transfer to a school where they can maximize their college playing potential. Poole did that leaving Ohio State.
When Poole arrived at LSU, it wasn’t as seamless of a transition as Reese’s move to stardom. Poole started one game of the regular season but once the NCAA Tournament began, coach Mulkey saw something in the guard and put her in the lineup when it mattered most — in the postseason.
The guard started the last five games of the season for the Tigers. On Sunday, Poole hit two three-point shots in the first quarter and got LSU off to a start it ran with all the way to the Division I National Championship.
Poole’s teammates weren’t mad or spiteful at their former fellow Buckeye for the coveted hardware. Instead, they poured out their support for Poole. Look at any post from Poole across social media and there’s a sea of current members of the Scarlet & Gray in support.
Now, Poole joins another fellow Buckeye who made the best decision for themselves, NFL quarterback Joe Burrow. Both found the biggest hardware at the college level with the Tigers.