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Gophers’ Sara Scalia enters NCAA transfer portal

The Minnesota junior from Stillwater was one of 843 players in the portal on Thursday

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Minnesota’s best women’s basketball player has entered the NCAA transfer portal.

Sara Scalia, a junior guard from Stillwater, was officially in the portal Thursday morning, and if she’s the only one of coach Lindsay Whalen’s players to enter the portal, well, it will do.

“Yesterday morning, I met with Sara and she told me her intentions of entering the transfer portal,” Whalen said in a statement. “I thanked her for her contributions to the women’s basketball team and wished her well moving forward.”

A 5-foot-10 off-guard who played the point after Jasmine Powell quit the team on Jan. 28, Scalia led the Gophers in scoring this season, averaging 18 points, and added 4.3 rebounds a game. At season’s end, she ranked third nationally in 3-pointers made with 111, and 23rd in 3-point shooting percentage (41.2).

Because of the 2020-21 COVID season, Scalia has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining.

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“After long thought, consideration, and prayers with my family, I have decided it is in my best interest to enter the transfer portal for my remaining years of eligibility,” she wrote.

Division I transfers used to be required to wait a full season before playing for their new team, but that was loosened after the 2019 seasons to allow players to transfer once, for any reason, without sitting out. It started a mass exodus around the country, and has allowed programs the flexibility to change almost overnight.

In his first year as Gophers men’s coach, Ben Johnson virtually built his entire 2021-22 team through the portal. As of Thursday, there were 843 women’s basketball players in the portal, 163 from Power 5 conferences, which could help Whalen rebuild quickly. She lost five seniors to graduation, and now Scalia.

The Gophers finished the season 15-18 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten Conference in Whalen’s fourth season. The former Gophers All-American from Hutchinson, Minn., and four-time WNBA champion with the Lynx signed a three-year contract extension this month that keeps her at her alma mater through 2025-26.

Her incoming freshman class was ranked No. 10 nationally by ESPN and features the No. 28 overall prospect in Wayzata point guard Maura Braun. She will be joined by Hopkins guard Amaya Battle, 6-1 forward Mallory Heyer of Chaska and Eden Prairie forward Niamya Holloway.

“These past three years have been a dream come true to be able to represent my home state,” Scalia wrote in Thursday’s post. “I would like to thank the coaching staff for allowing me to live out my college dreams. To my teammates, thank you for all the memories. They will be with me for a lifetime.”

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