Freshman guard Ria Gulley will transfer from Indiana, the program announced Wednesday.
Gulley, a guard from San Antonio, Tex., is the second player to leave the program this offseason. Redshirt sophomore Tia Elbert said earlier this month she will graduate early and forgo her final two years of eligibility.
On the year, Gulley produced 3.1 points per outing on 37.4 percent shooting, but she did play 13.6 minutes per game and was regarded for her athleticism and her defensive potential.
Gulley’s transfer only adds to next year’s turnover in the backcourt. All-Big Ten point guard Tyra Buss returns, and the Hoosiers’ incoming freshmen class features three guards, a wing and a post.
“Ria met with me and expressed her desire to leave Indiana to move closer to her family,” IU head coach Teri Moren said in a statement. “We are grateful for the contributions she made to our program and wish her well in her future endeavors.”
Gulley added: “I’m extremely blessed to have received the opportunity to play at Indiana University. I’m nothing but thankful for the hospitality shown. However, I need to be closer to my family.”
Of this year’s freshmen class, Gulley seemed poised to have the most immediate impact. In the preseason, Moren called the 5-foot-9 combo guard the most athletic player on the roster.
Gulley went on to play the most minutes of IU’s three freshman, but her court time did fluctuate behind Buss, Alexis Gassion and Karlee McBride. Inserted into the starting lineup versus then-No. 20 Michigan, Gulley closed out the regular season with five minutes in a double-overtime win over Iowa and then two minutes at Illinois.
In fact, some of Gulley’s more memorable highlights as a Hoosier came on the bench. She once used a towel to jump rope during the Purdue game in January, a show of sideline enthusiasm Moren admired. It was also a notable contrast from Gulley’s otherwise stoic demeanor.
“It’s funny, when the lights come on at Assembly Hall there’s another Ria Gulley that appears,” Moren said in February. “We don’t get to see that side of her often because she’s in practice and if you travel with her, on the bus, playing with her, she’s very stoic. Most of the time she’s asleep, she loves her sleep. There’s something about her being at Assembly Hall because she doesn’t bring that type of energy on the road.”
Last week in an interview, Moren talked more broadly about spats of transfers in college basketball, and she wouldn’t close the door on departures from her program. Ohio State lost two freshmen, forward Tori McCoy and guard Kiara Lewis . Erin Boley, one of the top recruits in 2016, left Notre Dame. Destiny Slocum, the national freshman of the year, is transferring from Maryland.
Moren cautioned against speculation on specific transfers, but brought up homesickness as a concern.
“Nobody knows the whys,” Moren said last week. “You can speculate and say it’s homesickness, and maybe it very well could be, I know it’s one of the things we get concerned about with the kids that we have, with the distance.”
Without Elbert and Gulley, and with the graduations of Amber Deane, Tyshee Towner, Gassion and McBride, new faces will have to mesh with Buss. A highly touted ’17 class does offer a surplus of guards, including Jaelynn Penn (Louisville, Ky.), Bendu Yeaney (Portland, Ore.) and Keyanna Warthen (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Alexis Johnson (Houston, Tex.) can play the three and four spots. Linsey Marchese (Dacula, Ga.) is a 6-3 post.
Moren did express excitement about the incoming freshman class in last week’s interview. Penn was widely considered a Miss Basketball candidate in Kentucky, though the award went to Louisville recruit Lindsey Duvall. Moren said the 5-10 Yeaney “has the body and the build of a kid that’s already been in college.” She averaged 28.8 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.6 steals per game in ’16-17.
Then again, Moren said Warthen could have the highest ceiling of the Hoosiers’ five recruits. Warthen left her high school as its all-time leading scorer, producing 20.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per outing as a senior.
Penn, Yeaney and Warthen will have an opportunity to play early in ’17-18. IU also needs a point guard to take the reins from Buss in ’18-19. Former Notre Dame guard Ali Patberg, a graduate of Columbus North High School, is slated to visit IU this weekend.
“If we don’t sign another transfer in this class that’s a point guard, we have to have a 2018 kid that will come in,” Moren said. “Bendu has played a little bit of the point, Jaelynn has played a little bit of point. Obviously with the durability that Tyra has shown, she’s probably going to continue to perform at a high level, playing a lot of minutes. So we feel like we have a backup for spot minutes, if we have to there.”