The WKU women's basketball team was originally slated to return its entire 2018-19 roster — apart from three departing seniors — but head coach Greg Collins' roster will look significantly different from a year ago after a string of offseason arrivals and departures.
Rising junior guard Terri Smith and rising sophomore center Kallie Searcy are no longer with the Lady Topper program, the Herald confirmed with team spokesman Currie McFayden Wednesday evening.
Smith appeared in 28 of the team's 35 contests a year ago, averaging 1.6 points and 0.7 rebounds in 9.7 minutes per game. But her role was inconsistent down the stretch, as the guard's point totals and minutes in Collins' backcourt rotation fluctuated nightly through conference play.
Searcy was a reserve who played sparingly in 2018-19, appearing in only 14 games. She averaged 1.4 points and 0.7 rebounds in 4.1 minutes of action per contest, but played only one minute the rest of the season after a four-minute outing against North Texas on Feb. 9.
Searcy is listed on the 2019-20 roster at Chattanooga, but the Brentwood, Tennessee, native will have to sit out next season unless a waiver is obtained. Searcy previously announced her intention to leave the Lady Topper program and finish her college career elsewhere on May 25.
Rising redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer is also still enrolled at WKU despite social media rumors to the contrary, the Herald confirmed. Brewer graduated from WKU in May, but McFayden said Brewer is still with the team and will spend her last season of eligibility as a member of the 2019-20 roster.
Brewer averaged 11.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 29.8 minutes per contest last season. Brewer missed time due to illness and injury throughout the year, but still appeared in 30 games and started 24 contests for Collins while shooting 39.8% from the floor and 35.9% from the 3-point line.
Following the departures of Smith and Searcy, the list of players to leave the program early under Collins grew to four.
Rising redshirt junior forward Arame Niang transferred May 10, while point guard Jo’Nah Johnson — a highly coveted junior college transfer — was released from her signed letter of intent on June 3. It had been just over three weeks since the Lady Topper program made her addition official.
Johnson is listed on the 2019-20 roster at Texas Tech, while Niang is set to join former Lady Topper head coach Michelle Clark-Heard at Cincinnati.
Although Niang will almost certainly have to sit out next season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, she is not currently listed on the Bearcats' 2019-20 roster.
Collins’ 2019 recruiting class still included three signees following Johnson's decommitment — three-star forward Victoria Hunter, guard Torrion Starks and guard De'Myla Brown — but Collins later picked up an additional 2019 recruit with familial ties to a current member of the Lady Topper program.
Three-star guard Hya Haywood, cousin of rising redshirt freshman guard Myriah Noodel-Haywood, signed with the Lady Toppers on June 30 after announcing her commitment to WKU two weeks prior.
"Excited to say I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Western Kentucky University!" Haywood wrote in a tweet on June 16. "Thanks to all of my friends, family and coaches who supported me throughout this whole process!"
Haywood spent her senior season at Florida prep school Montverde Academy after averaging 18.6 points, 2.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game during her junior season at Evansville Central High School in Evansville, Indiana.
Although Collins ended up losing more than just seniors Jae'Lisa Allen, Sidnee Bopp and Kayla Smith from a squad that posted a 20-15 mark last season, the Lady Toppers will still feature a talented nucleus that could help WKU claim a Conference USA Tournament crown and NCAA Tournament bid.
Barring any additional transfers, WKU will return eight players from last season's squad. Nearly every key contributor will be back on the Hill, while Noodel-Haywood and forward Sandra Skinner — a senior transfer from Virginia Commonwealth — will both be eligible after sitting out last season.