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Sunday March 26th

Four fresh faces look to lift UNC women's basketball team in upcoming season

UNC redshirt sophomore guard Ariel Young (11) dribbles the ball up-court  off a fast break against Florida State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. UNC fell to Florida State 61-51.
Buy Photos UNC redshirt sophomore guard Ariel Young (11) dribbles the ball up-court off a fast break against Florida State on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. UNC fell to Florida State 61-51.

In the new age of the transfer portal, the offseason is a time of turnover for many teams across college sports.

So, when the North Carolina women's basketball team didn’t add a single transfer this offseason, many wondered why. As head coach Courtney Banghart explained, the Tar Heels didn’t need one.

"I'm committed to ensuring that whatever I need to do through the portal or through recruiting to have the best Carolina team I can every year, I'm going to do that," Banghart said. "And this is what I felt we needed this year."

With three players from last season’s roster returning from injury and the addition of a highly-rated recruit, Banghart believes these newcomers are more than enough to fill any holes left behind from last year's squad. 

Here are the new faces that could be seen on the court this year. 

Kayla McPherson

Of all the additions, rising redshirt first-year Kayla McPherson has the best chance to crack the starting lineup. 

The former top-20 recruit in the class of 2021 was sidelined last year while still recovering from a knee injury that she had suffered in high school. Despite the setback, McPherson used her redshirt season to increase her basketball IQ and understanding of the game.

“It really gave me a chance to learn off the court,” she said. “I learned a lot of details about the game that I wasn’t learning while I was playing.”

With the departure of last year’s starting point guard Carlie Littlefield, McPherson is primed to take over the starting duties. The 2021 McDonald’s All-American’s ability to score from all three levels provides the Tar Heels a legitimate offensive threat at the one spot.

“I’m ready to step up and play that position,” McPherson said. “I know Banghart’s going to trust me.”

Teonni Key

Standing at six-foot-four, rising redshirt first-year Teonni Key is a unicorn of a player.

With her unique combination of strong ball handling and shooting skills at the forward position, and her understanding of when to use her height to hurt opponents near the basket, Key is a multifaceted talent. 

“A lot of my time last year I spent watching Alyssa Ustby play,” Key said. “I like her game a lot. I see myself bringing to the team someone who can play all around.” 

The Cary, N.C. native headlined North Carolina’s 2021 recruiting class that included McPherson and rising sophomore Destiny Adams. If Key can live up to her ranking as the No. 9 overall prospect in the country, the Tar Heels could have one of the more talented frontcourts in the nation this year. 

Ariel Young and Paulina Paris

A mixture of youth and experience round out the Tar Heels’ newcomers.

Incoming first-year guard Paulina Paris recently arrived on campus, which will add another weapon to an already loaded arsenal of UNC guards. With Deja Kelly and Eva Hodgson returning for their junior and redshirt senior seasons, respectively, Paris may not carve out much playing time this season.

On the other hand, Ariel Young will return for her redshirt senior year after suffering a season-ending injury during the 2021 preseason. Though limited to around 8 minutes per game in the lone season Young was healthy with the Tar Heels, the redshirt guard stands as one of three seniors rostered by UNC — a role she understands will put her in a new leadership position this year.

“I’m going to be there for my teammates, because being a good teammate is part of being a good leader,” Young said. “My next step to take, and coach Banghart would probably agree, is to use my voice more.”


@dthsports |


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