State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (2024)

Utah women’s basketball is taking momentum with it into the Big 12 Conference.

The Utes have made the NCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons, advancing to the Sweet 16 two years ago, while also becoming one of the top programs in a talent-laden Pac-12.

With the breakup of that conference, though, Utah is heading to a new league along with three other former Pac-12 peers.

That’s not the only change the team is embracing. Gone is All-American Alissa Pili, as well as two other key veterans, though the Utes have found pieces this offseason to help fill the gaps on what will be another upperclassman-heavy squad.

What does Utah’s roster look like for the 2024-25 season?

Here’s a look at who’s back, who’s gone and what talent is coming into the Utah program as the Utes set to make their Big 12 debut.

State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (1)

Scholarship players who won’t be returning

  • Alissa Pili, F — exhausted eligibility, drafted by WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx
  • Dasia Young, F — exhausted eligibility
  • Issy Palmer, G — exhausted eligibility
  • Lani White, G — transferred to Virginia Tech
  • Daniela Falcon Hernandez, F — transferred to UC Irvine

Utah lost a significant amount of experience with Pili, Young and Palmer exhausting their college eligibility. Pili’s absence will be the most visible — she’s been a star for the Utes the past two seasons and her presence can’t simply be replaced by one person.

Pili was the Pac-12 Player of the Year her first year at Utah after transferring from USC, and last season she averaged a career-high 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

The losses of Young and Palmer can’t be understated, either.

Young was a reliable post player who started 25 career games at Utah and finished her time last season by averaging a career-best 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Her most memorable moment as a senior was hitting the game-winner to beat top 10 Colorado.

Palmer missed most of her senior season due to injury, an unfortunate end for a memorable career. She started 21 games at Utah and was an instrumental part of the program’s NCAA Tournament teams her sophom*ore and junior seasons.

The Utes lost only two players to the transfer portal. White was a role player and one of the first Utes off the bench in her two seasons there, while Hernandez redshirted her true freshman season last year.

Coaching staff sticks together

Unlike their Utah men’s basketball counterparts, the women’s coaching staff didn’t undergo any changes this offseason.

That’s a big plus for Lynne Roberts and company as they head into a new conference with aspirations to improve upon the postseason success they’ve had the past three years.

Gavin Petersen, Jarise Freeman and Jordan Sullivan lead a support staff that has proven instrumental in the program’s upward trajectory.

State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (2)

Who’s on the 2024-25 roster for Utah women’s basketball

  • Kennady McQueen, G, senior
  • Jenna Johnson, F, senior
  • Ines Vieira, G, senior
  • Maye Toure, F, senior
  • Nene Sow, C, senior
  • Gianna Kneepkens, G, junior
  • Chyra Evans, F, junior
  • Matyson Wilke, G, junio
  • Samantha Crispe, F, junior.
  • Reese Ross, F, sophom*ore
  • Alyssa Blank, F, sophom*ore
  • Brooke Walker, G, freshman
  • Kylie Ray, G, freshman
  • Grace Foster, G, freshman

There a good mix of youth and experience on this year’s Utes roster.

Yes, Utah will have to move on without a generational talent in Pili as well as strong veterans like Young and Palmer. That doesn’t mean the Utes don’t have plenty of leadership to lean on, though.

Utah is returning 58.4% of its scoring production from last season — an impressive number considering the loss of Pili — and has three three-year starters in Gianna Kneepkens, Jenna Johnson and Kennady McQueen.

Kneepkens was off to another strong start last year before a broken foot six games into the season ended her season. She averaged career-highs in points (17.8), rebounds (5.5) and assists (3.9) before the injury and was able to recoup a year of eligibility from the lost season by using a medical redshirt.

A healthy Kneepkens — who shot 63.3% from the floor and 54% from 3 last year — is the team’s top scoring option next season, with her fellow three-year starters, Johnson and McQueen, expected to provide key leadership for this year’s team yet again.

Johnson is the team’s most veteran front court presence, as she has started every one of the 97 games she’s played at Utah. Last season, Johnson averaged 8.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.

McQueen made a team-high 67 3-pointers last season while averaging career-highs in points (10.7), rebounds (4.2) and assists (3.1).

Meanwhile, Maty Wilke came on strong at the end of last season, in particular, after transferring from Wisconsin and should be improved in her second season in Salt Lake City.

That’s encouraging after she averaged 9.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game during Pac-12 play.

State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (3)

Then there’s Ines Vieira, the plucky point guard who was constantly a headache for opposing teams. She shined in the starting lineup last year, both as a facilitator and a defender, and will be counted on again to provide leadership in the backcourt.

Reese Ross was a tough role player who came off the bench for Utah as a true freshman. She, along with Sam Crispe, should have a larger role in this year’s group.

Chyra Evans and Maye Toure were brought in from the transfer portal to help offset the loss of Pili, and both are expected to be key pieces to Utah’s front court plan.

Evans started 23 games for Michigan last season and averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds, while Toure, who originally committed to Maryland as a grad transfer before flipping to Utah, averaged career-highs of 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds last year at Rhode Island.

Blanck and Sow are both depth pieces who have now spent multiple years in the program.

Then there are three freshmen, all in the backcourt.

Walker and Ray are rated four-star talents by ESPN, while Foster comes to Utah from Australia, where she’s faced pro-level talent.

With so much veteran leadership on this year’s team again, consistent minutes could be tough to find this year for the trio, though it’s not unexpected for at least one of them to find Ross-type minutes as a freshman.

Ross averaged 11.5 minutes per game in the 2023-24 season.

State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (4)

What does the positional depth look like right now?

With the roster standing at 14 players, here’s a possible look at position depth for the Utes this season:

  • PG: Vieira, Ray
  • CG: McQueen, Wilke, Walker
  • Wing: Kneepkens, Ross, Foster
  • F: Johnson, Crispe, Blanck
  • F: Toure, Evans, Sow

With a veteran-heavy group at guard, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Utes use an extra guard in the lineup over a second front court player for extended periods.

How ready is Utah’s roster for the Big 12?

The Utes should be among the top teams in the Big 12 during their first year in the league.

Utah got a sampling of what Big 12 basketball is like at the elite level last year when the Utes played at Baylor and lost in a close matchup between two top 25 teams.

While the Big 12 lost two potential top 15 programs in Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, it’s adding three teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year in Utah, Colorado and Arizona, along with Arizona State.

In ESPN’s way-too-early top 25 rankings, the Utes are ranked No. 22, behind four other Big 12 schools, with Baylor at No. 9, Iowa State at No. 10, Kansas State at No. 14 and West Virginia at No. 16.

If the transfer pieces can come in and make big contributions, and if the Utes can stay healthier this year, Utah has a savvy, experienced roster that could compete for a Big 12 title in its first season in the league.

Recruiting for the future

Utah already has a four-star talent committed to the program next year — the story of Oklahoma native Avery Hjelmstad flying to Salt Lake City to surprise Roberts with her commitment made social media waves back in April.

Hjelmstad, a guard, is rated the No. 48 prospect in the country in the 2025 recruiting class, according to ESPN.

The Utes are also shooting for several other top-end recruits in the upcoming classes.

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A week and a half ago, 247 Sports’ Dushawn London reported that five-star recruit Leonna Sneed will be taking an official visit to Utah this Saturday.

The point guard is rated the No. 26 player in the 2025 class by ESPN.

Utah is one of more than two dozen schools that have offered wing Taliyah Henderson of Arizona, a five-star prospect and rated by ESPN as the No. 21 recruit in the 2025 class, while the Utes have also been pursuing another top wing, Ashlyn Koupal, the 20th-ranked recruit in the 2026 class.

The Utes also offered a 2026 four-star player with a familiar last name. On June 2, point guard Kate Harpring, the daughter of former Utah Jazz forward Matt Harpring, announced she had received an offer from the Utes.

After a great conversation with @UtesCoachRob I am excited and thankful to receive and offer from @UTAHWBB !!! Can’t wait to build our relationship! pic.twitter.com/7RPlGLnyvL

— Kate Harpring (@Kate_Harpring26) June 3, 2024
State of Utah women’s basketball: How the roster is shaping up with Big 12 membership closing in (2024)

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