Optimism is high but depth is not for the upcoming Ohio State women's basketball season.
The school announced Tuesday reserve guard Maleeka Kynard intends to transfer and use her final season of eligibility elsewhere. If she finishes her studies as planned at the end of summer semester, she will be eligible to play this fall.
Her exit leaves head coach Kevin McGuff with 12 scholarship players for next season, including only one senior.
That is Raven Ferguson, a guard/forward who will be joined by three juniors, two sophomores and six players with freshman eligibility.
Kynard, a Toledo native, played 21 games last season with one start. She averaged 3.5 points per game and handed out 26 assists.
When healthy, she provided key depth in the backcourt, but a couple of different injuries and an undisclosed health issue prevented her from playing for a couple of stretches during the season.
Her exit means only five players will return from McGuff's first season as head coach of the Buckeyes, but the addition of the nation's No. 2 recruiting class already guaranteed the squad would look much different from the unit that went 17-18 last season.
Ameryst Alston, who earned All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore guard last season, returns after leading the Buckeyes in scoring (19.0 points per game), assists (112), steals (40) and three-point percentage (37.7), but Ferguson (10.8 ppg.) was the only other double-figure scorer last season.
Alston is likely to move from point guard to the wing with the arrival of five-star prospect Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio's Associated Press Ms. Basketball last season, while Ferguson could find a spot on the perimeter or at power forward.
McGuff is also hopeful of getting back a healthy Kalpana Beach, who has missed the last two seasons because of knee injuries, in the frontcourt while national top 100 recruits Makayla Waterman and Alexa Hart are also candidates for early playing time.
There figure to be many options in the backcourt as Cait Craft returns after starting 35 games as a sophomore last season and Duke transfer Kianna Holland becomes eligible at the end of the first semester.
Also joining the mix at that time will be Shayla Cooper, who transferred from Georgetown late last year, and guard Asia Doss, a freshman from Detroit. The 6-2 Cooper has sophomore eligibility and could play power forward or on the wing in McGuff's dribble-drive motion offense.
McGuff has three scholarships open for the coming season, but the Buckeyes are unlikely to add any current high school seniors because of a desire to balance out the classes moving forward.
Ohio State could sign as many as four players in 2015. Center and small forward are points of emphasis for recruiting that class, and early targets include Toledo Notre Dame Academy forward Tierra Floyd and Chagrin Falls center Hallie Thome.
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