As a result of the Ivy League preventing graduate students from competing, several former Penn basketball players transferred at the close of the 2021-22 season to pursue opportunities to play out their collegiate careers elsewhere.
Here’s how these former Quakers fared with their respective teams during the 2022-23 season.
Jelani Williams, Howard University
Williams became the lone ex-Quaker — or Quaker in general — to reach the NCAA Tournament this season. As a No. 16 seed, Howard, in its first NCAA Tournament since 1992, faced Kansas in the opening round and fell 96-68 despite holding a one-point lead nearly 14 minutes into the first half. In 16 minutes of action, Williams contributed four points on 2-9 shooting from the field in addition to three rebounds.
Across the entire season, the guard was one of only two players to play in all 35 of the Bison’s games, averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. His signature performance came in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title game, where Williams scored a team-high 20 points and, in a one-point win, nailed two clutch free throws to give the Bison the victory and a berth in March Madness.
During his time at Penn, Williams struggled to reach the floor after suffering three consecutive ACL tears and missing a season due to COVID-19. Finally, last season, he managed to play in and start 25 of the Red and Blue's games, finishing second in steals (29) and third in assists (51).
Mia Lakstigala, George Washington University
After earning the Big 5 Most Improved Player award her senior year, Lakstigala continued her ascent in her final collegiate season. With the Colonials, Lakstigala notched a career-high 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds last year with the Red and Blue. However, her season ended in the Atlantic 10 Championship Quarterfinals with George Washington's 12-point loss to Rhode Island.
“I just think when you really take a look at the people that you’re around every day and how they carry themselves and handle their business and do well, she’s somebody that if I’m watching I’m looking at ‘Wow, how does she do all of those things and remain the person who she is.’ So, I’m thankful for this year with her,” Lakstigala's coach Caroline McCombs said to The Next.
Bryce Washington, Hofstra University
Due to an injury his sophomore year, Washington was largely absent from the rotation during his final two seasons with the Quakers — only playing in 21 total games across the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons. At Hofstra, however, Washington managed to see the floor 28 times, averaging 10.9 minutes, 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
In his first game with the Pride, Washington achieved something Penn hasn’t since 2018: beat Princeton. Hofstra muscled out an 83-77 win at Jadwin Gymnasium Nov. 7, with Washington seeing 16 minutes of court time. Though the Pride fell in the semifinal of their conference championship, Washington and Hofstra opted to play in the National Invitational Tournament, where they took down Rutgers in a thrilling overtime victory before falling to Cincinnati in the second round.
Nikola Kovacikova, Cal Poly
With the third team of her college career, Kovacikova’s season ended rather abruptly — likely due to injury. The guard played in 12 games, starting eight of them, with her last action of the season coming on Jan. 7 against UC Santa Barbara. But in those dozen contests, Kovacikova averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds.
During her sole season at Penn, she started her first eight games — playing more than 20 minutes in each of the first six — before coming off the bench the rest of the year, where her minutes saw a notable drop to mostly single digits. Kovacikova finished the season with a 2.9-point, 1.6-rebound average.