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Wisconsin women’s basketball: UW adds grad transfer Avery LaBarbera from Holy Cross

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The reigning Patriot League Player of the Year will finish her college career in Madison.

Syndication: Worcester Telegram ASHLEY GREEN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

As teams start losing in the various postseason tournaments, more and more players enter the transfer portal looking for new homes. On Sunday evening, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team got some great news as Holy Cross’ Avery LaBarbera announced that she would be using her last year of eligibility to play for Marisa Moseley’s squad.

This is a big get for the Badgers as they had an immediate need for a veteran ball-handler that could score some too with the departure of Katie Nelson to the coaching staff as a grad assistant.

“Coach Moseley’s knowledge of my game makes me eager to play at a higher level in the Big Ten and I’m excited to see how my game grows under her guidance. Madison is such a great college town and I can’t wait to start,” LaBarbera said in a release from UW.

LaBarbera comes to Madison with a sparkling resume. She is the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year, she made the first team for the Patriot League overall and first team for defense, and she was also the Patriot League Freshman of the Year after the 2018-19 season. A native of Hamilton, N.Y., LaBarbera stands at 5-foot-6 but does not play like it.

Last season she averaged 16.8 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game (!!!), 4.1 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game. She has averaged double figures in scoring during all four seasons she played at Holy Cross, with her lowest total being 11.3 ppg her freshman year.

Syndication: Worcester Telegram T&G Staff/Ashley Green via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Her shooting percentages were down during her senior season (36.3/29.6/87.1), but throughout her career she had shot better than 32% from deep and her impressive free throw shooting numbers lead me to believe that she can get back to those better percentages from beyond the arc.

LaBarbera also turned the ball over a decent amount, 2.8 per game last year, but her usage was so high (28.7%, which is in the 96th percentile according to Her Hoops Stats) that she was bound to have turnovers sometimes since she always had the ball in her hands. More importantly, her turnover percentage was only 13.6, which was good for the 84th percentile in the country, and her assist to turnover ratio was 1.45 (89th percentile).

“I am elated to have Avery join our Badger family,” said Moseley. “I had the pleasure of coaching against Avery for three years during my time at Boston University. She is a consummate competitor and a phenomenal leader. I was able to watch her growth and development throughout the course of her career and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to coach her. Badger fans are in for a treat and I can’t wait to welcome her to Madison.”

While you may be a bit skeptical of the jump from the Patriot League to the Big Ten, Holy Cross had a better HHS rating than Penn State, Wisconsin and Illinois this year and other Patriot League opponents, like Bucknell and Lehigh, were higher than Purdue, Minnesota and Rutgers. It should be noted, by the way, that the Crusaders won the Patriot League regular season title outright this year, although they lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and didn’t receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Watching some of her highlights from this season, and I think LaBarbera has high potential to be an instant fan favorite. She, as they say, appears to “have that dog” in her and doesn’t back down from a challenge.

She has a smooth, repeatable stroke from beyond the arc and she isn’t afraid to launch it from deep. She is quick, has good handles, and uses her low center of gravity to squirrel her way into the paint, and around larger defenders, to get layups. If she can get the hang of Moseley’s system quickly, she should be just the type of floor general that this Badgers team needs.

“At the end of the day, Avery’s a basketball junkie,” Holy Cross head coach Maureen Magarity said. “She really just loves the game … Every kid’s dream is to play in the NCAAs, and I think she’s definitely been motivated with that as the leader of this team.”