Like many college basketball teams across the country, the American University women’s basketball team utilizes the NCAA transfer portal to replace departing players and add depth to the team. The portal is teeming with eligible players seeking a new home after leaving their previous programs. This was the case for AU seniors Marisa Lee and Anna LeMaster, who joined the team before the 2022-23 season as juniors. Lee transferred from the University of Hartford, and LeMaster transferred from the University of Dayton.
The duo arrived as part of then-first-year head coach Tiffany Coll’s efforts to rebuild the team after losing key players from the 2022 Patriot League Championship team. Despite a challenging 2022-23 season, where the Eagles went 9-22, both Lee and LeMaster have high expectations for their second seasons at AU.
Lee, a 6’1” power forward, describes herself as a hustle player who is always eager to make a defensive stop. The senior can play in the post and run the floor for transition points. LeMaster is a quick 5’9” shooting guard who can rebound well for her position. She prefers playing off-ball, capitalizing on the great passers on her team, and prides herself on being a versatile player.
“If I don’t make a shot, that’s okay; I know I’m going to get rebounds,” LeMaster said. “I know I'm diving for the ball and I’m giving everything I have.”
Before entering college, both players excelled in the high school basketball scenes in their talent-rich home states. Lee is from Marlborough, Connecticut, and attended RHAM High School where she had an impressive career, winning the 2018 Connecticut Class L State Championship during her sophomore year and averaging a double-double during her junior year. Lee's accomplishments at RHAM and her stellar performances for her AAU team, the Connecticut Storm, led to her receiving a full scholarship offer from the University of Hartford during her junior year.
LeMaster is from Ashburn, Virginia, and attended Stone Bridge High School before transferring to Frederick, Maryland’s St. John’s Catholic Prep for her senior year. During her high school career, she earned multiple accolades including all-tournament and all-conference team honors. It only took the guard three seasons to join the 1,000-point club.
Following their 2020 high school graduations, both players were excited to make the jump to NCAA Division I basketball.
During her freshman and sophomore years at the University of Hartford, Lee was a part of the Hawks’ rotation and provided a low-post presence for the team, from time to time.
“I think I learned a lot about myself,” Lee said. “Obviously it was my freshman and sophomore year, and first time being away from home, so I think basketball and the transition into college just taught me a lot about maturity and growing up and getting out.”
As a freshman, LeMaster sat out the 2020-21 season with a medical redshirt, making her official University of Dayton debut during the 2021-22 season. She was part of a team that won the 2022 Atlantic 10 regular season championship and made it to the 2022 NCAA Tournament. LeMaster had limited playing time at the university but learned a lot during the team’s winning season.
“It was really challenging,” LeMaster said. “I think my role when I was at Dayton was to be the biggest cheerleader and to really get our starters better. I learned a lot from all of them, and I think it really did make me a smarter and better player in general.”
After gaining experience in their first two years of college, Lee and LeMaster sought new destinations for their basketball journeys and found AU.
Lee transferred to AU due to the University of Hartford’s 2022 decision to transition from a Division I athletic program to Division III. She began team activities at AU in the summer of 2022, appreciating the positive environment and quickly connecting with her new teammates.
“We practiced less so there was a lot of time spent with teammates and getting to know everybody, which was a lot of fun,” Lee said.
LeMaster transferred to AU due to the 2022 departure of Dayton’s former head coach, Shauna Green, who accepted the head coaching position at the University of Illinois. LeMaster also wanted to be closer to home. In her first season at AU, she adjusted to the college game with a larger role after having limited minutes at the University of Dayton.
“College is completely different. The pace is completely different,” LeMaster said. “The decision-making is a lot quicker here. The physicality is a lot greater in college in general. I think the main thing was just getting into the flow of the games.”
The Eagles lost to Holy Cross in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Patriot League Tournament. Both players view the 2022-23 season as a learning experience and are ready to help the team improve on issues from the past season. Lee feels that one way the team can improve this season is through working on team chemistry.
“I think we need to improve on our chemistry on the court,” Lee said. “I feel like off the court, we all get along very well, but then on the court, I feel like sometimes we don't always connect.”
Lee adds that communication is a focal point for Coll and her coaching staff this season.
“They’ve been saying since we started that we all just need to be on the same page and talk and be vocal,” Lee said.
LeMaster believes the team can improve its response to opponents’ scoring runs. She notes that Coll wants the team to work on boxing out and avoiding turnovers. LeMaster is confident that the team will come together for a successful postseason.
“I really do think we can win the Patriot League Championship,” LeMaster said. “I think we have all the right pieces and I think if we stay on the course then we can do that.”
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.