Espinoza-Hunter cleared to play for MSU women


Staff Writer

Mississippi State’s chances of making another Southeastern Conference Championship run just got much better on Wednesday afternoon.

The news came in during the late evening hours that coach Vic Schaefer’s team got an addition in the form of Connecticut transfer and former five-star recruit Andra Espinoza-Hunter. After previously being considered to redshirt this season because she would have to sit for the transfer, the NCAA ruled this week that she would be immediately eligible, beginning with No. 6 MSU’s game at Virginia Friday night.

"I am really happy for Andra,"  Schaefer said in a school release. "I think the right decision was made, and we are really appreciative to everyone involved who spent time on this. Andra has worked extremely hard and has been great since the day she stepped foot on campus. She has prepared herself for this moment and will be ready to step in right away." 

In high school, Espinoza-Hunter was New York Gatorade Player of the Year and the No. 16 prospect nationally She racked up 36.9 points per game, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and three steals over the course of her high school career and was able to land with the top program in women’s college basketball at UConn.

Espinoza-Hunter played just seven games last season for the Huskies as a freshman before transferring after the fall semester and taking online courses during the spring. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma’s comments after Espinoza-Hunter’s transfer could perhaps give insight into how she was deemed eligible right away.

“The kid that’s not there anymore … she’s not there anymore because I didn’t want her there anymore,” Auriemma said. “It had nothing to do with her not liking it here, not fitting in, or playing time. I just didn’t want her here anymore. We have a simple rule at Connecticut. This is what I want you to do. If you don’t do it, I’m gonna remind you again, and if you don’t do it, I’m gonna remind you again. Until a point I don’t remind you, and you’re not here anymore.”

UConn’s loss becomes MSU’s gain as Espinoza-Hunter gives them an immediate impact player this year as opposed to waiting a full season for her help.

The Bulldogs lost the top four 3-point shooters from the last two Final Four runs and Chloe Bibby is the top returning shooter after making just 15 outside shots last year. Espinoza-Hunter changes many things for MSU right away beyond just another body. She is a pure scorer that can create offense from the outside and will free up Teaira McCowan and Anriel Howard in the post much more than the current lineup does at this point.

She explained to 247Sports last year what she brings to the table.

“Probably stepping in and being a playmaker is where I fit the best,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “Hopefully, I will fill the shoes that (Victoria Vivians), (Morgan William), Blair (Schaefer) and (Roshunda Johnson) will leave. Tori is such an amazing player and hopefully I can reach some of the heights she has.

“My biggest strength is scoring. Shooting is my strong point. I also try to get my teammates involved. I focused on that my senior year and got better at that.”

The Bulldogs have one final transfer still trying to get immediate eligibility and that is former Ole Miss center Promise Taylor. There is no timeline on when MSU will have the news on her ruling.