When decorated point guard Hailey Van Lith announced she would be transferring to LSU, she shocked the college basketball world.
After all, she helped lead the Louisville Cardinals to the Final Four of the 2022 NCAA tournament and to the Elite Eight in 2023. So it’s not like she was leaving a bad basketball program to go join LSU, the 2023 national champions.
It was one of the first times fans had seen a college basketball player chase a ring in that way.
According to LSU Country, Van Lith has had a relationship with LSU coach Kim Mulkey since high school.
“The fan base and university here love and support their women’s basketball team like no other,” Van Lith said. “I cannot wait to play for this incredible community. LSU plays with an intensity and grit that I am drawn to and I am wholeheartedly committed to helping this team be great.”
Another groundbreaking move Hailey Van Lith accomplished with her transfer from Louisville to LSU was revealed on Wednesday.
While Van Lith will wear Nike gear on the court for LSU, as they sponsor the Tigers, she won’t stop promoting Adidas through social media campaigns and initiatives, reports on3.com.
“Hailey Van Lith is a phenomenal partner and remains in a Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) agreement with Adidas,” the brand told ESPN’s Nick DePaula. “We’re looking forward to our continued partnership.”
While Van Lith isn’t the first college athlete to have a NIL deal with a shoe company that doesn’t sponsor the school she plays for, she is easily the biggest name to do so.
Van Lith’s new teammate Flau’jae Johnson actually has a deal with Puma, which she had before transferring to LSU, and Stanford women’s golfer Rose Zhang also has a NIL deal with adidas while playing at a Nike school.
“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘Hey, athletes in women’s basketball that are doing really well are going to stay. Because shoot, they can make just as much or more in college than the WNBA and keep growing the brand because viewership is even higher,’” INFLCR founder and CEO Jim Cavale previously told On3.com. “We’ve seen people make that decision. But the other thing is they can make super teams because of the portal. Just like we saw super teams, going back to LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh, or going back before that with Malone, Payton, Kobe and Shaq. You could totally do that now in college, and to me, this is potentially one of the first big ones we’ve seen in women’s basketball.”
That fact, that Van Lith can make more money in college than in the WNBA, was recently condemned by Sheryl Swoopes – the first female athlete with her own signature shoe – at the Jr. NBA’s Court of Leaders mentorship program.
“I think it’s sad when college players are making more money than a professional WNBA player, it doesn’t make sense to me,” Swoopes said.