WATCH: ‘A very stressful 7 hours’: How one player’s sudden decision might shape the future of Northwestern women’s basketball

Maggie Pina celebrates reaching 1,000 points in her college career with her Northwestern teammates on Jan. 14.
Casey Harter (left), Crystal Wang (center-left) and Melannie Daley (right) of the Northwestern women’s basketball team congratulate Maggie Pina (center-right) on reaching 1,000 points in her career on Jan. 14. (Mary Grace Grabill/NORTHWESTERN ATHLETICS).

By King Jemison
Medill Reports

There are hundreds of graduate transfers throughout women’s college basketball this season. But at Northwestern, there’s only been one in  at least the past 16 years: Maggie Pina. 

Pina entered the transfer portal in May and committed to Northwestern within a few hours. Her sudden arrival has provided a major boost to the 2023-24 Wildcats season — and may open the door for future grad transfers to follow.

[Video of Maggie Pina at Northwestern women’s basketball practice plays]

JEMISON: Maggie Pina’s path to Northwestern began with a random conversation among her Boston University teammates. 

MAGGIE PINA, Northwestern graduate transfer guard: We were talking about some of the transfers coming in onto the field hockey team. And something just clicked. 

I decided one afternoon around 4 p.m. that I wanted to enter the transfer portal, and by 5 p.m. I’d contacted my administrator and had already entered.

JEMISON: Coming off a decorated two-sport career at BU, Pina became one of over 300 grad transfers in women’s college basketball this season. 

[Video of Pina making a shot while at Boston University plays]

But at Northwestern, she’s one of a kind — the first grad transfer in head coach Joe McKeown’s 16-year tenure. 

PINA: I reached out to a bunch of different schools. Northwestern was the first one to get back to me. [Assistant coach Tangela Smith] got back to me within an hour or so of me having emailed them.

MAGGIE LYON, Northwestern assistant coach: Something that specifically I love about Maggie is like she knows what she wants.  

And so when she emailed us and we looked at her stuff, and we had a couple conversations with her AAU coach and college coach, it was just seemed like a fit right away.

JEMISON: Before midnight on the same day she entered the transfer portal, she had committed to Northwestern. 

PINA: So that was a very stressful seven hours, I think. 

NARRATOR: Since arriving in Evanston, Pina has made a tremendous impact, even reaching 1,000 points for her career. 

JASMINE MCWILLIAMS, Northwestern senior guard: She’s a great shooter. I just know if I’m giving her the ball – and I’m usually the person who’s crashing, but sometimes I don’t crash because I know she’s going to make it.  

LYON: She’s almost like a second coach. She sees things that we’re saying, and she tries to tell people on the baseline.

JEMISON: Her success may open the door for more grad transfers to head to Northwestern. 

[Video of Pina hitting a shot for Northwestern vs. Iowa plays]

MCWILLIAMS: I don’t know if there is a lot of opportunity for grad transfers, but every other school is doing it. I think it’s a real benefit for us to keep doing it. Maggie was a great addition. 

PINA: I think that having a grad transfer … you need them to be able to lead in a way that you can’t always ask of a freshman. 

So hopefully he’ll be able to find other grad transfers who want to do that, and I hope this is as good of an experience for them as it has been for me. 

JEMISON: Even Northwestern coaches say they’re more likely to consider future grad transfers after working with Maggie Pina. 

[Video of Pina hitting a shot for Northwestern vs. Southeast Missouri State plays]

In Evanston, I’m King Jemison for Medill Reports. 

King Jemison is in the sports media specialization at Medill. You can follow him on X @king_jemison