Stephanie Watts may yet finish her college basketball career as a four-year starter for the University of North Carolina. A sixth-year transfer who returns to the Tar Heels for the 2020-21 season after a year on the other side of the country, she just took a different route than most.
North Carolina announced Monday that Watts will return to the school after spending the 2019-20 season at USC. The NCAA granted the 5-foot-11 guard a sixth year of eligibility after injuries limited her to four games in her lone season with the Trojans.
She will be eligible immediately for the Tar Heels. She is technically classified as a graduate transfer at the school from which she graduated a year ago with a degree in public policy.
"While the injury was disappointing, I like to believe that everything happens for a reason," Watts said in a statement. "When thinking about my last season of college basketball coming up, it just didn't feel right spending it anywhere other than my alma mater. With that being said, I am overjoyed to announce I will be coming home to play my final season at UNC."
Watts was the ACC Freshman of the Year at North Carolina during the 2015-16 season. She missed the 2017-18 season with a knee injury but made 82 starts in three seasons with the Tar Heels and averaged 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Her 82 3-pointers in her final season at North Carolina is fifth in program history.
Watts was one of several North Carolina players who transferred last spring amid the school's investigation of former coach Sylvia Hatchell and the culture of the program. Hatchell resigned in late April last year and was replaced by former Princeton coach Courtney Banghart.
Among several complaints against Hatchell was that she pressured players to play through injuries. The Washington Post reported last year that Watts was among those pressured to play and practice after she sustained a torn tendon in her knee late in the 2016-17 season.