MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – At the same time she was graduating from Georgia Tech, Sarah Bates saw all of the changes in her surroundings.

A number of her Yellow Jackets teammates were leaving the program, either to play basketball professionally, start their post-basketball career, or find a new program to play for.

“My best friend went to the WNBA. I had roommates go play pro overseas. So, it was just time to leave,” Bates said.

The Fresno, California native didn’t know which of those groups she would find herself part of, though. Would she be leaving Atlanta to pursue a career in her field of study? Or would she keep her basketball dream alive for one more year in a new city?

“I ended up putting my name in the [transfer] portal just to see if I could get a grad year somewhere,” she said.

It wouldn’t be Bates’ first time changing programs.

She started her collegiate basketball career at UC Santa Barbara, where she averaged 10 points per game. After her freshman season, she got her first taste of life in the Big 12 as she signed on to play at Kansas State. However, she redshirted due to the NCAA’s transfer rules that were in place at the time.

Bates never suited up for the Wildcats. After one year in the Little Apple, she transitioned to Georgia Tech, where she played for three seasons.

Looking for a new team to play for, again, Bates connected with Dawn Plitzuweit, who was recently hired as West Virginia University’s next women’s basketball head coach.

“It was funny because my old coaches were like, ‘You know what, you’d like to play at South Dakota. The coaching staff, the offense, you’d love it,'” she said. “And then they end up getting the job here, and [I] end up talking to them.”

Bates signed on to play at WVU less than one month after Plitzuweit and her staff took over the program.

Along with Coach P and her coaching staff, the feel of a true college town and the fans helped bring Bates to Morgantown.

The fifth-year senior is averaging 2.8 points per game. Her best performances this year have come in front of the home crowd at the WVU Coliseum. Though at least to her, maybe her most-memorable game as a Mountaineer, thus far, was the Education Day contest against Winthrop earlier this month.

“I love kids, and I love going and helping out around the community,” said Bates. “I always end up meeting kids, or kids and their families, and taking down some contact information so me whoever, Kyah [Watson] or Tavy [Diggs], can go hang out with them – go to their school, help around, play basketball with them. … Yeah, I saw some posters. I was like, ah, so sweet.”

Bates and West Virginia return home Wednesday evening to face NC Central beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.