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Rob's Season Review Part III

** Alana Beard 5-11 G/F Fr 17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 spg.
3.8 apg, 1 bpg, 51% FG, 79% FT

Notable 2001 Achievments: First Team All-ACC
ACC Rookie of the Year
ACC All-Freshmen
ACC Tournament First Team
Kodak District II All-American
Honorable Mention AP All-American
NCAA All-West Regional
National Freshman of the Year (Women's Basketball
Journal, USBWA, WBNS, SI For Women, CBS Sportsline,
Team Practice Player of the Year

Season Recap: What's left to be said about Alana's wondrous first season?
Hopefully, the best is yet to come. The greatest thing about evaluating
Beard is that her weaknesses are easy to identify and correct, with the
proper amount of dedication. The most obvious one is shooting. She has nice
form on her pull-up jumper, but simply has no confidence in her shot beyond
15'. Taking a thousand threes a day during the summer should help to
remedy that. The second weakness is strength. Jackie Stiles overpowered
her in the NCAA's, and the truth is that if Alana was stronger, she'd get
even more three point play opportunities. And like most freshmen, Alana
turned the ball over too much. Sometimes this was as a result of bad
passes, but mostly it was being careless with the ball off the dribble. The
last weakness is more of an intangible. Alana is clearly an unselfish
and humble player in many ways. She blew past the freshman assist record
and is on pace to be #2 in assists all-time. She also deflected credit
to others. But one gets the sense that she's sometimes in her own universe,
basketball-wise. Alana sometimes took over games to the extent where her
teammates started to stand around and watch her. Now, that's partly their
fault for not asserting themselves, but Alana has to learn one important
thing: how to make your teammates better. The great ones could do this,
and it's up to Alana to find ways to get everyone involved next year.

This will be especially important because I suspect Beard will be the
starting point guard on next year's team. She'll have to subordinate the
number of shots that she takes in order to get the rest of the team
involved. This will mean both cajoling Mosch into taking more shots and
keeping Tillis happy. Plus, there will be two very talented frosh coming
into the ranks, looking to follow Beard's lead. As point guard, the burden
of leadership will fall squarely on her shoulders. Her talents are obvious,
but how will she do in managing egos, including her own?

All that aside for the moment, it's time to spend a few moments praising
Alana's accomplishments. She pretty much rewrote the freshman record
books, finishing first in points, assists, steals, and double-figure scoring
games. She was second in points per game, third in free throw %, fourth
in blocked shots, and seventh in rebounds. Beard wiped out records that had
stood for 15 years or longer. And of course, she set Duke's single-season
steal record, obliterating the old one by over 30. Need I mention the fact
that she did this despite missing four games? All this led up to National
Freshman of the Year honors, a first at Duke.

Alana is successful, first and foremost, because she is consistently
relentless on defense. She relishes attacking the ballhandler, and
she had so many steals from pressuring the opposing point guard that
led to layups, that from now on I'm just going to refer to this action
as an "Alana". The fact that she's a lefty didn't hurt, making it that
much easier to reach the ball. Of course, her long arms (earning her
the nickname of "Inspector Gadget") gave her a big advantage in reaching
the ball, as did her blinding handspeed. Alana's got all the physical
tools and then plays all-out, all the time. It's still possible to
overpower her, and she sometimes gets a bit impatient when she can't
steal the ball away from a player. But overall, I've never seen an
on-ball defender quite like Beard.

Offensively, Alana's best weapon is her dribble-drive. At times,
she was also deadly pulling up from about 15'. But with her excellent (79%)
foul shooting, she tries to get to the basket as much as possible. Despite
her slim build, she has a way of snaking her way to the basket and deflecting
contact. Beard is also a superb passer, especially in transition. With
all eyes on her during fast breaks, she often deftly passed the ball to
a trailer or wing. Alana is fearless, dynamic and creative. At this point,
she simply has to learn what is a good pass or shot and what is a bad one.
While her crossover is deadly, there were a few occasions where she lost
control going to the basket. These lessons will come with experience. What
she must learn to do right now is how to become a leader--a role that often
means subordinating one's own stats for the good of the team.

It's almost pointless to discuss Alana's best games, since almost every one
was remarkable. I'll single out her 20 point, 8 rebound, 3 steal game
against LSU, playing against All-America Marie Ferdinand. Putting up 21
points against Penn State and 20 against Clemson were also impressive. The
latter game, a Duke loss, also featured Alana's only double-double of the
year. But she really got warmed up in late December, dominating Iowa State
with her penetration, and then really got warmed up in the ACC. She
was averaging close to 30 points a game over a three game stretch before
getting hurt. Her jumper was never quite the same after that because of
her injured thumb, but she did score in double digits in every remaining
game and went over 20 three times. Her postseason performance was a bit
jittery at first. A good example is the first round of the ACC tournament,
where she missed a lot of early shots and misplayed the last shot in
regulation. But her 27 point show against SMS showed that she learns
very quickly. I expect her to use her coachability as perhaps her greatest
asset in the years to come at Duke.

Best Game: Tie: Iowa State (27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and
@ Maryland (33 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)

Strengths: Mind-boggling quickness and speed, first step, aggressiveness,
creativity, toughness, defense

Needs To Work On: Shooting, ballhandling, strength, making her teammates

Role: Primary defender, scorer and ballhandler

Must: Improve her shooting to avoid junk defenses, find ways to keep her
teammates involved and confident, avoid trying to do it all herself

** Rometra Craig 5-10 G Fr 7.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.1 spg

Season Recap: In any other year, Rometra's performance would have been
hailed as an excellent debut, complete with the usual kinds of ups and
downs common to young but extremely talented players. Of course, she
had the stunning 1st year careers of Beard and Tillis to stack up against,
but the beautiful thing about Craig is that she ran her own race, as Coach
K is fond of saying. She always maintained a very high level of poise
and self-confidence no matter what the situation. And her upside is
pretty remarkable, if she can iron out some very clear flaws in her game.
If the performances she had at the end of the year are any indication,
she's well on her way to correcting them.

To be more specific, her biggest problems were in the areas of shooting
and ballhandling, where she was a bit erratic. She was only 38% from the
floor, 30% from three and 54% from the foul line. Like many young players,
she was streaky. There were some games where she was on fire from outside
(like against William & Mary, Duquesne, UNC and UW-Milwaukee) and others
where she didn't even scratch. By the end of the year, she had improved
her foul shooting from sub-50% levels and had a number of big games from
the foul line. While not a ball hog, she nonetheless was never afraid of
taking an open three, an admirable trait that will serve her well down
the road.

Where Rometra was consistently brilliant was on defense, where she used
her strength and quickness to dog her opponents. She was also very creative
in the open floor, spinning her way to the basket and hitting short pull-up
jumpers. While sometimes out of control, the way she disrupted defenses
and ran the break made her a formidable weapon. Coach G often used her
to disrupt the opposing point guard when she'd take Beard out of the game,
and the result was more pain for the other team. She's not quite at Beard's
level defensively, but her strength makes her harder to overpower inside.

In order for Rometra to start, she'll need to do a few things. First,
her shooting has to improve in every respect. Even if she only improves her
foul shooting, that'll be fine, because she got more attempts last year than
all but four players. With her ability to break down defenses, she'll have
a chance to make a living at the foul line. Of course, with Duke's desperate
need for shooters next year, she will be impossible to remove from the lineup
if she can hit 38% of her threes or better. The second area she needs
to improve is her ballhandling. She'd sometimes lose control trying to
go to the basket, losing it in the lane. It'd be nice to see her become
a better passer in general, as she only had 40 assists. But considering
that she didn't have the ball in her hands that often, it's not too
surprising that she didn't have a high total. Another area that needs
improvement is rebounding. While not a frontcourt player, her quickness
should allow her to average something like 3 or 4 rebounds a game. Mosch
should be her role model here.

Comparing Craig to Beard isn't really necessary. Craig is a different
player who doesn't have the same all-around skills but who can contribute
in all sorts of ways. The beauty of her best game this year, the OT win
at UNC, was that she not only dropped all those points on UNC but that she
had a huge rebounding game as well. And those 5 assists were a career
high. That game is the level of play she should aspire to in every contest.
2002 could be a real breakout year for Rometra, and the intense competition
in the backcourt will bring out the best in her.

Best Game: @UNC (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals)

Strengths: Unbelievable strength and quickness, defense, aggressiveness

Needs To Work On: Shooting, ballhandling, passing, foul shooting

Role: Defensive stopper, finisher, spot-up shooter

Must: Learn to make better decisions, stay aggressive & positive whether
or not she starts

** Vicki Krapohl 5-5 G Fr 1.3 ppg, 0.8 apg

Notable 2000 Achievments: Team Heart & Hustle Award

Season Recap: Well, there wasn't much season to recap for Vicki. With
Schweitzer starting, Beard handling the ball a lot and Gingrich around
to fill the inbetween spaces, there simply wasn't much of a need for Vicki
to play. When she did get in, the results were decidedly mixed. She proved
she can hit the three, nailing 50% of her 14 attempts. Games against William
& Mary and Clemson showed she can pass as well, notching 4 and 5 assists

But generally, whenever she came into the game, the other team would
attack her with considerable ball pressure. And this would frequently
result in a turnover. Now, in her defense, when she was on the court
she was usually surrounded by other young players, and was often left
hung out to dry, deep in Duke's backcourt. But she didn't have the
confidence in her skills to make the right individual play, and panicked.

The real question is, what is her place in Duke's program? The fact
that she received the Heart & Hustle award shows that no matter what
mistakes she commits, she doesn't give up. Vicki is an exceptionally hard
worker who obviously tried to make the most of her limited role. That
kind of hustle player is always valuable in practice. But what does she
need to do to become more than a practice player? The most glaring needs
are for her to improve her ballhandling and decision-making skills. The
good news is that there won't be a lot of competition at point guard next
year now that Georgia's gone. If she steps up her game, she'll be
competing with Gingrich for a potential backup role. Playing in Australia
could be just the kind of experience she needs to improve. It has been
said that the greatest improvement in a player's career is shown between
freshman and sophomore years, so we'll see if Vicki can improve enough
to crack the rotation. As a crowd favorite, everyone will be rooting for
her to succeed.

Best Game: William & Mary (6 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists)

Strengths: Shooting, hustle, defense

Needs To Work On: Quickness, protecting the ball, decision-making

Role: Backup point guard

Must: Stay positive

** Iciss Tillis 6-4 C Fr 8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.8 apg,
37% threes, 1.2 bpg

Notable 2000 Achievments: ACC All-Freshman team

Season Recap: Iciss came into the program, as I have written elsewhere,
as the most talented of the five freshmen. There were stretches where
she simply dominated the competition with her speed, her ability to finish
on the break, her quickness to the ball for rebounds, and her tremendous
shotblocking ability. Most impressive of all was her ability to score
from anywhere on the court. But her most glaring weakness was on defense,
where talented centers posted her up or used dropsteps to get by her easily.
Rochelle Parent had to cover for her mistakes more and more, and Iciss'
unwillingness to stay in the post on offense frustrated Coach G to the point
where she benched her. Unlike all of the other freshmen, Iciss got worse
in February. She still had her moments every now and then, but her
confidence was clearly shot and she became extremely tentative on offense.
She did come up big in the game against SMS, her first offensive outburst
in quite some time, which hopefully she'll be able to point to for next year.

It must be understood that this critique of Iciss is done with the
understanding that her enormous talent and potential build up a lot of
expectations. This is especially true because she was just a freshman, a
time when little is expected of most players. But because she was so
precocious on the court at times and just flat-out dominant on some
occasions, it made her bad plays stand out as well. Iciss could be
guaranteed to be involved in three spectacular plays and three silly plays
in every game. The key to her ultimate development will be her ability
to make the solid, unspectacular plays at both ends for forty minutes. And
the key to that development is simple: she must learn to accept contact.

Iciss only took 40 free throw attempts this past year. That is fewer
attempts than any of the players in the main rotation with the exception
of Matyasovsky, who played over 200 fewer minutes. Iciss prefers to
operate in the open court and rarely plays with her back to the basket.
She attempts the occasional dribble drive, but her handle simply isn't
good enough at this point to get away with it against a good opponent.
Her favorite shots included three pointers from just about anywhere and
pull-up jumpers from 17'. As the season wore on, she looked more awkward
taking those shots, partially, I would suspect, because she knew that
wasn't quite what she was supposed to do. Iciss is very streaky, and when
she misses her first few shots, her attempts tend to get wilder.

On the other hand, Iciss had a bunch of great games in January and earlier
in the year and showed that she's even more spectacular than Beard at
times. She had a large impact on the freshmen record book, coming in
second place all-time in rebounds, blocks and double-figure rebound games.
She was also fifth in three pointers made, third in steals and ninth in
scoring. Tillis is an extremely aggressive player who doesn't mind taking
big shots. When she's making good decisions, this is a great quality to
have in a player. When she's turning the ball over or taking bad shots,
this makes a frustrating experience for the coach. Coach G sits down with
each player a few weeks into the season and they discuss the player's role
on the team. I think Coach G saw Iciss as a combination of some of her
old players: a center with the quickness of Tye Hall who could score in
transition, who could step out and hit the three like Ali Day but also
post up like Michelle Van Gorp. Of course, Iciss doesn't have the heft
of Gorp but she is quicker than Hall and shoots like Day. The problem
is that Tillis didn't really see herself as a post-up kind of player,
and this is the root of the problem.

When Iciss felt like it, she was a dominant rebounder. Her quickness,
wiry strength and knack for knowing where the ball would bounce made her
a great defensive rebounder. She wasn't quite as impressive on the offensive
boards, but she was third on the team. But I sense that if she gets a
bit stronger and learns to absorb contact, she could average in double
figures rather than the 5.5 per game she finished the season with. If
her ballhandling improves in the halfcourt, I can see her going to another
pet move more often: the 5' pull-up jumper. Iciss was very effective using
that shot against SMS.

Iciss needs to worry about running her own race. She shouldn't have to
measure her progress against Alana's or anyone else's. As long as she
worries about her own game and how to improve it, and learns to play
within a role before wanting to expand it, she will be fine. More than
fine, really: with her immense talent, I still expect her to become
great. Recalling one play where she got a steal and gracefully dribbled
down the length of the court to lay it in, the entire crowd was stunned
to see this remarkably lithe player effortlessly bounding down the
court. I see a player who set some wicked screens and who hit some big
shots. I see an unselfish player who had 60 assists, many of them
spectacular. With the exception of the flameout at the end, Iciss had a
wholly successful year, and one to hopefully build on. That starting job
is hers to take back if she wants it and stays within her role.

Best Game: @ Virginia (16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)

Strengths: Quickness, speed, shooting, shotblocking, flair for drama

Needs To Work On: Strength, decision-making, off-ball defense, shot selection

Role: Primary post scorer

Must: Make a commitment to playing defense, learn how to enjoy playing in
the post

** Crystal White 6-5 C Fr 2.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.85 bpg

Notable 2000 Achievments: Team Most Improved Player

Season Recap: Crystal is a great example of what can happen when hard
work is combined with talent. A few weeks after the first practice, she
was last in the rotation. In the two practices I saw, she looked stiff,
slow and mechanical. The sleepy-eyed center did possess one significant
talent: the ability to block shots. For a player who only averaged six
minutes a game, she managed to lead the team in blocks on 8 separate
occasions, and finished fourth on the team overall. Her 23 blocks
represented the fifth-highest total for a freshman in Duke history--with
her teammates Beard and Tillis ahead of her.

But as the season went on, Crystal became precise instead of mechanical,
deliberate instead of slow, and found ways to fully harness her athleticism
and size. The first indicator came against #9 Penn State, where Coach G
put her in towards the end of the first half and she responded with 4 points,
2 rebounds and 2 blocks in just eight minutes. She followed that up with
some other solid performances, like a 6-point, 5-board, 2-block game against
Duquesne. After playing in 9 straight games, she only played in 2 of the
next 7 and was in danger of falling out of the rotation. But with Beard
out for a bit, Crystal was asked to step up her defense a bit, and the result
was that she played in all of the remaining games but one.

Her impact in most of those games was not that great, getting a couple of
points and rebounds here and there. She started to get more minutes when
Tillis was going through her slump and would also play more when there was
serious frontcourt foul trouble. Her big break came in the ACC finals,
when Parent was on the bench in foul trouble and Tillis was ineffective on
defense. With Duke trying to protect a lead, White went aggressively to
the basket for a score, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked what would have been
a sure basket. Her presence sparked Duke defensively and bought precious
time for Parent. In the NCAA's, she played even better, especially against
Arkansas. When Arkansas pulled within 10 with a few minutes left, Coach G
went to White and she responded with a turnaround jumper, several blocks
and 4 rebounds.

The remarkable thing about Crystal is her sense of composure. She plays
with a certain calm and great confidence. Even when she was struggling,
one could sense that she was trying to learn how to improve. I think the
biggest factor was working on her stamina, crucial for a team like Duke
that prefers a running style. As the season went on, she got in better
shape and also improved her flexibility. I think she also endeared herself
to Coach G because of her strong focus on defense and desire to stay in
the blocks on offense. While Duke doesn't run a lot of patterned low-post
plays, Coach G likes the option of going to a slow-down possession game
at times and having Crystal around as a post target will be very valuable
in the next few years. And Crystal can definitely score. While she doesn't
use a lot of traditional low-post moves like a dropstep or up-and-under,
she makes great use of her size to use nice turnaround moves. Crystal is
very effective with her back to the basket and her long arms make it easy
for her to stretch out for layups.

There is, of course, room for improvement. She needs to learn how to
catch the ball more cleanly and go up more quickly for shots. Making better
decisions would also be good, especially learning how to pass more
effectively. While she's plenty big, she could (like most young players)
get a lot stronger. Improving her overall ballhandling skills would also
be a plus. Of course, her bread-and-butter at Duke will always be
defense, and she could really carve out a huge role for herself if she's
willing to put forth the work necessary to become a true defensive
stopper. Parent made a career out of this and so could White. At 6-5
and with long arms, she already possesses all the tools needed to become
a dominant defender. The only thing she has to be careful of is foul
trouble. Defense is more than blocking shots, and her footwork will need
to improve to get to Parent's level. Beating defenders to the spot will
allow her to become an even more devastating shotblocker. The
opportunity is there for Crystal--a starting job, big minutes, more
shots. All she has to do is work for it.

Best Game: Arkansas (6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks)

Strengths: Shotblocking, size, footwork, rebounding

Needs To Work On: Touch, hands, ballhandling, strength

Role: Possible starting center, low-post scorer, interior defensive presence

Must: Make quicker & better decisions with the ball, learn how to pass out
of trouble, be willing to step up on both ends.

Rob Clough