clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rob's Big-Time Review, Part V

We have the final installment of Rob's Big-Time Review. We got out
of order - this was originally supposed to be part IV. Apologies to Rob.

A Look At The Class Of 2006

Mistie Bass
6-3 C Janesville, WI (Parker)

  • Accolades
  • WBCA All-America
  • McDonald's All-America
  • USA All-America First Team
  • 3-time USA Today Wisconsin player of the year
  • 2-time Gatorade Wisconsin player of the year
  • 2-time AP Wisconsin player of the year
  • AAU 17 & Under MVP (2001)
  • All-State First Team
  • Parade All-America 2nd Team (junior year, senior year)
  • Street & Smith Third team All-America (junior year)
  • School Sports All-America Second Team (senior year)
  • Student Sports All-America Third Team (senior year)
  • SSN junior All-America
  • USA Today Junior All-America


Stats:

  • 19 ppg, 12 rpg, 3 bpg (junior);
  • 17 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 spg (senior)

With the commitment of Mistie Bass, one of Duke's most glaring needs
was filled by a player who has more than amply demonstrated her ability
to excel in that area as a prep star. To be more specific, Mistie's game
is all about size, strength and power. While Duke overachieved greatly in
the post last year, they struggled at times against physical teams. The
Tennessee game taught Duke a lesson in toughness as their incredible
frontline depth battered the Devils over and over. Coach G has always
emphasized speed and finesse over size and strength, but the fact of the
matter is that you must be able to execute in the halfcourt to win
championships. While Duke has become a very good halfcourt team in recent
years, they still have had trouble blocking out their opponents when they
spread the defense.

While Mistie has the size and strength to combat that trend for Duke, she
is far from a plodder. While not as fleet of foot as Iciss Tillis or Brooke
Smith, she can definitely get up and down the court, especially on defense.
While you probably won't see her finishing fast break layups ala Tillis,
she won't let the other team get easy scores either. Coach G likes to keep
things simple for the frosh, so I imagine Bass might be told to concentrate
on rebounding (especially defensive rebounding) and defense and not to
worry about anything else. That said, she has the potential to be a
powerful offensive weapon for Duke in the low blocks. She can shoot hook
shots with either hand and has a decent turnaround jumper. Getting these
shots off against college-level players will require a period of adjustment
for her, but I'm convinced that she can come in and play Duke-style defense
right away. Coach G noted that "posts up harder and better than any high
school player I have ever seen...and reads the defense well." She also
said that she's Duke's first true low-post center since Michele Van Gorp
graduated.

Bass played in the McDonald's and WBCA All-Star games and struggled
from the field in both. It can be difficult for post players to get good
shots in these sorts of games, and it was clear that she was rushing hers
whenever she got the ball (which wasn't that often, especially when Shanna
Zolman decided to chuck three after three). She played better when teamed
with Brooke Smith, who actually took the time to try and set up her
future teammate. Bass demonstrated a nice passing touch and the ability
to post up anyone. I think the speed of some of her opponents caught her
off-guard, especially players of her size that were also very quick.
Accustomed as she was to facing double-teams in high school, dealing with
the quick closing speed of some of her opponents took some getting used to.
That said, Mistie is a winner who loves rebounding, going hard to the basket
and playing defense. She averaged 7 rebounds a game in the all-star events
and forced several turnovers simply by attacking her opponents. While not a
shotblocker, she's a player with good size who will not be easily moved from
the post. Bass is the triumph of substance over style, a player who has a
chance to be the bedrock of Duke's interior defense and a steady offensive
contributor.

My guess is that Mistie will be mostly competing with Wynter Whitley for
playing time, since she's the closest analogue to her style of play. Whitley
will likely be competing with Michele Matyasovsky for a starter's job, though
I could see certain instances where Bass and Whitley might be in the game
at the same time. Whitley's ability to shoot the three as well as post up
and drive could see her get some minutes at forward while Bass patrols the
middle. This lineup wouldn't run much but would be a great halfcourt and
defensive tandem, especially if Tillis moved over to wing. One thing is for
sure for all the frosh: if they have the ability, they will play.

Jessica Foley
5-10 G Wodonga, Australia (Australian Institute of Sport)


Accolades:

  • Three time All-Australian selection
  • Four time Victorian State team selection
  • Two time nominee for Albury-Wodonga Young Achiever of the Year
  • Australian Under-20 World Championship team ("The Gems"), 2001


Stats:
10.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 41% 3FG (31-76)

Last summer, Duke visited Australia and played the basketball team from
the Australian Institute For Sport. Duke was without its two incoming frosh
but did have Crystal White and Rometra Craig at that time. In the first
game there, the AIS blew Duke off the court in the second half, thanks
in no small part to the three point bombing of an 18-year named Jessica
Foley. The team raved about her, not only her shooting but her all-around
game. Foley dropped 29 points on Duke in their first encounter, hitting
5 three pointers (in 5 attempts!) and going 10-11 overall. In the second
game against Duke, she scored 14 points and was 3-5 from three. It must
be noted that this was all done using a slightly larger ball and the
international three point line. Her scoring potential with the smaller women's
college ball and shorter three point line is staggering.

Foley is more than just a mad bomber, however. In those games against
Duke, she averaged 3.5 steals a game. She also blocked a shot in each
contest, playing in the wing slot. AIS beat Duke soundly in their first
encounter, and it was mostly due to Foley. While she went 10-11, the rest
of the team combined for 17-61 from the field! Her teammates also shot just
4-18 from three. So though Duke held her to just 5-14 from the field
in the second game, she was still the second leading scorer despite no
doubt drawing Alana Beard to defend her. One website described her as
"highly skilled and athletic...has great elevation on the jumper." So it
sounds like she has the potential to play Duke-style defense and run the
floor. Another site, evaluating her at age 17, said that she was a
"good all-rounder", with a "good pull-up jumper...excellent ballhandling
and passing skills...very good hands and quickness...runs the floor well...
great work ethic."

Foley has also played in the US quite recently as the AIS toured the
country in preseason last year. In a win versus Texas, she scored 14 points on
6-14 shooting and also had 3 assists & 2 steals. Against LSU (another
NCAA team) she had 17 points on 7-12 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 assists
as the point guard. She also sank 3-5 from three, the only player on the
team to hit any. In a victory against Ole Miss, she went for 11 points
on 5-7 shooting with 5 assists and 2 steals. Foley scored just 6 points
with 7 turnovers and 2 assists in a loss to Mississippi State (another
NCAA team!), however. She also struggled a bit against Louisiana Tech,
scoring 8 points on 3-8 shooting but also getting 5 turnovers along with
5 rebounds. Still, beating Texas was a great achievement and the loss to
LSU was a narrow one. It also showed how far she had come in just a year--
she had toured the US in 2000 as well, scoring 2 points and dishing out 4
assists against Nebraska. As she has gotten older, stronger and more
experienced, she has taken her game to higher levels. In US recruiting
terms, she has to be considered to be at the level of a top ten or twenty
recruit, only with much more international experience. To say the least,
her signing with Duke was a big coup. Happily, she cited Duke's tremendous
academic reputation along with its basketball success as one of its biggest
draws. It should be noted that Stanford was one of her other top choices,
along with UConn and Colorado.

Jess also played a good bit of point last year when the starting PG was
out for awhile. Despite her youth, she did a credible job playing out of
position. Though she was quite successful against Duke, it will take her a
while to adjust to the physical and quick play of US women's college
basketball. It should be noted that the AIS is a member of the WNBL, the
only women's pro league in Australia and one of the more competitive in the
world outside of the WNBA. Seven WNBL players are currently in the WNBA,
including former #1 draft pick Lauren Jackson. The Australians of course
played in the Gold Medal game of the 2000 Olympics, falling to the US.
Foley is a good young player who has played against top competition
for the last couple of years and greatly improved from her first year (when
she played in only 4 games) to her second (where she played 27 minutes a
game and was her team's third-leading scorer as a 19-year old). Her team
finished in the middle of the pack in the WNBL.

The Australian Institute for Sport was founded by the government with the
explicit mission to develop Australian Olympians. The school offers
scholarships to the most promising young athletes in the country, gives them
world-class facilities to train in, and also provides educational opportunities
as well. Near as I can tell, most of the players get two-year scholarships,
after which they either go to the USA for college or join a WNBL team. Note
that the players are not paid, unlike the other WNBL players (other than
receiving scholarships). There have been other players who have come to
the US to play college basketball after playing in semi-pro leagues without
being paid that have had to sit out a certain number of games. This has
applied even to players who got no financial compensation whatsoever, perhaps
because of receiving some kind of competitive benefit from playing older
athletes. The current decision from the NCAA on Foley is that she will not
have to sit out any games, though Duke is still finalizing the process with
the NCAA. Interestingly, Duke did not officially announce her commitment
to the program until nearly a month after it actually happened. I would
guess that going through NCAA red tape might have been the reason.

It's hard to tell what kind of immediate impact Jess will have on the
team. While her skills and reputation are both solid, there can quite often
be a period of adjustment for foreign players. That's both in terms of
playing style and adjusting to homesickness and culture shock. Hopefully
in Foley's case that will be somewhat reduced, given that she's already
spent two years away from home at the AIS, will speak (mostly!) the same
language, and has had experience playing against a lot of US talent. I
suspect that she will be one of Duke's best shooters and have a chance to
show off her all-around skills right away as a top reserve. Of all of
Duke's recruits in this class, I have a hunch that she may turn out to be
the best of them by the time her career is over.

Lindsey Harding
5-7 PG Tomball, TX (CY-Fair)

Accolades:

  • Student Sports All-America
  • Street & Smith All-America 6th team
  • Parade All-America 2nd Team
  • All-Southern Girls Team, HM


Stats:
17.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.9 apg (junior)

Lindsey Harding is sort of the forgotten recruit of this class. She's
attended a couple of Coach G's Duke basketball camps and had been a long-time
target of the program. So it was no surprise when she became the first
of her class to commit. What has been unfortunate is that she didn't play
on an outstanding high school team and so was passed over for the highest-
profile postseason events, despite being a consensus top-20 recruit. To
add insult to injury, she was passed over in favor of three other guards from
Texas, Erin Grant, Nina Norman and Chelsi Welch. All are very good players
(especially Grant), but there are those who have said that Harding will prove
to be better than all of them.

Here's what Full Court Press magazine had to say about Lindsey: "You want
your point guards to be smart, which Harding is. The ball goes to the right
player at the right time. But Harding is also a superb athlete who can hit
the jumper if the defense sags off. In other words, the complete package."
Lindsey led her team in a number of categories, including scoring, assists,
steals, rebounding and three point shooting. Needless to say, she didn't
have a lot of other options to go to. At Duke, this will obviously not be
the case. It sounds like she's the kind of player who will thrive in Duke's
offense. First, her athleticism is a big plus, both in terms of running the
break and playing defense. Having another quick player to pressure the point
will be important and could take away some of the burden from Alana Beard.
But it sounds like she is a pure point guard who will look to set up others
first. The only other player on the roster matching that description is
Vicki Krapohl, so it's likely that the two will battle for a starting job.

Vicki will clearly have the edge in experience and familiarity with her
teammates, and was a big factor in improving Duke's chemistry. It also
sounds like she might be the better shooter. On the other hand, it sounds
like Lindsey is the better athlete and has greater size and strength.
Lindsey ran track & field in high school (300 m hurdles to be exact, which
also speaks well of her leaping ability) and undoubtedly has such a high
rebounding average because of her great quickness. Coach G compared her to
lightning bug Jia Perkins of Texas Tech and noted how quickly she pushes
the ball up the floor. The only other Duke player who even sounded similar
was Kira Orr, who was also described by Coach G as a "push guard". At any rate,
this will be one of the more fascinating things to watch in preseason. Either
way, both Krapohl and Harding will undoubtedly play a lot at the position.

Caitlin Howe
5-10 SG, Rochester, NY (Fairport)


Accolades:

  • WBCA Underclass All-America
  • USA Today Junior All-America
  • Street & Smith All-America 4th Team


Stats:
25 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 apg, 3 spg (junior year)

The star-crossed Howe remains Duke's biggest question mark for next
year. One of New York's most celebrated prep players, she tore her ACL
as a junior and again in her first game back as a senior. Most Duke fans
are wondering how she's coming along and what role she might play next year.
Here's the information that I have: she is progressing very well in her
rehab, and should be ready to go for next year. In particular, it was noted
that since her injury happened last fall, she will have had nearly a year to
recover by the time the season starts. Furthermore, she now knows what it
takes to properly go through rehab. At this time, there are no plans to
redshirt her in her frosh year, and Coach G plans to use her if she's healthy.
This article confirms that account, noting that Caitlin
isn't experiencing nearly the same level of pain during this rehab and that
she's started running and shooting.

Why all the fuss? Perhaps it's because Coach G has referred to her as
"the best shooter I have ever seen, bar none." She further expected her to
break every three point record at Duke if she stays healthy. Howe played
point guard in high school yet committed to Duke anyway after visiting the
campus, in part because she found herself to be in synch with Coach G. She
is expected to play at off guard for Duke in much the same way Nicole Erickson
did: a three point bomber with point guard skills and an extensive knowledge
of the game. Coach G has already referred to her as someone who would be
"a coach on the floor for us." Another observer said she can "run, jump,
shoot, drive to the hoop and hit the 3 ball" and had "One of the best
attitudes," playing with "a smile on her face." Another observer simply
said "Future Olympian."

From all accounts, Howe is the sort of player that's easy to root for,
considering her injuries but also her status as a beloved figure in her New
York village. Injuring the same knee twice means that this is something
that she will always have to worry about, but it can be overcome. At this
point, Duke is not depending on her to become a regular contributor right
away, but it would certainly be a nice bonus for all involved. Hopefully,
she'll be able to overcome the limitations that the injury may be placing
on her athletically and play at a high level.

Brooke Smith
6-2 PF, San Anselmo, CA (Marin Catholic)


Accolades:

  • WBCA All-America
  • McDonald's All-America
  • USA Today All-America Third Team
  • Parade All-America First Team
  • Student Sports All-America
  • Street & Smith All-America HM
  • adidas Underclass All-Star
  • Cal-Hi Sports All-State First Team
  • Cal-Hi Div IV Player of the Year


Stats:
15.3 pg, 12.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 3 bpg, 2.7 spg (junior)
15.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg (senior)

Brooke Smith is the recruit that pundits can't seem to agree on. Some
think she's a top-10 talent and others grudgingly put her in their top
40. Put all that aside, because all this player does is win. Part of the
controversy may be because of the steady improvement she has made from year
to year. As a frosh, one site described her as "just another tall girl"
but then noted that her work ethic made her one of the most accomplished
post players in California. Her best attribute is her remarkable footspeed.
That makes her an ideal player in Coach G's running game, especially since
she really can hustle back on defense as easily as she can finish in
transition. This will make people think of Iciss Tillis, but Brooke isn't
as versatile as Iciss, who is really a guard with post player height.
A closer comparison with a Duke player is Tye Hall, in terms of quickness
and style of play. Coach G compared her to the outstanding Angie Welle of
Iowa State, though Brooke is a bit slimmer.

The word "lanky" immediately comes to mind when describing Brooke, and
one wonders how such a slender player has been able to operate inside so
effectively. Well, the phrase "hard-working" seems to come up every time
someone describes her (Coach G used it twice) and one can really see it in
her game. Essentially, Smith never takes a play off inside. She attacks
the boards relentlessly, especially on the offensive end. While her frame
can make her struggle when trying to block out, her quickness and hustle
offer her an advantage when going after the o-boards. This means she'll
be able to fill a role right away for Duke, which lacks a great offensive
rebounding presence other than Monique Currie.

Smith is an effective low post scorer who has a variety of ways to get
the ball in the hoop. She can hit hook shots with either hand, and that's
pretty much her bread-and-butter move at this point. But she can also
post up & hit the turnaround and shoot jumpers out to 17'. Brooke also
is reasonably effective off the dribble, drawing fouls and getting to the
line, where she can stroke free throws. I haven't even mentioned what may
be her best ability: passing. In a system that demands versatility and
unselfishness, Smith should excel because she's so astute at drawing attention
and finding the open player. In the McDonald's All-America game, she was one
of the few post players who was actively looking to set up her teammates.

While Brooke certainly has the attitude and maturity to be a contributor
right away, she will probably have to go through more physical adjustments
than the other recruits. That's because she will need to get much stronger
to maximize her effectiveness as a post player. She will have a hard time
defending bigger and stronger players and getting rebounds against them.
Brooke will also need to work on her hands and be ready for some of the
zingers that will come her way. That said, her incredible tenaciousness
will go a long way in getting her playing time next year. Despite the fact
that she's not as strong as other players, that doesn't stop her from taking
it right at her opponents and blocking quite a few shots with her excellent
timing. And as I mentioned earlier, she's a winner. She outplayed #1 recruit
Ann Strother earlier this year as her Marin squad upset Strother's #1 ranked
Highlands Ranch team. That got Marin Catholic ranked as a top 25 team by
various sources. While they were beaten a couple of times, including for
their district championship, they bounced back and won the Division IV state
title as the sixth seed.

Smith really raised some eyebrows with her performances in the postseason
All-Star games. She had 13 points on 6-10 shooting in the McDonald's All-
America game, and had at least 6 rebounds. Even more notably, Brooke was
on the floor at the end of the game when her West team was trying to hold
off a comeback from the East. She came up with a big defensive play and
had 2 decisive assists that helped put them away. Smith also came up with
14 rebounds and a block in the WBCA game, with many of the boards coming on
the offensive end. She also scored 8 points in that contest. You might
see her get a lot of points next year on tip-ins after she gets the
offensive rebound.

Post players can take a while to adjust to college play, so like with Bass,
I would guess that Coach G will keep it simple. She'll be asked to play
to her strengths, meaning that she'll concentrate on running the floor and
going after offensive rebounds. If she can get stronger and score in
the low post, that will be a bonus. She and Bass will give Duke some
different looks in the post, and I think both of them will be good chemistry
players because of their ability to pass and willingness to do a lot of
the dirty work down low. Smith and Bass should be a good team-within-a-team
for years to come.

by Rob Clough