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Rob's Big-Time Review, Part III

Here's the third installment of Rob's Big-Time Review of Women's Basketball.

II. Player-By-Player Evaluation: Sophomores and Freshmen

Alana Beard

Season Recap: I've been writing about her all season long, but I'm not
sure what else there is to say about Alana Beard. At times, she's so good
she's nearly supernatural. Her magnificent freshman year would have been
a career-capper for most players; instead, she worked hard on her game to
become one of the best five players in the country. She's a jack-of-all-
trades who's also a master of all. Like all great players, she has a
nearly pathological desire to win, matched by very few in Duke history.
In fact, she's one of the few who wants to win even more than Coach G, and
really tends to beat herself up when she doesn't. When Duke suffered their
first loss last year, Alana was in a foul mood for days. She didn't lose
much in high school, and it was clear that she expected things to be
no different at this level. One could see her seethe when the Devils lost
to Southwest Missouri State last year in the NCAA's. Fortunately, Alana
is by far her own worst critic, and so she set out to improve her game.

Alana Beard

19.8 ppg 6.1
3.3 spg 4.4
57% FG, 75%
38% 3FG
5-11 G/F Sophomore
Notable 2002 Achievements:
First Team All-ACC
ACC Player of the Year
ACC All-Defensive Team
All-ACC Tournament 1st Team
Kodak All-America
First Team All-American: AP,,, USBWA
NCAA East Regional MVP
ESPN Wing Guard of the Year
Honda Award Finalist
Naismith Award Finalist
Wade Trophy Finalist
Team Practice Player of the Year
Team Offensive Player of the Year
Team Defensive Player of the Year

I hope that Alana is relaxing a bit this summer, because her schedule
last year would have exhausted the hardiest of travellers. She first
played with the US Under-20 team, going to the Czech Republic and establishing
herself as one of two dominant players on that team (along with Diana Taurasi).
Alana also had a chance to get to know incoming frosh Monique Currie and
Wynter Whitley, who didn't play a lot but got to practice against some great
players. That actually would become important later on, because both Currie
and Whitley developed close friendsihps with Beard and were quickly accepted
by the other members of the team. Alana came back to the States, went home
for a week, and then returned to Durham to practice for the Austraila trip.
There were just 16 days between her bronze-medal game and when she landed
in Oz. After a long flight, Alana played enormous minutes for Duke on that
trip and had to shoulder the scoring and defensive load as well. Then it was
back to Durham and preseason workouts. Her life was disrupted when her
roommate Rometra Craig left Duke and Beard was forced to play even more
minutes. In addition to her usual responsibilities, Coach G told her to take
over the team and become a true leader. All that resulted was a record-
breaking season for Duke and richly deserved national honors for this
magnificent player, who is a true convergence of amazing talent and
backbreaking work. Despite all that, she was furious when Duke lost to
Oklahoma and had to be told by her coach to let it go and enjoy what she had
accomplished. Within a few days, Alana got her joy back and now has to be
looking forward to having a powerhouse team next year, one where she'll be
asked to pick up an even greater leadership role.

Last year I noted that Alana had few but recognizable flaws. Her shooting
was the most obvious one. The result of a summer of constant repetition?
Improving her three point percentage from 20% (10-51) to 38% (25-66). Her
57% FG mark from the field was the tenth best in Duke history and the only one
by a perimeter player. While she was at it, she shattered several other
single-season records: points (694, beating out Chris Moreland's 16-year-old
record), field goals (275, easily eclipsing Michele Van Gorp's 258), field
goal attempts (481, surpassing Moreland's 438) and steals (114, breaking her
own record of 106). Her 119 free throws were good for sixth all-time, her
19.8 ppg was third all-time (trailing only Moreland), and her 154 assists
trailed only Kira Orr's 170 in 1996. Her 35 points against Maryland was the
fourth-highest mark scored in a game for a Duke player while her 11 assists
against Louisiana Tech were the third-highest total in that area. What all
this points to is a player who does everything well and works best with the
ball in her hands. The key to everything was extending her range. Forcing
other teams to guard her from the perimeter allowed her room to drive to
the basket at will, either scoring or getting fouled. If teams doubled her,
she merely found an alert teammate for an easy score. She actually commented
on this late in the year, saying that she wasn't frustrated by double-teams
at all, because it made her laugh to simply pass to an open teammate again
and again.

I noted last year that it was important for Alana to find ways to get
her teammates more involved very early on in games, and it's clear that she
worked on this a lot. The experience of being the leader of the USA
Basketball team helped her a lot in that area, though she did struggle at
first when she played in Durham. There were times that she was simply too
quiet as the point guard, and it hurt the team because Duke became a lot
easier to guard when she wasn't looking to score. When she was placed off
the ball on offense, that seemed to reignite her aggressiveness while not
diminishing her awareness of the need to keep everyone happy. Simply put,
her mere presence on the court would lead to more possessions for all of her
teammates because of her intense defensive pressure, good court vision, and
willingness to share. She didn't force things on offense as much as she did
in 2001, though another remaining flaw is still in place: Alana still turns
the ball over too much. At a rate of 2.7 per game, that's an alarmingly high
number and virtually unchanged from her freshman year. While the ball was in
her hands more often in 2002, there were still times when she was too careless
with the ball. Bad passes and offensive fouls are part of the formula that
you must accept for an uptempo team like Duke, but turning the ball over
in a halfcourt setting is something that will need to be corrected.

Of course, one must remember that Alana was just a sophomore, as amazing
as her accomplishments were. Improving on her freshman year in itself was
quite a feat, and both her more accurate shooting and improved assist rate
were integral parts of the team's overall success. She could still stand to
get a bit stronger, though I'm not sure how much more weight her lean frame
will be able to hold. With the way she sometimes gets knocked to the ground
on her drive, it would be nice to see her pick up a bit more mass to soften
the blows. All of that aside, it's hard to put into words what she's meant
to the program. Alana combines the underdog work ethic of the previous faces
of Duke basketball like Georgia Schweitzer, Kira Orr and Hilary Howard with
a dynamic presence akin to a Cynthia Cooper or Sheryl Swoopes--the presence
of a rock star. Alana in particular has a following among girls in the area
that borders on hero worship, both because of her remarkable skills (you simply
never know what amazing thing she's going to do next) and her personable
nature. Her humility means that she's always happy to accomodate autograph
seekers, and the demands on time for her and Duke's other stars in recent
years have grown larger. Duke didn't just have a great basketball player, they
had a media figure as well, and this has already led to inroads in recruiting
as well as more national exposure. Duke has suddenly been lofted into the
elite of women's college basketball, both because of their success on the
court but also because of their appealling style of play and the starpower
of Beard, Tillis and Currie. TV now wants Duke in big showdown games against
Tennessee and UConn, and all of this has been essential for Duke in taking
the final step in its development as a program: consistently remaining a
national power.

Turning back the clock to last August, Alana's performance in Australia
was certainly an augur for her 2002 season. She averaged 24 ppg, 7.3 rpg,
4 apg, 4 spg and shot 54%. She and Crystal White were in fact the only
players to shoot over 40%. The amazing thing is that she get better as the
games went on. After scoring just 20 ppg in the first two contests, she
had marks of 26 and 31 in her last two--both Duke victories, naturally.
She found ways of getting to the foul line after adjusting to the officiating,
getting 21 attempts in her last two games after getting just 2 attempts in
her first two. Beard even led the team in three point shooting at 36% despite
the differences in the size of the ball used and the length of the three
point line itself. All of this was done while playing 37 minutes a game,
including all 40 minutes in the last game.

Returning to campus, she knew that the frosh were likely to have a big
impact on the team and she was more than happy to get them involved. As
point guard, she saw it as her responsibility to make sure everyone else
was happy. The problem was that everyone wasn't happy, and it wasn't her
fault. Early in the season, she wasn't spectacular by her own standards.
She was just 3-10 against Texas Tech though she did have 5 rebounds and 6
assists. She had a double-double against Toledo but shot under 50%. She had
18 points, 6 assists and 5 steals against USC but was only 4-8 from the foul
line in a close game. She moved back to wing after the Toledo game and
got better shots (going 16-21 from the field), but the chemistry still
wasn't quite right. It wasn't until Vicki Krapohl started at point that
the season really took off for her. Ironically, it was her passing that
killed Louisiana Tech, though she started the game 7-8 from the field. She
wound up with 11 assists when the Techsters started to play her tight.

When White and Craig left the team, that changed Beard's approach to
things. She no longer could afford to be a young player that deferred to
others; she needed to simply take over. And that she did, playing at an
absurdly high level while becoming a great leader. She smoked Virginia
with 9-10 shooting, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Then there were
16 points/8 assists/4 steals against Georgetown, a near quadruple-double
against UNC-Greensboro and more of the same against Liberty. Tennessee
did manage to hold her in check to some degree, or at least operate at less
than perfect efficiency levels. The Vols had several different players
checking her while she forced too many passes inside. She still wound up
with 17 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. She mysteriously was awful against
Georgia Tech, scoring just 6 points--the only time all year she missed double
figures--and turned the ball over 7 times, a season high. In some ways, this
wasn't such a bad thing because the team found a way to win without Beard
playing well, proving that it wasn't just all her.

Of course, Alana wasn't about to string together two bad games in a row.
In a game unfortunately seen by very few because of a snowstorm, Alana
dropped a blizzard of her own on Maryland, going 15-22 from the field for
35 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals. She was responsible for
23 of Duke's 37 field goals in an utterly dominant performance. She
followed that up by punishing the ACC in game after game: 19 points/9 rebounds
against Wake, 25 points at Clemson, 23 essential points at State. In the
latter game, she had a huge first half (including a buzzer-beating three
right before halftime) and was face-guarded the second half, though still
found ways to contribute. Oddly, this was the only game of the year where
she didn't come up with a single steal.

Beard saved the real pain for her friends from Chapel Hill, dropping 31
points on Nikki Teasley and the Heels. This was an interesting game for
Alana, because it was her first encounter with Nikki Teasley. Teasley has
long been considered to be the most dominant physical talent in the league,
but she met her match in Cameron. Alana was actually quiet on offense in
the early going and concentrated on shutting down Teasley. That she did,
even blocking a three point attempt. While it was a changing of the guard
kind of moment, Beard was actually fairly quiet for the next few games--
again, by her standards.

She scored just 11 against FSU and fouled out (which she did only twice
all year). She was efficient but not spectacular in the second round of
ACC games, when other teams wised up and tried to keep the ball out of
her hands. After a mediocre game against Clemson where she had 5 turnovers
and just 12 points on 5-6 shooting (but also 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3
steals), she refocused and went on a rampage that continued throughout
the rest of the year. She scored 20 or more points 8 straight times while
cutting back on her turnovers. Once again, she smashed State and dominated
UNC. The Heels played her for her jumper, and she responded by hitting on
the wing again and again, as well as posting up the taller Heel forwards.

Alana was spectacular in the ACC Tournament, though she did make some
mistakes against Virginia in the semis. She atoned by hitting 2 clutch free
throws with 14 seconds left. Against UNC in the finals, she scored 11
straight points in the last three minutes, simply taking over the game as
the Heels were desperately trying to claw their way back. A long jumper
with over a minute left helped seal the deal. After notching 29 points
in a typically amazing game against overmatched Norfolk State, she suffered
through a tough 28 minutes against TCU, scoring just 8 points. But once
again, she simply flipped a switch and took over the game, scoring 18
points in the last 12 minutes to propel Duke to the Sweet Sixteen. She
simply wasn't going to allow Duke to be beaten if she could help it.

While she didn't shoot well against Texas (6-16), she played superb
defense, shutting down Texas star Heather Schreiber. Of course, she simply
took over against South Carolina in the big rematch, doing a bit of everything:
24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists (and just 1 turnover), 5 steals and 2
blocks. When USC came back from a big deficit to take the lead in the
second half, Beard responded with a three point play, forced a stop and
was fouled. Alana added to her very long list of accolades by being named
East Regional MVP. In fact, if it wasn't for Sue Bird of UConn, Alana would
have been a very strong candidate for National Player of the Year. After a
fast start against Oklahoma, Alana was shut down and finished just 6-15
from the field, also fouling out. She missed a layup that could have
triggered an early comeback but still did plenty to help her team. While
she was incredibly disappointed that Duke didn't win, she had to put into
perspective just what she had accomplished.

So what made Beard so effective? Start with mental basics like focus
and intensity. She almost never takes a play off and is quite fundamentally
sound. Then throw in a wicked crossover dribble that makes her able to
shed most defenders. When you add that to her physical fearlessness,
lightning first step and leaping ability, you have a player that's nearly
impossible to guard one-on-one. Her trump cards are her incredibly long
arms and her lefthandedness, something that a lot of teams have trouble
dealing with. The great thing about her physical abilities is that she knows
how and when to use them, rarely getting out of control. Alana can leap for a
rebound while avoiding going over the back, and uses her long arms to poke
away balls without getting called for reach-ins. She didn't have as many of
these "blatant steals" this year as she did last year, but Alana actually laid
off the defensive pressure a bit, trying to avoid getting called for cheap
fouls. Alana tops it all off with great hands and excellent form on her
jumper, though she still sometimes looks a bit stiff when taking threes.
Finally, throw in her intense competitiveness and brains. Beard can read
the flow of a game quite well, even as a young player. The final step of her
basketball education will be learning how to dominate the top teams in
the country.

New challenges await for Alana Beard. She will be called upon to be one
of the team's vocal leaders in addition to being a leader in other ways.
Alana will have to continue to learn when to take over games and when to
stay in the flow of what's being given to her. Most importantly of all,
it will be incumbent upon her to break in the new players and make them
feel like important parts of the team while making them understand exactly
how much hard work it's going to take for them to truly succeed. Alana
has felt the effects of bad team chemistry in action and the ways teams
can splinter into factions; it'll be up to her in large part to make sure
that this doesn't happen with the big new class. Duke will be a top 5 team
to start out next year so she must be aware that other teams will be gunning
for them and her in particular. The players from Tennessee and UConn will
certainly be looking to push Duke out of the national spotlight, while the
ACC teams that Duke has dominated the last few years will be hoping to make
up some ground. Alana is on the path to greatness, and can actualize her
potential to become Duke's best-ever player in the next two years. I'll be
very curious to see how she continues to grow as a player.

  • Best Games: Maryland (35 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals),
    UNC (31 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), @UNC (26 points, 10 rebounds,
    5 assists), UNC in ACC Tourney (25 points, 4 rebounds), USC in NCAA tourney
    (24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals)
  • StatWise: Alana is 12th all-time in scoring at Duke with 1203 points,
    8th in assists with 267, 10th in blocks with 55, 3rd in steals with 220,
    and sixth in FT% at 76.9%. She led the ACC in scoring, steals & FG% and
    was 11th in rebounding, 2nd in assists, 6th in FT%, 3rd in assist/turnover
    ratio at 1.66:1, 10th in blocked shots and 7th in defensive rebounds.
  • Strengths: Mind-boggling quickness and speed, first step, aggressiveness,
    creativity, toughness, defense, clutch play, foul shooting, passing
  • Needs To Work On: Strength, decision-making, protecting the ball
  • Role: Primary defender, scorer and ballhandler
  • Must: Continue to step up her level of play, make her teammates better,
    improve the range on her jumper

Vicki Krapohl

Season Recap: This may be my favorite story on the team. A player who was
long on heart but whose size and physical abilities made it difficult for
her to compete as a frosh worked astonishingly hard to improve her body
and game. She earned a starter's role on a team struggling to find itself
and not only proved to be a key piece of the puzzle on the court, her good
nature and youth proved important to uniting the team off the court. Simply
put, everyone on the team loved her and delighted in her success. Vicki's
story is that of a convergence of opportunity and labor. Duke had a number
of areas of concern going into this season: ballhandling, playmaking,
outside shooting and post play. If Krapohl could step up her physical
abilities, she had a real chance to contribute. She trained with the
Duke football team over the summer, going through the same drills that
they did and greatly improving her strength and toughness.

Vicki Krapohl
5-5 G So
4.2 ppg 2.7 apg 1.1 spg 47% 3FG
Notable 2002 Achievements: Team Heart & Hustle Award

While she did not excel in the early going of the season, it was clear
to all that having Alana Beard at point guard was not working. It wasn't
that Alana couldn't do it, but rather that it was limiting her potential on
the team--after all, she didn't have the team's best target (herself) to
throw the ball to. Beard still led the team in assists, of course, but
seemed more comfortable in doing this without the ball in her hands at
all times. All of this meant that someone had to take over the job at
point. The job required a skilled ballhandler, a good passer, and someone
who made very few mistakes. An added bonus would be the ability to hit
open threes to stretch out defenses. It wasn't a glamorous role, but it
was an important one. Krista Gingrich was tried at this spot for a couple
of games but she probably wasn't physically ready for starter's minutes.
With the team needing a big win against Louisiana Tech, Vicki started and
the team won. She didn't do anything spectacular in that game, but she
did her job and played decent defensen. In Duke's crucial victory against
Virginia, she had 4 assists to 1 turnover, 2 steals and a three. Again,
not a brilliant performance but one where she did exactly what she
was supposed to do. That led to another start, and another, and soon enough
she had started 29 consecutive games for the ACC champs and a Final Four

While Wynter Whitley deserved most improved player considering her
progress from beginning to end, no one improved more from last year than
Krapohl. She simply was overwhelmed by the level of competition in 2001,
making errors under pressure in the few minutes she did get. I wondered
after last season if she would ever be able to make a significant
impact, but did note that as a Heart & Hustle award winner, she'd give it
her all and offer no excuses. Like classmate Alana Beard, she worked
like a maniac to improve her body and game. To her great credit, she
understood her shortcomings and found ways to work on them. To her even
greater credit, she didn't stop trying when this didn't yield immediate
results on the court.

The trip to Australia did little to boost expectations for her. Pressed
into extra service with Krista Gingrich injured during their first two games,
Vicki shot an anemic 1-12 from the field. More disturbingly, she had just 9
assists to 10 turnovers. This was not an indicator of the sort of patient,
under-control point guard that Duke needed. As a result, it wasn't that hard
a decision to keep her on the bench during Duke's first three games. She
averaged less than 8 minutes a game and was just 1-6 from three. But something
happened during the otherwise-disastrous Duke Classic. She played a solid 20
minutes against Davidson and hustled for 5 steals in addition to dishing out 4
assists. Vicki hit a three against South Carolina and had 3 assists with 0
turnovers. Suddenly, she seemed ready to make an impact and played well with
Beard at the other guard slot. Her first start came in the next game against
Louisiana Tech.

I think the oncourt chemistry between Beard and Krapohl was a big key in
establishing this team's identity. Here you had two players with vastly
different levels of ability, skill and athleticism who respected each
other's role on the team and furthermore delighted in each other's presence.
Everyone knows that Beard is the hardest worker on the team but Krapohl
certainly isn't far behind, and that level of effort had to be an item
of mutual respect for the pair. It's easy for a role player to respect
a star if that star works as hard as they do. Before each game, after
Beard and Krapohl were introduced as the starting backcourt, the two would
walk onto the court together. Alana would stop, raise up her impossibly long
arm as high as possible, and Vicki would leap up to give her a high-five,
with both grinning widely. Their on-court synergy was symbolic of the
way the team came together this year, the way that cliques that hurt team
chemistry last year were transcended. And while Vicki was closest to the
Mosch-Matyasovsky-Gingrich group, her classmates Beard and Tillis always
took a special delight in celebrating Vicki's big plays. Vicki was also a
crowd favorite because so many people could identify with her Everywoman role,
and that extra crowd involvement gave everyone greater energy.

After that first Virginia game, Vicki knocked down 3-3 from three to
scorch Georgetown's zone. Against Liberty, Duke was without Gingrich,
which meant Krapohl had to play a lot more than usual. Playing a career-
high 32 minutes, she also scored a career-high 15 points, knocking down
5 threes. She threw in 4 assists and played solid, but not risky, defense.
Krapohl's hot shooting over a three game period (11-17 from three) started
to make Duke's opponents think twice about playing zone, especially since
the Devils were getting more and more patient on offense. While Vicki
was somewhat overmatched against Tennessee, she still had a 3:1
assist:turnover ratio and picked up 2 steals. Over the next 6 games, she
only scored her usual 4 ppg, but Vicki was over 2:1 in a/t ratio and was 8-15
from three. Simply put, she could not have played her role any better.
She wasn't taking shots away from the stars. In fact, not only was she
setting them up with her passing, but knocking down threes gave penetrators
Beard & Currie more room to operate. She proved to be just enough of a
threat to take seriously on offense, and her scrappiness helped compensate
for the defensive matchup problems she often wound up in.

In late January, Vicki really sizzled from the floor, shooting 12-23
from three. She was also pretty terrific as a floor leader, getting
6 assists/0 turnovers against UNC and 8 assists/4 turnovers against FSU.
Like her classmates Beard and Tillis, she saved her best for the Heels.
All 3 of her threes serving to deflate UNC runs and she drew a charge to
stop another run. She was also superb on the road against Maryland
in a game where everyone except Beard & Currie couldn't hit anything.
Krapohl sank 4-5 threes, had 4 assists/0 turnovers and 2 steals at important
times in the game.

It was at this point that some teams started to change the way they
played Duke. Instead of leaving Krapohl alone to double Beard, some programs
began pressuring Krapohl full court. Clemson did this well and forced
3 turnovers and an 0-3 shooting performance. That set off a long 4-19
slump from three that made Duke a little easier to guard. Vicki was still
well over 2:1 in assist:turnover ratio, so the plan didn't work that well
for most teams, but her slump suddenly made her a non-factor on offense.
An exception came against UNC in Chapel Hill. She didn't score a lot there
either, but she chased down 6 rebounds and had 4 assists/1 turnover. Vicki
also had an enormous hustle play in that game. She flew out of bounds
to save a miss, tossing it to Beard. Then she ran towards the corner
where the Heels ignored her, and simply waited for a Beard pass to hit
the wide-open three. It epitomized Duke's teamwork to a "T".

As Duke made its way through the ACC and NCAA tournaments, Coach G
went more and more to the senior leadership of Krista Gingrich. When
Krapohl struggled early on against UNC in the ACC Tournament, Gingrich came
in for most of the game. Vicki bounced back against Norfolk State,
with a fantastic 7 assist/2 turnover, 12 point, 1 **block** performance.
That block was one of the best plays of the season for Duke. A Norfolk
State player was wide-open on the three point line and squared up to
shoot. Just as she did, Vicki came flying in out of nowhere to block
the shot out of bounds. Duke's bench exploded and Iciss Tillis picked
her up and swung her around.

Vicki was pulled again rather quickly against TCU when Duke was down
early, but bounced back against Texas. Vicki hit an early three in that
game and played ferocious defense, picking the Texas point guard clean
for a steal & layup. It was her first 2-point basket since playing
Tennessee in December. Talk about being a specialist on offense! That
played capped off a 24-8 opening run and a Texas timeout. Vicki ran over
to the bench holding up the number 2 with her fingers--the coaches and
her teammates had teased her about this all year long. After an early
South Carolina lead in the next game, Coach G again went to Gingrich for
the bulk of the action. Vicki understood what was going on, especially
since Krista was a senior. Duke did the same thing against Oklahoma
in the Final Four, though Vicki did wind up with a couple of assists in
that contest.

Vicki's late season decline was a combination of matchup problems and
the real emergence of a poised senior at the same position. It was
difficult to deny that Vicki is not an elite-level point guard, something
that became clear against the best teams in the country. Duke didn't
necessarily need that kind of player this year, but Vicki's limitations
did hurt Duke at times. While a good passer, she's not really one to
drive the lane and kick the ball out. She simply doesn't have the quicks
or strength to do so. Her 5 free throw attempts were by far the fewest
on the team as a result. Vicki's size made it difficult for her to
create her own shot or even get it off when properly covered on set plays.
This wasn't a big deal when other teams concentrated on Beard, Currie,
etc. but was a factor when teams put more pressure on her. To her credit,
she kept her composure under duress most of the time and didn't make a
lot of mistakes, but the pressure kept her from making a lot of plays
as well.

So what does this mean for next year? An excellent question. In
Vicki's favor are her experience, her shooting ability, her carefulness
with the ball, her status as a chemistry-builder, her toughness and her
hustle. She will be competing with three freshmen guards who can all
play point to some degree, though her biggest competitor will be the very
athletic Lindsey Harding. One never knows how a frosh will play, so at
this time I'm picking Vicki to hold on to the job, though I expect Harding
to get plenty of playing time. Jessica Foley and Caitlin Howe might see
some time there as well, though I expect they'll be used in other ways.
Of course, Beard will probably lead the team in assists again since she
draws so much attention from other teams, but she will still need someone
else to run the team most of the time. One thing about Vicki is that
she's motivated by challenges, and I expect her to continue to improve her
game to help both herself and above all, her team. Even if she doesn't
start, she will play like a maniac whenever she's in there and do what
the coach feels is best. And a player who gives so much of herself and
plays her role so well is going to get a lot of minutes, regardless of
whether or not she's starting. While Vicki will be competing with the new
guards for playing time, I'm certain that she'll be mentoring and
nurturing their development at the same time. I have tended to underestimate
Vicki in the past--it's a mistake I won't make again.

  • Best Games: @ Maryland (12 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers),
    Liberty (15 points, 4 assists), UNC (9 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers),
    Norfolk State (12 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block)
  • StatWise: Vicki is 16th all-time in threes with 53 and first in 3FG% at 47.7%.
    Vicki led the ACC in assist/turnover ratio at 1.95:1. In ACC play only,
    she was 8th in 3FG made and 7th in assists.
  • Strengths: Shooting, hustle, defense, heart, chemistry, knowing her role,
    protecting the ball
  • Needs To Work On: Quickness, reacting to pressure, adjusting to physical play,
  • Role: Mistake-free point guard, zone-buster
  • Must: Stay mentally tough while competing for starting job

Iciss Tillis

Season Recap: After Iciss' first year, I noted that she had more talent
than anyone on the Duke team (including Beard) but that she'd have to
learn how to focus and bring a greater level of intensity to every game.
Well, mission accomplished. She improved on nearly every aspect of her
game. She increased her scoring from 8.6 ppg to 14.3 ppg; rebounding
from 5.5 to 8; assists from 1.7 to 2.8; steals from 1.6 to 2.3; free

Iciss Tillis
6-4 C So
14.3 ppg 8 rpg 2.3 spg 2.9
34% 3FG
Notable 2002 Achievements:
First Team All-ACC
ACC All-Defensive Team
Second Team All-ACC Tournament
Kodak District II All-America
ESPN Power Forward of the Year nominee

throw attempts from 40 to 91; and FG% from 43.7% to 45.2%. The only
areas where she regressed slightly were in three point percentage (from
36.5 to 33.7%), blocked shots (from 1.2 to .9) and turnovers (up from 2 to
2.9 per game). There were several games where she made as many, if not
more, spectacular and important plays than Beard. This was crucial because
there were a lot of things on offense that she could do that Beard
couldn't. Iciss was averaging 15.5 ppg and 8.4 rebounds at the end of the
regular season and then something happened. She suddenly went cold in
the ACC tourney against Virginia, and then was handled pretty easily by
UNC, a team she had destroyed twice earlier in the year. Iciss shot
under 50% in six of her last seven games as the easy assuredness of the
regular season was replaced by indecision. She was still playing good
defense, rebounding and passing, but her disappearing act on offense made
things very difficult for Duke in the postseason. I would have been much
more worried about it even now if it wasn't for her final game performance
against Oklahoma in the second half. After passively letting the Sooners
do whatever they wanted, she fought back in the second half and once again
became the Walking Matchup Problem. The key to her maturation as a player
will be her understanding of her strengths and weaknesses and having the
discipline not to revert back to old habits. When Iciss patiently waits
for the ball in the low block, she has the height and quick release that
make her turnaround jumper unstoppable. When she's set on the perimeter,
she can hit the three all day long. But when she panics and takes off-
balance 17-footers, she only hurts her own confidence as well as her

On the other hand, when Iciss plays with confidence and determination,
there's no limit to what she can do. The biggest and most necessary
change in her game this year was her willingness to go toe-to-toe with
other post players at both ends of the court. Last year, she preferred
to either take outside jumpers or drive to the basket (usually finishing
a break). Seeing a 6-4 player gracefully zip her way to the hole with
those long strides was quite a sight, and she still managed to do a lot
of that this year--one thing Iciss certainly can do is finish. But this
year, she learned to pull up for short face-up jumpers, post up her
opponents and finish with a turnaround, and even added some rudimentary
drop-step and up-and-under moves. She also worked a bit on adding the
hook shot to her arsenal, though she only brings it out on occasion,
preferring the jumper. Just as important was her tremendous improvement
on defense, to the point where she became ACC All-Defense. A year ago,
she was a good shotblocker and played the lanes well for steals, but had
no clue on how to play post defense. This year, she's learned to accept
contact and move her feet in order to frustrate her opponents. While
she didn't have the bulk to keep anyone out of the lane, she moved her
feet quickly enough to continually frustrate her opponents.

That list of big-time centers she outplayed was impressive. She held
All-America Plenette Pierson to 10 points, most of them coming when the
game was no longer in doubt. South Carolina's Teresa Geter had just 2 points
and 5 rebounds. Ayana Walker of Louisiana Tech had 12 points and 6 rebounds.
Michele Snow had just 12 points. Candace Sutton of UNC had 14 points on
just 5-16 shooting in their first meeting and was shut down for the first
half, and just 9 points in their second meeting. Iciss didn't guard these
players exclusively, but she did spend at least part of the game dealing
with them, and she did quite well. Throw back in the steals and blocks,
and you have a complete defensive star. Tillis did get roughed up by
Sutton in their third meeting, but this was at the time of year when it
looked like Iciss was generally breaking down physically and wearing
down mentally.

It's easy to criticize her for her offensive problems late in the year,
but it must be done with the understanding that she didn't really have
a whole lot of help. Duke's post game boiled down to Tillis, an out-of-
position Matyasovsky, and frosh Whitley. When Whitley was playing with
confidence, Iciss didn't have to worry about getting every rebound, scoring
down low and defending the other team's best players. But when Whitley
was going through the usual frosh difficulties, Iciss had a lot more
pressure on her. At the same time, though this maturation process has been
painful at times for her, it's been a necessary one. Her perimeter skills
and quickness will always be there, but if she's to become a successful
player (especially at the next level), she had to learn how to play in the
paint. And really, her progress to date has been impressive, and certainly
more advanced at the same stage than either Tye Hall or Ali Day, the two
players in Duke history she reminds me of most. (Hall for her quickness and
build, Day for her inside-outside skills.) Her career rebounding average is
6.8 rpg, good for fifth best in Duke history. That's amazing when you
consider that this is a slender player who has had to adjust to the physical
nature of women's college basketball. Iciss has the potential to be Duke's
best player ever and a WNBA #1 draft pick, but she's not there yet. The good
news is that she has two years left to really elevate her game. Furthermore,
she will now have a lot more help in the frontcourt with the new recruits.
With more traditional low-post players like Whitley and Mistie Bass around,
that will allow Iciss to roam around a bit more. But before we get to
next year, let's review her 2002 season.

Iciss' appearances in Australia got mixed reviews. She had a lot of
trouble against the Australian Institute of Sport, in part because she
had trouble adjusting to the officiating. Tillis averaged just 7 ppg
in the first two contests, though she did grab 8 rpg and had 7 blocks in
one contest. Her shooting was nothing to write home about, going just
7-19 from the field including 0-5 from three. She was turning the ball
over way too much, to the tune of 5 per game. Things got a little better
against Brisbane, where she pulled down 13 rebounds, had 5 steals and
4 assists--but just 7 points on 2-8 shooting. Iciss finally put it all
together against the Sydney Panthers, scoring 18 points with 7 rebounds,
5 steals, 2 assists and a block. She also cut way down on her turnovers,
averaging 2 per game in the last 2 contests. Iciss never did solve the
international three point line with the larger ball, going 0-9 in the
four games. Still, she improved as the games went on and was well on her
way to clinching a starting role after losing it last year.

Tillis started the season off with a bang, notching a double-double against
Texas Tech. As I've noted before, she has a flair for the dramatic,
and her risk-taking is understood to be part of the whole Iciss Tillis
Experience. When she's on, she can leave opponents stunned by her skill
level and quickness. She blew Tech away in transition, and also used an
array of pull-up jumpers, turnarounds and showed off her hook for the
first time. More than anything, she played with a ferocity that wasn't
always seen as a frosh.

After a dominant game against overmatched Elon, she found herself
struggling against Toledo. Her 2 points and 4 turnovers were a big reason
why Duke lost, though her 4 fouls were an even bigger one--she only
played for 27 minutes. She could still be lured into taking ill-advised
17' jumpers, and that's just what Toledo did in this game. After being
suspended for a game due to missing a class, she came back with both
guns blazing against South Carolina, getting another double-double with
19 and 11. But she blew a transition layup that would have put the game
away for Duke in regulation, and then completely disappeared in overtime.
She followed that with another double-double against Charlotte, getting
a career-high 14 boards. Iciss didn't let the loss get to her and kept
right on doing what she was supposed to do.

And she was doing it without much help from her friend and classmate
Crystal White, whom she thought might start alongside her. White was
mostly coming in as her sub, like when Tillis took a nasty bump on the
head against Louisiana Tech after scoring 8 quick points to start the
second half. Despite a big gash on her forehead, Iciss came back with
a bandage wrapped around her head and got a bunch of tough rebounds. After
White left, Tillis continued to play at a very steady level. She wasn't
putting up spectacular scoring numbers but was getting 13-15 points every
night, grabbing 7 boards, and most impressively of all, dropping 3
assists a game. This is an aspect of her game I haven't talked about
much, but she is a superb passer, tying Vicki Krapohl for second in this
category. It's part of her overall versatility--she thinks like a guard,
and her height allows her to see the whole floor quite well. She can
pass off the break, feed people from the high post into the low post,
and relocate the ball out for threes. Iciss does take a lot of shots,
but she's also very unselfish much of the time.

Tennessee was her big test of the month and the results were mixed. She
had a double-double but shot only 5-19 from the floor. She also had a
career-high 6 assists but 5 turnovers as well. Still, with Matyasovsky
struggling in this game, she didn't have much help against UT's army of
post players. Her 3 steals and 2 blocks aided Duke's comeback in this
game, but the best part is that she didn't back down. She then came
back with 17 key points against Georgia Tech on a day when Beard did
not play her best. That fact alone seemed to give her even more confidence,
and she proceeded to put together a string of games that exceeded most
of her past performances.

She matched her career high of 20 twice in a row against Maryland and
Wake Forest, averaging 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against those
teams as well. One thing that was quite clear was that Iciss' hands were
much better than in her frosh year. She was catching the ball cleanly
and pulling down rebounds one-handed and with authority. After a typical
15 point, 10 rebound, 4 steal (and 6 turnover!) demolition of Clemson,
she got to try her hand at guarding NC State's Kaayla Chones, one of the
best post players in the league. The early results weren't favorable as she
had to sit out much of the game with foul trouble. She did score 12 of
her 17 points in the last seven minutes of the game, just when Duke
needed them most. In fact, when State went up 60-59, Tillis stepped
outside for a three. She then hit another three to put Duke up 69-66
with under two minutes to go. These were among the biggest shots of her
career. Throw in 5 steals and 6 rebounds and it was clear that Iciss
was having an All-ACC kind of season.

Iciss then battled an improved Brandi Teamer and Virginia to a standstill
as Duke rolled over Virginia. Iciss hit long jumpers, scored on cuts,
a turnaround jumper and a crazy scoop shot in the lane that had the Hoos
shaking their heads. Tillis wasn't quite as spectacular against UNC,
mostly because of foul trouble. As I mentioned earlier, she did play
great defense and still wound up with 12 points. But simply shutting
down Candace Sutton (2-8 in the first half) by moving her feet did more
than enough to assure a Duke win. After a double-double against FSU,
she scored a career-high 23 on 11-15 shooting to help wax Georgia Tech.

Then came only her second non-double figure scoring game of the year
thus far, a 1-10 shooting day against Maryland. Still, she had 12 rebounds,
4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, so it's not like Iciss was just standing
around. She bounced back with a decent game against Wake and a magnificent
one against Clemson in Cameron. She scored Duke's first 5 points and
abused Maggie Slosser with jumpers and drives, as well as a driving floater.
Throw in a one-handed tip-in of a lob pass, and you have a true highlight-
reel performance. Her low-block scoring was becoming a dependable weapon,
and she used it against State to absolutely wipe out their highly-touted
frontcourt. She still brought out a few eye-popping moves, like a spin
to the basket and an agonizingly slow hook where she was waiting to get
fouled and picked up the three point play. Iciss concluded the regular season
with another solid game against FSU and by tying her career high against
UNC, obliterating Sutton and looking like a gazelle in transition. It
was as perfect a game as I've ever seen her play.

After a solid game against FSU to open the ACC tourney, she was dominated
by Brandi Teamer at both ends in the Virginia semifinal game. Iciss
stopped making her usual turnaround jumpers--she wasn't taking bad shots.
Despite getting 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, it was hard to ignore
that 2-13 shooting number. Things didn't get a whole lot better in the
finals, though she did hit a big three to tie the game up late and had a
three point play that sealed the win witih 14 seconds left. Still, she
only took 7 shots in a big game and wasn't even in any foul trouble.
Her entire demeanor on the court had subtly changed.

Tillis bounced back a bit against Norfolk State in the NCAA opener,
but wasn't a big factor in the wins over TCU or Texas. She even
uncharacteristically was 1-4 from the foul line against TCU. After a lot
of early foul trouble against TCU, she didn't even start the second half.
Worse yet, she only had 4 rebounds in her season-low 24 minutes of play.
She was at least solid on defense against Texas, doing a good job against
Stacy Stephens when she was guarding her, and also hit a huge three with seven
minutes to go that gave Duke a commanding 10 point lead. But she
was just 3-12 against USC and looked utterly puzzled at times on the court.
Iciss turned the ball over several times in decisive situations. She
did hit a game-clinching layup, but overall put a lot more pressure on
Beard and Currie to step up. It was more of the same against Oklahoma
until after halftime, when she realized that she had to be a star and not
a role player. Iciss suddenly became the player who had dominated the
ACC in January and February again, scoring in the low block and attacking
the boards. It wasn't enough for the win, but I do hope that it was
enough to get her to realize what she needs to do for her team next year.

Iciss will be a junior next year, meaning that she's going to have to
start taking on some leadership roles. With several post players younger
than she is on the team, it will also mean having to serve as a good
example for her teammates. On the other hand, she has to understand that
she's Duke's primary option inside and the overall #2 scoring option.
While Beard can do nearly anything, Tillis had the potential to do
**everything**. There isn't a single aspect of the game where she can't
become a consistently dominant player. What does she need to do in order
to improve? Decision-making is an obvious area--when to shoot, when
to pass, when to force things and when to be conservative. She's already
improved a tremendous amount in this area and can certainly continue to
improve--I'd like to see those turnovers go under 2 per game next year.
Iciss can also obviously get stronger, though I'm not sure how much more
weight can go on her lithe frame. Still, adding a little mass and
getting more upper-body strength would help her continue to improve in
the low post. Tillis also has a funny dribbling style, no doubt because
of her height. If she can get that under more control, I can see her
being more effective in driving to the basket and cutting down on a lot
of her turnovers. Finally, she looks a bit careless at times when she's
taking foul shots, resulting in a mediocre 68% for the season. She has such
a nice stroke that it would be nice to see this at 75% or better. Beyond the
nitpicks, the thing I'd most like Iciss to see is that she's a great player
who needs to think of herself that way every night--one who will dominate the
other team, do the dirty work, hit big shots and make daring passes. She's
already improved incredibly as a player, but the remarkable thing is that I see
no limit to what she can accomplish at Duke.

  • Best Games: Texas Tech (16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocks),
    @ NC State (18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals), Clemson (22 points, 6 rebounds,
    4 assists, 3 blocks), @ UNC (23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists)
  • StatWise: Iciss is 5th all-time in blocks at Duke with 70, 12th all-time
    in steals with 133 and 15th all-time in threes with 57. She was 8th in
    the ACC in scoring, 3rd in rebounding, 6th in FG%, 2nd in steals, 5th in
    blocked shots and 2nd in defensive rebounds.
  • Strengths: Quickness, speed, shotblocking, flair for drama, presenting
    matchup difficulties, overall offensive versatility, passing
  • Needs To Work On: Strength, decision-making, foul-shooting, ball-handling
  • Role: Primary post scorer
  • Must: Continue to get stronger, look to dominate at both ends of the floor

Monique Currie

Monique Currie

6-0 G/F
14.3 ppg 6 rpg 2.6
1.4 spg 77% FT
Notable 2002 Achievements:
ACC Tournament MVP
Second Team All-ACC
All-ACC Frosh
5-time ACC Rookie of the Week

Season Recap: It would be accurate to say that Monique Currie had the
second-best debut in the history of Duke women's basketball, but that
doesn't quite tell the whole story. "Second-best" in this context means
that she finished just short of the heights that Alana Beard hit last year,
but doesn't reflect the truly phenomenal year that Monique had. In terms
of potential, Mo has the drive and the talent to be the most dominant player
in Duke history. Beard will wind up shattering many records at Duke, but
a number of them won't last long with Currie around. Let's just say that Chris
Moreland's records for career scoring and rebounding might not still be
intact by the time Mo graduates.

The comparison to Moreland is a telling one. In fact, Beard, Tillis
and Currie are sort of a 21st century version of 80's stalwarts Katie Meier,
Sue Harnett and Chris Moreland. They were the first truly great players
at Duke, and all three continue to dominate the career top ten lists in
various categories. Like Meier, Beard is a do-it-all player--but much more
athletic and intense. Like Harnett, Tillis is a rangy center who can
rebound, score inside and block shots--but her frightening quickness, grace
and perimeter scoring ability set her apart. And like Moreland, Currie
is a strong, tough player who always rises to the occasion and is
impossible to stop. Currie is nowhere near as versatile a player as
Beard, nor does she possess her defensive vision and ability to see the
floor. But Mo is a player with a strong body who knows how to use it,
and is simply relentless on the boards.

That relentlessness and the ability to step up in big games is what
set her apart from most rookies this year. Mo never gets nervous and
delights in taking the ball and shoving it down her opponents' throats.
She loves contact and made a living at the foul line, easily leading
the team in attempts and being one of the tops in the ACC in that area.
Mo rebounds at both ends of the court, fearlessly attacking bigger players
with her strength and quickness. Or to put it simply: Monique simply gets
after it.

This is not to say that Mo's skills are simply limited to scoring,
rebounding and foul shooting. She averaged nearly 3 assists a game and
also picked up her fair share of steals and blocks. Currie also fit rather
well within the offensive scheme, picking and choosing her opportunities
carefully but exploiting them when they were there. What was clear was
that she needed to be on the floor as much as possible, because she was a
big matchup problem. There simply aren't a lot of players like her, and
that made her difficult to guard. At 6-0, she was right between being a
guard and a forward. Frankly, I have no idea what to call her, other than
"player". But her strength made it very difficult for guards to handle her
while her first step was too much for a lot of forwards. The game plan
for most teams was to leave her plenty of room. That's because her jumpshot
is erratic, and that's easily her biggest weakness. When her shot is falling,
she can't be stopped, and double-teaming her at the expense of leaving someone
wide-open was just too big a risk. However, as her 8-34 mark from three
indicates, she has a ways to go in order to become a complete offensive

The form is definitely there on her shot, but it will be a matter of
increasing the range and her footwork. When she had time to set up and
get comfy behind the line, they often went in, but she didn't do well in
trying to create her own shot from long range. On the other hand, she's
pretty dependable from 15' and on in, and has been known to sink shots at
a dead stop on the break. So I think it's just going to be a matter of
practice for her to get that shot going from anywhere on the floor. Her
other weaknesses are related to her youth: decision-making and general
floor savvy. While she's a good passer and very unselfish, she forced
too many passes at times. And while her aggressive play was the hallmark
of her game, there were instances where she would barrel into opponents for
offensive fouls. Not only did that hurt the team with a turnover, but it
often took her out of the game completely by picking up an extra foul or
two. Currie averaged 2.5 fouls per game and her effectiveness was often
limited when she had multiple, early fouls.

Putting all that aside, there's a reason why Monique never played fewer
than 19 minutes in her first year: you never knew when she was going to
do something truly spectacular. She has another gear that most players
don't, enabling her to break off indescribable, jaw-dropping one-on-one
moves and can-you-believe-that shots. When you add her creativity on the
court to her work ethic and toughness, you get a player who other teams
will eventually just have to hope for the best in dealing with her. It was
said of her high school career that she played the hardest against the best
opponents, and this was certainly true in her first year at Duke. She
really seemed to shine in the big games and wasn't afraid to make plays
or take shots. It didn't always work out (like against Tennessee or Oklahoma),
but her courage might be her best asset.

That was evident from her first game against Texas Tech. All she did there
was start off her career with a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds).
That would be the first of 9 on the year, leading the team. She also had
3 offensive rebounds and would lead the team in this area by a wide margin.
Mo went to the free throw line 9 times in this game and would also lead the
team in this category, outpacing the aggressive Beard by 20 attempts. Once
she got there, she hit 'em, with her 77% for the season outpacing Beard's
75%. In this game, Mo scored on cuts, drives, a tip-in and an amazing
three point play where she flung the ball in while getting fouled, twisting
her body like a pretzel. After another solid showing against Elon, she
showed that she was still just a freshman against Toledo, going just 2-6 from
the floor and picking up some early fouls. She had been promoted to starter
as of the Elon game, but sent back to the bench for over a month after that.
I would guess that Coach G wanted her to get a better feel for the defensive
schemes the opponent was using as well as get her to improve her own defense.
At that time, she was struggling to get through picks and not always making
the right decisions.

Mo bounced back with strong efforts against Davidson and USC, scoring 22
points in the latter contest. I noted at the time that "she still has a ways
to go in some of the finer points of the game and on defense, but she's such
an incredible offensive weapon that she must play as much as possible."
After looking shaky against Charlotte (4 points, 4 turnovers, no free
throw attempts), she came up big once again versus Louisiana Tech with 19
points. She broke out a new shot for this game: an unstoppable floating
runner, taken off the dribble. It didn't always look pretty, but it went
in. Using this move with confidence helped cut down on her offensive fouls
a bit and forced other teams to play her tighter, improving her productivity.

Currie's return to her hometown area was a triumphant one as she broke
off a double-double against Virginia, showing rather definitively that Duke
would survive without its transfers. Then she went to DC itself and had
17 points against the Georgetown Hoyas. Against UNC-Greensboro, she picked
up 2 early fouls and did nothing in the first half. But she picked herself
up and even hit her first career three pointer after starting out 0-12.
After tying her career high of 22 against overmatched Liberty, she got
taught a lesson by Tennessee, who hounded her all game. It was clear that
the Lady Vols were keying in on her as a player who could do some damage,
and it started to get to Mo. She shot just 2-14, missing every kind of
shot imaginable--good and bad.

As a frosh, you expect the occasional bad game. The sign of a great one
is how they absorb the lesson. Clearly, Mo figured out what she needed to
do, which was stay aggressive and go to the hole. That's just what she
did three days later against Georgia Tech, going 10-10 from the foul line
and grabbing 10 rebounds. As she went into the regular season, she put
together a string of solid performances, averaging 16 ppg and 6 rpg in her
next five contests. It was after a solid all-around game against Maryland
(with 2 steals, 2 blocks, 4 offensive rebounds, 3 assists and just 1 turnover)
and a fine game against Wake (20 points, 3 steals) that Monique made it
back into the starting lineup, where she would stay for the rest of the
season. Coach G was looking for game-to-game consistency, and Mo had found
it. Expanding her game had helped, but simply knowing when to step it up on
offense and when to lie back was the real key.

She was somewhat off-kilter against NC State, but had a key rebound and free
throws in the waning seconds that sealed the game for Duke. This was the
most pressure Currie had faced so far and she came through with flying
colors. Monique celebrated by getting a double-double against Virginia
and scoring a career high against UNC with 23 points. The 21st century-model
Blue Devil confounded the Heels with her strength and quickness, two areas
the Heels have excelled in for quite some time. But my favorite play was
one that showed off Mo's brains. UNC was inbounding the ball on a stack
play, one that made it easy for them to get in some extra elbows while
jostling for position. Mo noted that Nikki Teasley was pushing extra hard,
so she stood her ground, waited for the elbow to hit her in the chest,
and sold the call by flying back. Tweet! Foul on Teasley, send Currie to
the line. Freshman 1, Senior 0.

Mo was on a roll now. She proceeded to dominate FSU, returned to Maryland
and this time beat up on the Terps (though she did foul out), and was solid
against Wake. In a big game where Duke was trying to clinch first place
against Clemson, Mo found her way to the foul line and hit 7 of 8. She also
picked up 7 boards and 5 assists. Against NC State, she attacked the rim
and also hit a 17' jumper, though offensive foul troubles limited her
somewhat. Then came an oddly quiet game against FSU--she didn't do anything
wrong, but she simply wasn't into the flow of the game. She only scored
8 against UNC but did have 6 assists and played excellent defense on Leah
Metcalf, holding her to 4-11 shooting.

Mo bounced back with a double-double against FSU in the ACC Tournament
opener, but Virginia sagged off of her in a big way and it worked, as she shot
1-7. But Duke made it to the finals and it was clear that Mo wasn't going to
shrink away from the pressure. Her 30 points and 12 rebounds became one
of the legendary ACC finals performances. She scored 20 in the first half
as UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell was pulling out her hair trying to get her
players to sag off of her. Mo was feeling it so much that she was even
hitting long jumpers and scoring off curls (a new move for her). She even
pulled up in transition and sank a tough jumper, stopping on a dime. Currie
was Duke's only rebounding force and just happened to set her career high
in this area as well. About the only thing she did wrong was turn it over
8 times, but most of these were errors of commission. Again, she still
has to learn some of the game's nuances, but that will come with time.
Currie earned the tournament MVP award, and the photo of her grinning shyly
while her teammates swarmed her is a priceless one.

Her NCAA debut featured another double-double against Norfolk State and
a superb 20 point blast against TCU. She carried the team against the Lady
Frogs, scoring 14 of Duke's 34 first-half points and getting 3 assists. Currie
did it off the dribble, taking the slower Frogs to the hole again and again.
But it was her passing that truly impressed me, as well as her overall
savvy. After a mediocre game against Texas that was marred by foul trouble
(and just her second disqualification of the year), she stepped up against
USC. After a quiet first half, she hit all kinds of leaners, runners and
fadeaways to either bring her team back or build on a slim lead towards the
end of the game. Throw in 4 assists and just 1 turnover and you had a
complete game. Mo struggled against Oklahoma in the Final Four, missing
a couple of easy shots that shook her confidence and turning the ball over
5 times. The Sooners brought as much pressure as they could and it paid off
for them as Mo wasn't quite up to the correct decision-making needed in that

In terms of Duke freshman records, Mo finished second in points (just
7 behind Alana Beard's 509), 5th in ppg, 2nd in rebounds (behind Moreland),
3rd in rpg, 4th in assists (for a player who wasn't a primary ballhandler!),
5th in blocks, 5th in steals, 4th in FT%, 2nd in double figures scoring
(1 game behind Beard) and 1st in double figures rebounding (9 times, beating
out Moreland). That's a top-five finish in 9 different categories, which
is overwhelming. If Mo stayed at this level her entire career, she'd be
a great one. But she saw how much Beard and Tillis improved as sophomores
and how hard they worked to achieve this. For Mo, the decision to make
is not to be great but to be an all-time great. Unlike a lot of other
players, she doesn't have a lot of work to do on her body (other than
perhaps become more flexible). Currie has to just practice the fundamentals
and skill sets and simply get more game experience.

One thing I like about her in particular is that despite her talent, she's
not a greedy player. She's blended especially well with Tillis and Beard in
particular and understands that those are Duke's top two threats, while also
realizing that she can't be shy either. As long as she keeps passing the ball
and tries to initiate fast breaks, she'll keep all of her teammates happy.
This is especially important because she'll be the team leader in a couple of
years and will have a lot of the same responsibilities that Beard has
now. That will be the final step in her maturation as a basketball star.

  • Best Games: Texas Tech (17 points, 10 rebounds), @ Georgia Tech (18 points,
    10 rebounds, 3 assists), vs UNC in ACC Tournament (30 points, 12 rebounds),
    TCU (20 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)
  • StatWise: Monique was 6th in the ACC in scoring, 10th in rebounding,
    2nd in FG%, 4th in FT%, and 10th in offensive rebounds. She also led all
    frosh in scoring and FG% and was 2nd in rebounding and 3rd in both assists
    and steals. She was the only ACC frosh to finish in the top three in
    each of these five categories.
  • Strengths: Strength, power, quickness, foul shooting, rebounding, aggressive-
    ness, creativity
  • Needs To Work On: Decision-making, jump-shooting, off-ball defense
  • Role: Third member of "Big Three"
  • Must: Work well with Beard and Tillis, know when to take over, cut down
    on offensive fouls

Wynter Whitley

Wynter Whitley

6-3 C/F
7.8 ppg 4.9 rpg 1.1 spg
Notable 2002 Achievements:
All-ACC Frosh
ACC Rookie of the Week

Season Recap: Wynter had an excellent first year overall at Duke, going
through a lot of the usual frosh ups and downs. For her, the season was
one of adjusting to new situations and a different style of play. While she
has the body to excel in women's college basketball, she didn't always
know how to use it properly. She'd follow double-digit scoring performances
by going scoreless in the next game or a big rebounding game by one where
she barely scratched. She started the season well, went into a long slump
and then broke out of it late in the year. In other words, she was a
freshman, albeit one with tremendous talent and potential. It must be said,
however, that many of Wynter's most important contributions weren't immediately
obvious on a stat sheet. First and foremost is her defensive ability. She
has the size and strength to absorb punishment down low and still keep her
feet. Then she has the vision and quickness to move those feet and make
life difficult for her opponents in the paint. There were some games where
her defense in the post is all that saved Duke. Prior to the season, I
wrote that post defense was a major concern for Duke in light of Rochelle
Parent's departure, but Wynter showed right away that she could handle the
responsibility of being Duke's best inside defender.

Long after she stopped being a consistent offensive performer, Wynter stayed
in the starting lineup to neutralize the opponent's most dangerous post player.
It took a three game stretch where Wynter shot 1-12 from the field and
committed 2 turnovers a game for Coach G to finally sit her down and let a
more experienced player come in. Wynter had reached the point where she was
so focused on making the best play possible happen, that she put too much
pressure on herself and started to freeze up on the court. She stopped taking
open shots, began forcing plays, and generally didn't know how to fix it.
Coming off the bench proved to be an immediate salve for her, as her scoring
shot back up (including four straight double-digit games) and her defense
became even more aggressive. Wynter averaged 7 ppg before being benched; in
the ten games that followed, she averaged 12 ppg. She simply could do things
that Duke's other inside players couldn't because of her size, strength
and skills. Whitley can post up and make good decisions, either going
for an up and under or floater, passing the ball back out or trying to
draw a foul. She can also take the ball in the high post and put it
on the floor, driving all the way to the basket. You might also see her
pull up from that distance. She can hit the three but doesn't take them that
often (10-32). Her favorite spots are the left or right corners.

While her steal and block totals weren't that impressive, there is more
to defense than those two categories. Simply by bodying her up her foe and
blocking out, she altered shots and got to rebound the misses as well. The
variety seen in her offensive game makes her such an interesting player, though
it remains to be seen how quickly she will be able to have the confidence to
exploit it to its full potential. Wynter will never put up spectacular numbers
in areas like steals, blocks, assists or offensive rebounds--her game
simply isn't built that way. But I see no reason why Whitley can't develop
into a double figure scorer and rebounder. Her cerebral approach to the
game is a nice match to more reactive players like Currie and Mosch,
though at times this aspect of her personality can cause her to act
passively on the court. If she can combine her thinking-woman's approach to
the game with the passion of a Mosch and the confidence of a Currie, then she
will be close to actualizing her potential. With all of that said, I see
her as Duke's starting center next year, at least in the beginning. She'll
have to fight off senior Matyasovsky and two talented frosh in Bass & Smith.
I gave Wynter the nod over Michele simply because she's more of a natural
center than Michele is, when you consider size and strength. She's also a
better defender, but Wynter will have to learn to move without the ball the
way Michele does and greatly improve her passing. I also gave Wynter the nod
over the frosh because of her experience. Wynter knows what the game is
like at this level and has played against the best of the best. Smith & Bass
will have to learn those lessons for themselves, though it's entirely
possible that either could step up enough to start. At this point, I'd
say the job is Wynter's to lose.

Of course, Whitley began the season in the starter's role at center,
due to Crystal White's injury. Coach G noted in the preseason that Wynter
was making the same sort of hustle plays that Parent was last year. In
her debut against Texas Tech, she made good on that new reputation by making
all of the smart plays on defense as well as contributing on offense. She
showed that she was a smooth free throw shooter by hitting all 3 of her
attempts, hit a pull-up jumper and got loose inside for some easy buckets.
More importantly, she did things like dive for a loose ball and force a
tie-up, zip out of the post to trap a ballhandler, and hold her ground in
the post and force a travel. Not a spectacular game, but solid in all regards
and one where she made winning plays.

After another solid game against Elon, she looked completely lost against
Toledo's zone, missing both of her shots and pulling down just 1 rebound.
Wynter looked much better against Davidson, especially with more minutes to
go round with Tillis sitting out the game, but she was just plain awful
against South Carolina. 0-3 from the field, just 1 rebound and 3 fouls.
And while USC had an experienced center in Teresa Geter, it's not like she
had a dominant game either. With White back in the mix, it seemed as though
Whitley's days as starting center might be numbered, except for the fact
that she was still playing good defense and had a great attitude. Unlike
her quiet classmate Currie, who mostly let her game do her talking, Whitley
was known as a bright and bubbly personality.

Wynter played a bit better against Charlotte and then was terrific in 5
of her next 6 games. She seemed to like big challenges and faced a big &
deep Louisiana Tech frontline. Whitley more than held her own, shutting
down power players like Ayana Walker and Cheryl Ford--those two only became
effective when Wynter sat down. She scored on post-ups and on a drop-step,
and alertly finished a bullet pass from Beard that put the game away. She
also took 2 charges, giving up her body against a physical squad. It was
her best overall game, made all the more effective because she learned how
to be effective with foul trouble. Whitley hit her first career three
against Virginia in the first game without White, among other big plays.
While she was sloppy with the ball (4 turnovers) and fouled out, she also
did a good job of getting to the foul line (5-5) and made the Hoos guard
her, taking 10 shots. Against Georgetown, she was again in double figures
with 11 and this time had 9 rebounds to go along with it. She was battling
the flu against Liberty, leading to an offensive no-show and 5 turnovers.
But she fought back against a great Tennessee team, scoring on post-ups
and getting to the foul line, though she did foul out for the last time
in 2001-02. The one thing she didn't do well was rebound, and that simply
wasn't acceptable for someone of her size and potential.

Whitley did improve her rebounding over the next five games, but regressed
in other areas. She had 7 turnovers against Georgia Tech and shot just 2-8
from the field against Maryland. Things picked up with 7 rebound games
against Wake and Clemson and a fine defensive effort against NC State.
Wynter didn't seem up to being a star as a frosh but at least was doing the
things she needed to be a great role player. But then things got really
tough for her. In two games against Virginia and UNC, she combined for
0-8 from the field, 2-6 from the foul line and 6 fouls. Against the Heels,
she managed just 3 rebounds. Wynter got one last crack as a starter against
a weak FSU team, but her 1-4 shooting performance and 4 fouls were a clear
sign that something needed to change. With Matyasovsky playing well off the
bench, it was time for a switch. Wynter was trying too hard and thinking too
much at the offensive end, and it was affecting aspects of her defense as well.

That move proved to be the right one, as Wynter quickly reestablished
herself as a difference-maker. She nailed a couple of threes against Georgia
Tech in her first game coming off the bench, and regained her aggressiveness
on offense against Wake, scoring 11 points. Whitley was great in spurts
against Clemson in a vital game, surprising them by driving to the basket,
posting up and scoring on a cut. The game against State in Cameron was
an interesting one, because Wynter bounced back from a poor start to play
a significant role in the victory. State's Clarisse Moody dominated her
early on before Wynter got tough and controlled the boards, getting 7
defensive rebounds. She also had 2 relocation assists and forced an important
backcourt turnover that led to a Duke three. Wynter then stunningly made
up for an earlier poor performance against FSU by getting a career high
in scoring with 19, but really put it all together at both ends. She blocked
out well, getting 8 rebounds, and hit a number of open looks.

She carried that confidence into the season finale against UNC, hitting
a critical three at the end of the first half that gave Duke the lead. Whitley
stepped in for Matyasovsky very early on due to foul trouble and gave the
Heels fits with her size and strength. She proved to be big in Duke's first
half comeback, finding others for baskets and forcing turnovers in addition
to posting up and scoring 13 for the game. Wynter turned out to be
one of the few Duke players who didn't succumb to nerves in the first round
of the ACC tournament, playing excellent defense and coming up big with
14 points. Coach G then named her the MVP of the win over Virginia in the
semifinals and this was quite accurate. In addition to being Duke's second
leading scorer in a tight game (with 13 points), she also played outstanding
post defense, holding Brandi Teamer in check for most of the second half.
She did this with very little help from Tillis or Matyasovsky, who were
both in foul trouble. In the second half, she scored 7 straight points at a
time when Duke really needed someone other than Beard to pick up the offense.
Wynter wasn't quite as spectacular against UNC, but her role was a bit
different. She was there to block out and prevent UNC from exploting their
favorite weapon: the offensive rebound. She came up with 5 essential
defensive boards in the second half, took 2 charges and grabbed a big-time
steal (from Nikki Teasley) in the waning moments of the game. Wynter also
hit a late free throw that put Duke up for good after spending most of the
half trying to come back. She was 4-6 from the line and had 0 turnovers--
she came up big in the biggest game of her career.

Wynter came out very jittery in her first NCAA game, however, turning
the ball over 4 times and getting just 1 basket. She got over it against
TCU, scoring twice in Duke's big push toward the end of the first half,
hitting 2 vital free throws down the stretch after picking up an offensive
rebound, and controlling TCU star center Sandora Ervin, who had just 8
points and 5 turnovers. Wynter had to step up because Tillis and Matyasovsky
were both in foul trouble. Having Wynter in reserve was proving to be
a great move for Coach G, because she could bring in a fresh player who really
knew what it took to play defense inside. In the East Regionals, she didn't
contribute much on the offensive end, but did a great job neutralzing post
star Stacy Stephens and USC center Teresa Geter. Against USC, Wynter hit a
critical 17' jumper that hung on the rim before deciding to drop and had a huge
block from behind, emphasizing Duke's dominance of the paint.

Wynter was contributing, but wasn't at the level she displayed in the ACCs.
That changed in the Final Four, where she had her best game in ages with
14 points and 8 rebounds. She seemed to play with the most passion in
big games where her team was in trouble, and that led to a number of big
plays. She did miss all 4 of her three point attempts and had 3 ill-timed
turnovers, but one couldn't fault her effort against a great team. Even
though this was a tough loss, I felt good about Duke's chances for 2003
with the efforts of players like Whitley and Tillis. Both showed that they
have a lot of heart and when things got ugly, proved that they'd to anything
to prevent a loss. Beard has that attitude, but it was nice to see Tillis
and Whitley in particular display it as well. Moreover, it was very
important that Wynter get the experience of playing a big role in a Final
Four game as a frosh--the experience will only help her down the line.

Again, it's important not to compare Wynter's numbers to Monique Currie's
or Alana Beard's (as a frosh). She was quite solid in comparison to other
ACC rookies, and her 171 rebounds were 4th best ever for Duke rookies,
edging out Payton Black. A lot was asked of her very early on, playing in
a position where she didn't have a lot of help. As the biggest and strongest
player on the team, she was asked to play physically right away and wasn't
always up for it. Balancing scoring with the responsiblity of guarding
top centers and power forwards was difficult and not always successful.
But the great thing about her season was that she never stopped plugging
away, even when she went through periods where she was obviously down about
her game and ability to contribute. Wynter gave Duke a player who became
a solid rebounder, an excellent defender, someone who gave up her body
and a great teammate. Like Rochelle Parent before her, she was a true role
player who didn't mind doing the dirty work. She deservedly won the Most
Improved player award for all her efforts and overcoming her offensive slump.
With that in mind, I think she can take the next step and become a double-digit
scorer and versatile offensive presence. Her jumper will have to continue
to improve, as will her ball-handling. I think her sophomore season will
go a long way in determining what the rest of her career will be like at

  • Best Games: Louisiana Tech (10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks,
    2 steals), Tennessee (13 points), @ UNC (19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals),
    Virginia in ACC Tournament (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists)
  • StatWise: Wynter was fifth among ACC rookies in scoring, 3rd in rebounds,
    and 2nd in field goal percentage.
  • Strengths: Power, versatility, blocking out, defensive intensity, post
    defense, off-ball defense
  • Needs To Work On: Confidence, fluidity, jumpshot, ballhandling, decision-making
  • Role: Possible starting center
  • Must: Be prepared to start, have a plan on offense

by Rob Clough