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Women's Basketball Review/Preview, Part II

III. Player-By-Player Evaluation: Players Returning

** Monique Currie, 6-0 G/F 17.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 32% 3FG

Notable 2004 Achievements:
Honda Award Nominee
Naismith Trophy Finalist
Wooden Award Finalist
Kodak All-America
Basketball Times All-America, First Team
AP All-America, First Team
USBWA All-America
ACC Player of the Year
All-ACC, First Team
All-ACC Tournament, First Team
Two-Time ACC Player Of the Week
All-Chattanooga Region Tournament
Junkanoo Jam MVP

Season Recap: Quite simply, Monique had one of the finest individual
seasons for
a player in Duke history. She took a team that had no returning players
had proven themselves as scorers, a team that functioned with 8 (and
fewer) players, as far as they could go. Currie went from being a
talent who didn't always play hard to a dependable player who did whatever
needed to get the team to win. What's remarkable is that her numbers
have been even better were it not for her foot injury in February. Currie
passed up a shot at being the potential #1 pick in the WNBA
draft to return to Duke for a fifth year. Mo is tacking on a master's in
liberal arts to her resume as she strives for Duke's first national title.

Looking at the numbers, Monique improved pretty much across the board.
Playing just about three minutes more a game, she increased her scoring
by 5 ppg, went to the line 76 more times, boosted her three point shooting
32% from 24%, and also upped her rebounds, assists and steals. Though Mo
turned the ball over more often, this was mostly due to being forced to
play a
lot of point. To her credit, she cut way down on fouls and only fouled
out of
2 games. Beyond the numbers, Mo was simply Crunch-Time Currie, taking and
hitting the big shot when she needed to. As a junior, she firmly
herself as one of the ACC's all-time great players. As a senior, she can
firmly cement that legend in pursuit of a national title.

Currie was good but unremarkable by her own standards in the first few
games of
the year. She was dominated in the second half of the Notre Dame game by
Jacqueline Batteast, and fouled out of the Penn State game with just 13
Games against Kansas State and Tennessee were her wake-up calls. Mo
K-State with a 25-point, 8 rebound performance where she went to the foul
16 times. In Knoxville, Mo scored 14 of her 20 points down the stretch,
putting Duke ahead 3 separate times. This included the game-winning
basket on
a drive, as well as a stickback where she outworked three Lady Vols in the
paint. Mo showed how much she loves playing on the road by punishing
for 22 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

In the ACC, her performances grew better and better. 18 against Va
Tech, then
23 vs Virginia on the road, then 27 & 11 vs Georgia Tech, then another
double-double vs Wake. Against UNC, she scored 22 points in the second
after only getting 2 in the first. She almost single-handedly brought
back in that game, scoring nearly half of Duke's points. When Duke played
Maryland in Cameron, Mo scored 16 points in the last fifteen minutes,
the game-winning jumper. The Duke offense was sputtering at this point,
Currie had to do nearly everything. Playing NC State in Raleigh, Mo
scored a
third of Duke's points. After Duke went down by 2 with under a minute
she sank a long jumper and was fouled to provide the winning points.

That capped a sensational string of games for Currie as Duke pulled out
some tight
wins. In Miami, she hurt her foot and didn't look quite the same for most
the rest of the year. Mo was still in double figures in scoring in
every game but one, but her shooting was off and she wasn't getting to the
line as often. Mo managed to drop 18 points on Miami and 22 points on UNC
in the rematch, though that did come with 8 turnovers. Currie scored 26
UNC in the ACC title game, but it wasn't nearly enough for Duke.

Currie was great during the first three rounds of the NCAA's. Her 21
against Boston College carried the team, while her double-double against
Georgia held them at bay. Her shaky shooting got the best of her against
as she was just 4-18 from the floor with 5 turnovers. Worse, LSU star
Augustus smoked her for 24 points, pulling up in her face all game for
I'm convinced that if Mo had won the national title as a junior, she would
have left Duke. But leaving on such a bad note was unacceptable to her,
and so
she'll get to continue her story.

Currie will have a lot less on her plate as a senior. She won't have to
be a
primary ballhandler, won't have to guard opposing point guards, and won't
to be responsible for 30-50% of her team's points. Mo will be offensive
1-B, with the post players getting the first look. Duke will rely on
Currie to
take over down the stretch, create her own shots when needed and get to
line. Mo will need to use her jumper as much as she can to save some wear
tear on her body, and at the same time open things up a bit for her drive.

Teams are still playing her for the drive and leaving her open from the
perimeter, and Mo must get her three point percentage up past the
point of 33%, and preferably up near 40%. Currie will also be able to
concentrate on guarding fellow wings, and hopefully will have an
opportunity to
get Augustus for a rematch somewhere down the line. While the 2006 team
all sorts of intriguing players, Currie is still the team's MVP and will
ultimately determine how far they go this year.

Best Games: Kansas State (25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals);
(20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals); Purdue (22 points, 10 rebounds, 7
assists, 3
steals); Georgia Tech (27 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals); @ UNC
points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals); Maryland (24 points, 13 rebounds, 4
assists); @
NC State (18 points, 5 rebounds, game-winning shot); UNC (22 points, 5
rebounds, 7 assists); UNC (26 points, 5 rebounds); Boston College (21
points, 4
rebounds, 3 assists)

Statwise: Mo really moved up various lists as a junior. She's currently
all-time in scoring with 1549 points and has an excellent shot at claiming
#2 spot on this list. She's #9 in rebounds with 671 and could go as high
#2. Currie is #8 in assists with 314 and could jump into the top five. In
blocks, Mo is currently 9th with 66, and 8th in steals with 180. Finally,
has sunk 411 free throws in her career--good for fourth place. She has a
legitimate shot at Alana Beard's all-time record of 582.

Strengths: Power, playmaking, rebounding, intimidation, scoring off the

Needs To Work On: Using her jumper, turnovers
Role: Leader, leading scorer, jack-of-all-trades
Must: Know when to take over and know when to involve her teammates

** Jessica Foley, 6-0 G, Sr. 10.9 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.9 spg, 36% 3FG

Notable 2005 Achievements:
All-ACC, Third Team

Season Recap: The word for Jess Foley's 2005 season was "double".
Starting for
the first time in her career after backing up Alana Beard, Foley
doubled her minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and scoring
She did this despite nursing a foot injury for much of the season, one
cost her a couple of games. Foley's performance was consistent enough to
some postseason recognition, but in the end it was her doing the little
that meant the most to the team.

First and foremost, her passing and ballhandling were key in getting the
backcourt to work efficiently. Were she just a gunner, there would have
even more pressure on Wanisha Smith to succeed. Instead, Jess'
helped make Smith better, and certainly kept the team calm under pressure.
Indeed, that maturity was noted by coach and player alike as the team
against tough and physical teams. The fact that she's already 22 years
old and
has played international ball for Australia for several seasons certainly
give her an edge.

That aside, Jess greatly improved her overall FG% (from 35 to 39%), her
(from 33 to 36%) and more than tripled her free throw attempts (20 to 69,
shooting at an 80% clip). She was a streaky shooter, going through
where she shot under 20% and others were she was over 60%. While her
ballhandling improved and she was close to a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio,
she was
still often too careless with the ball, especially on the break. Still,
grew steadier as the season wore on; in her last 18 games, she only turned
ball over more than twice on 3 occasions. While Jess wasn't necessarily
assist machine, she often either made the pass to the person who got the
assist, or at least her ballhandling prevented a turnover when opponents

The Penn State game, while not statistically all that impressive,
that Foley loves to make big plays when they're needed. She only hit 1
but it was one that broke a long Duke scoring drought. All of her assists
at crucial junctures, and she had a block that saved a sure score. More
that, she played excellent defense, using her height to make things hard
the other team. Jess hit 3 straight jumpers against Tennessee that swung
momentum Duke's way in the second half, and grabbed 7 rebounds against the
tough Lady Vols.

Foley exploded offensively to start off the ACC season, averaging 16 ppg
the first five games. She smoked Georgia Tech for a team record-tying 7
in a game where Duke was down early. Foley set career highs for points
(23) and
rebounds (10) in the contest, and shut down young Tech star Chioma Nnamaka
in the
second half. Her shooting then went south for the next three games, as
and physical UNC, Maryland and NC State squads forced her into 4-20
from three. Still, against NC State, Duke nearly folded when Foley fouled
and the Wolfpack started pressing.

Jess regained her touch down the stretch, burning Miami twice with
showings and dropping 5 threes on Georgia Tech. She was injured after the
tournament (where she was solid, but not spectacular), and she was quite
limited in the NCAA tournament games. Duke certainly could have used a
full-speed Jess against LSU.

Where Foley fits in as a senior is a good question. She's a captain and
team leader, though isn't always a very vocal player. There are a
plethora of
guards on the roster and there's no guarantee that she'll start,
since she's recovering from off-season surgery. She should be ready to go
full speed shortly, but that means Jess is already a bit behind the other
guards. That would probably be of greater concern for a less experienced
player, or one who relied on quickness more than Foley. Still, one
about her role. Wanisha Smith and Abby Waner can both handle the ball and
shoot as well or better than Foley. Lindsey Harding and Emily Waner both
the point guard slot locked down. My guess is that Coach G will use Jess
wherever she sees a problem during a game. She knows that mentally, Jess
never break down. Look for her to be part of some three guard offenses,
to be
paired with either point guard or any of the combo guards, and to get many
open looks from long range. Like Krista Gingrich and Sheana Mosch as
Jess may not start a lot of games, but she will finish them. Coach G will
value her experience in tight spots, because Jess is more than capable of
making the right decision under pressure. Until the younger players on
team prove they can do the same, Jess will get plenty of time as a

Best Games: Tennessee (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals),
(20 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), Georgia Tech (23 points, 7-12 threes,
rebounds, 5 assists), @ Miami (17 points, 7 rebounds), @ Georgia Tech (19
points, 5-7 threes, 2 assists, 2 steals), Miami (18 points, 4-5 threes, 4

Statwise: Jess is #36 on the scoring charts with 732 points. She should
the 1000 point club as a senior. Foley is 18th in assists with 251; given
enough playing time, she should make the top 10. In steals, Jess has 116;
also has a shot at the top ten there. Foley is 4th all-time in threes
with 135
and may be able to break Georgia Schweitzer's record of 202.

Strengths: Moving without the ball, passing, shooting
Needs To Work On: Strength, one-on-one defense
Role: Senior leader, decision-maker, calming influence, shooter
Must: Stay healthy, choose shots wisely

** Mistie Williams, 6-3 C, Sr. 11.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 54% FG, 1.8 apg

Notable 2005 Achievements:
All-ACC, Third Team
All-Chattanoogia Region Tournament
Team Heart & Hustle Award
Team Practice Player of the Year

Season Recap: Mistie had a solid junior year, slightly improving her
scoring and
rebounding averages but shooting a little worse. Of course, this was the
year that she played without Alana Beard and Iciss Tillis, and she faced
difficulties as a primary scoring option. Williams broke the 20 point
five times and had 8 double-figure rebounding games. The knock against
remains that she has trouble scoring against big-time opponents, but a
look at those games reveals that those opponents usually chose to
her in the post. Mistie was not yet versatile enough to dish off
(though she did double her assists from her sophomore season) or use a
post move to score. That's a big reason why she went to Pete Newell's
Woman camp this summer, to diversify her post game and find ways to become
effective in the offense.

It was a wise decision, because Mistie will be Duke's first option on
Coach G wants to build a team from the inside out, and it starts with
scoring and rebounding. Williams talked about how the camp taught her to
develop a counter-move after her initial move didn't work, in order to
make her
less predictable. Teams that scouted carefully knew that she favored
going over
her left shoulder, and so it was easy to neutralize her if you had the
personnel. Mistie was UNC's top defensive target, holding her to a total
of 19
points and 13 rebounds over a three game span. The fact that Duke's other
were not able to pick up the slack when she was covered certainly didn't
but Duke became a lot easier to guard when Williams wasn't scoring.

Mistie enjoyed a strong pre-ACC showing. Highlights include a 20-point
outburst against Penn State, including the baskets that put Duke ahead in
second half; a fine 14-point, 10 rebound effort against Tennessee; and
workmanlike showings against Purdue & Auburn where she totalled 27
After a solid game against Virginia Tech and a decent showing against
she threw a bagel up against small-ball Georgia Tech--0 points and just 1
rebound in 29 minutes. She recovered from that came to drop 22 on Wake
but then struggled against the double-teams of UNC. Mistie played well in
hard-fought win over NC State, battling Tiffany Stansbury toe-to-toe and
up with 11 points in a game where scoring was at a premium.

The latter half of the ACC season saw some quieter games from Mistie;
she was
in single digits in 4 of 5 contests before she dropped a career high 23 on
Miami. While she struggled against UNC in her last two meetings, she
was fantastic in the postseason. She dominated the frontlines of Wake and
Maryland in the ACC tournament, and punished Canisius with 21 points. But
was in the biggest postseason games where she truly excelled. Against
Georgia's tough front line, Mistie had 14 points and 13 rebounds, getting
star Tasha Humphrey in foul trouble. Against LSU's formidable post
players, she
was a perfect 7-7 from the floor. Those games proved that she could go up
against anyone in the nation one-on-one and perform well.

As a senior, Mistie was named as a co-captain. As the most vocal of the
captains, her voice will be heard most often on the floor and in huddles.
She'll have a huge role in making sure everyone's in the right spot
and is spaced correctly on offense. Williams is in fantastic shape and
more mobile than ever. Mistie started taking the 15' jumper with
last year, and she says she feels more comfortable with it than ever. She
plans to make it a regular part of her arsenal rather than just a bail-out
when she's alone at the top of the key. One hopes that this increased
confidence will translate to a better foul-shooting percentage. Mistie
got the
fewest attempts of her career as a junior, and shot her lowest percentage
(61%). The good news is that she's becoming a better all-around player,
who's more aware of the whole court rather than her own shot. Williams
this while improving her stamina and finishing games with authority.
and leadership need to be her consistent calling cards; the effort and
intensity are certainly already there.

Best Games: Penn State (20 points, 6 rebounds), Kansas State (12 points,
rebounds), Tennessee (14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks), Auburn (10
points, 13
rebounds, 4 assists), Virginia Tech (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists),
Forest (22 points, 7 rebounds), Miami (23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals),
Georgia (14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists), LSU (15 points, 6 rebounds,

Statwise: Mistie was the latest player to cross the 1000 point barrier
Duke. With 1017, she's now #19 all-time. In rebounds, she's 18th with
Mistie is 6th in blocks with 98 but probably won't move much higher than

Strengths: Power, mid-range game, aggressiveness
Needs To Work On: Beating double-teams, decision-making in the post
Role: Leader, communicator, primary post option
Must: Draw fouls, finish in the post, continue to develop post

** Alison Bales, 6-7 C, Jr. 7.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.8 bpg, 1.8 apg

Notable 2005 Achievements:
All-ACC, Defensive Team
Junkanoo Jam All-Tournament team
Team Defensive Player Award

Season Recap: A year ago, I wrote that Alison had an opportunity to
improve in
2005, and thought that it was realistic to see her play 15-20 minutes a
and double her ppg and rpg outputs. The results were even more positive
than I
had guessed, as she more than doubled her scoring (7.7, up from 3.3),
(6.6, up from 2.8), blocks (3.8, up from 1.2) and assists (1.8, up from
The fact that she played 25.3 minutes a game is a testament to how much
stamina improved and how useful she became on the court. I noted that at
very least, she could become a defensive specialist. She certainly did,
crushing Duke's single-season blocks record and helping to set an NCAA
single-season blocks record for a team. Scoring against Duke's front line
became very difficult last season, something that helped make up for some
the defensive deficits in the backcourt.

That said, Ali still has a ways to go before she can become a great
First and foremost, she's still not strong enough to truly dominate the
even at 6-7. She simply needs to get stronger; Bales is in good shape
and has made huge strides in slimming down and getting quicker. Still,
should be able to overpower smaller opponents more than she does. That
speaks to the fact that she's too passive on offense. Simply put, she
too much. When she posts up, gets the ball, pivots and shoots, it's hard
stop her. But when she's just a bit outside her comfort zone in the post,
hems and haws and either puts up an awkward shot, tries to power her way
unsteadily, or turns the ball over. There are two keys for remedying
First, her guards must find ways to get her the ball when she's posting up
in good position to get the ball. Second, she needs a go-to move to
depend on
when she doesn't have great position. I've seen her try a hook shot in
practice that she doesn't entirely seem comfortable with, but the key to
improvement is repetition. With her size, footwork and length, Ali just
one move to really open things up.

Ali started the season by besting her career high with 13 points, but
could have done even more against a small Davidson team. She played well
the road against another smallish team from Notre Dame, blocking 7 shots
still being limited on the boards. Against Stephen F Austin, she had a
all-around game, dominating the glass. She had regained her starting job
against Notre Dame with after Chante Black was injured, and stayed there
every game the rest of the year but one. After a dominant performance
Kansas State, Ali had a few key plays against Tennessee. She blocked a
Zolman drive with so much force that Zolman flew out of bounds. Later,
forced a bad shot, got the board, and outletted it for a pass that led to
score. Throughout the non-conference part of the schedule, Ali rebounded
strongly but wasn't scoring much.

That changed against Auburn, as she dominated the Tigers' post with a 14
flurry, along with the usual blocks and rebounds. Bales was able to help
control ACC games without doing much scoring, tallying 20 blocks and 36
rebounds in the first 5 league games of the season. Ali abused a small
frontcourt to the tune of a career-high 21 points, but struggled in the
game against UNC, missing 5 of 6 foul shots. She stayed relatively quiet
the next few ACC games, but redeemed herself against UNC in the second
nearly putting up a triple-double. After a disappointing showing against
Heels in the ACC championship game, Ali redoubled her efforts in the

With Jess Foley out, the team needed more scoring. Against a Canisius
that was keying on her, she scored 8 points but dished out 6 assists to go
her 6 blocks. In the next game, Boston College was doubling Mistie
thinking that Bales wouldn't hurt them. Instead, Ali put up one of her
performances in a Duke uni, smashing BC's defense for 16 points and
blocking 6
shots. Without her, Duke does not win that game. Ali followed that up
with a
strong showing against Georgia's tough front line, notching 10 points and
boards. Her presence helped frustrate Georgia star Tasha Humphrey.

In 2006, Ali may have an easier time getting good looks at the basket.
have veteran guards who are pass-first points, and if she gets open, the
will be delivered to her. With Carrem Gay in the post, there will be
scorer who will make things easier for everyone. Having so many shooters
the team should also unclog some of the congestion down low, limiting
double-teams and discouraging zone defenses. After winning the Under 21
Championships with a dominant post game, Coach G wants to make sure that
posts got a lot of touches as the team's first option. With more good
looks at
the basket, Ali must improve on her 48% shooting percentage of 2005. A
reasonable goal would be 10 ppg and 9 rpg, with an average of a
within her grasp. Considering that Ali is an excellent passer, I'd like
to see
her at least get a touch on every halfcourt possession. Even if she
shoot or get an assist, simply having the ball in her hands should make
opposing defenses nervous and force them to shift tactics. Making sure
touches the ball would also keep her on track for accelerating her
aggressiveness, and assure that the team doesn't forget about her inside.
Ali has the ball on the block and she sees an open shooter, she will get
it to
them. I'm not predicting greatness for Bales this year necessarily, but I
think that she can go from being good to very good--and certainly has a
to be a consistent force.

Best Games: Kansas State (11 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks), Auburn (14
6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals), Wake Forest (21 points, 9
3 assists), UNC (10 points, 9 rebounds, 8 blocks, 2 assists), Boston
College (16
points, 5 rebounds, 6 blocks), Georgia (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Statwise: Ali set the single-season record for blocks with an astonishing
and zoomed all the way up to #2 on the all-time Duke list as a result.
She be
able to break Sarah Sullivan's long-standing Duke record of 212 sometime

Strengths: Shot-blocking, shooting touch, passing, defensive positioning

Needs To Work On: Aggressiveness, a go-to post move
Role: Primary post defender, another focal post presence on offense
Must: Become a more dominant rebounder and get physical

** Lindsey Harding, 5-8 G, Jr. 6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 2 spg (2004

Season Recap: As anyone who follows the Duke program knows, Lindsey
Harding was
suspended by Coach G last season for breaking a team rule. Initially, the
suspension was going to be for a limited time, and then was extended to
the end
of the year. Through the suspension, Lindsey stayed in school and
with the team every day. Rumors flew about the reasons she was suspended,
including but not limited to violations of the school's honor code.
such violations force a mandatory two-semester suspension, during which
student must leave school and then reapply for entry. This is what
happened to
both Greg Newton and Ricky Price for the men's team in the mid-90's. So
whatever led Coach G to suspend Lindsey was not an honor code violation.
this point, Lindsey is not going to discuss what happen and wants to move
She certainly paid the price for what she did, especially because she
that she could have been a difference-maker for last year's team.

What-ifs and could-have-beens help no one. She still has two full years
of her, and she fully intends to use both of them. It is likely that she
will apply to graduate school for her fifth year, in much the same way
Monique Currie is doing this season. The most obvious question to ask is
if she's
ready, physically and emotionally, for the rigors of a season once again.

The early results are certainly positive. Lindsey is as quick as ever,
recovered from the foot ailments that plagued her earlier in her career.
speed is something that was noticeably absent on last year's team, and
will be an
important factor in devising defenses against the nation's elite.

Coach G noted that Lindsey has grown up a lot and is now ready to become
true leader, even if she is not a captain. Gail feels confident in
Lindsey as
an extension of the coach and is comfortable that Harding knows exactly
she wants done on the floor. One can sense that Lindsey is a different
Defensively, all is as it was before--intense ball pressure, physical
rising up for rebounds, etc. Offensively, it's another story. Accustomed
deferring to her elders, Lindsey is looking to drive to the basket much
often, and isn't afraid to take the open jumper. She's worked all summer
a shooting machine called "The Gun" and it forced her to add some arc to
formerly-flat shot. As a result, her overall shooting mechanics have
Harding's shot looks smoother and she's more comfortable and confident
it as a result.

Harding clearly has a strong grip on a starting role, with her defense,
experience, understanding of the game and improved jumper. Lindsey will
be a
lynchpin for the team, since she'll have to find ways to help Currie
less energy at both ends of the floor, as well as generate good looks for
Williams & Bales inside, all while leading the defensive charge. A lot
will be
expected of Harding in a season where she has a lot to prove, both on and
the court. I expect the hard lessons that she's learned will pay off.

Statwise: Lindsey is #11 in assists with 292, but should one day own the
record. Harding has 135 career steals, good for 15th all-time.

Strengths: Quickness, speed, ball-handling, penetration, defense,

Needs To Work On: Taking the open shot, making the creative pass
Role: Extension of the coach, primary ballhandler and perimeter
Must: Take the open shot, look to penetrate more

** Chante Black, 6-5 C, So. 6.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 53% FG, 1.3 bpg

Notable 2005 Achievements:
All-ACC Tournament, 2nd Team
All-ACC Freshmen, honorable mention
1-time ACC Rookie of the Week

Season Recap: Of all Duke's young players, Chante Black has the most
One simply can't teach her leaping ability, quickness or intelligence.
If she
stays healthy, Black will destroy the school rebounding record of 1229.
As a
frosh, she recorded 260, and I only expect that number to go up as she
more playing time. Her 7.3 caroms a game came in just 19 minutes a game.
Chante is also a fierce shot-blocker, and will challenge Alison Bales for
team lead in that area. Black understands positioning and timing quite
and combining this with her athletic ability makes her a potent defensive
force. Chante's difficulties are all at the offensive end. Her footwork
excellent, and her quickness allows her to post up anyone. She has good
and usually catches the ball cleanly. The problems start when she tries
finish. She's not strong enough to power her way up for baskets, and so
tried a variety of fade-away jumpers and half-hooks, none of which she
with any confidence or comfort. In order to become a great player, Chante
need to diversify her offensive game. She needs to get a couple of
go-to moves, get comfortable with them, and repeat them endlessly.

Part of her problem last year is the dilemma that faces all young
players: the
game simply moves too quickly for them. In Chante's case, her own
works against her. She would often get perfect position against an
but would then rush the shot, thinking she didn't have time to comfortably
Conversely, when she was going after an offensive rebound, she had no
scoring smoothly on tip-ins--there was simply no time to think in that
situation. It also wouldn't hurt if she improved her face-up game a
form on her jumper is a bit shaky and she clearly hesitates to even
attempt it.
Opponents will continue to body her up down low and let her take that
all she wants until she can sink a few, or learn to put the ball on the
and use her quickness to attack the basket off the dribble. The good news
Chante is that with Harding and Emily Waner at point guard, she'll get the
in good position much more quickly than last year, and so should be able
to get
in an offensive groove that much more easily.

The word that best describes Chante's overall game is "active". She had
double-digit rebounding figures in the first two games of her career and
blocked 6 shots. Of course, she also sustained an injury in that second
and had to sit out a couple of weeks. As a result of that inactivity and
perhaps being a bit gun-shy, she was quiet for several games. She
exploded for
a career-high 16 points against Jacksonville State and had 11 rebounds
Ball State, but had little impact in the first month of the ACC season.

After Coach G noted that Chante played more aggressively (and hence
with her mouth guard in, the ever-superstitious Gail even made her go home
get it during practice one day. Superstition or not, Chante's play picked
in ACC play. She averaged 9 rpg over the last 7 ACC games, including a
career-best 16 boards vs. Clemson. Her scoring jumped from 3 ppg to 7 ppg
during the same span. Chante then averaged 10 ppg and 10 rpg in the ACC
tournament, and really dominated Maryland in the semifinal. The first two
rounds of the NCCA tournament featured more strong play as she piled up 17
points and 22 rebounds, but she found the going much tougher against the
squads of Georgia and LSU.

Chante will have a tough time starting ahead of the veteran Williams and
much-improved Bales, but there's no question that she will be the first
player off the bench and see a boost in her overall minutes. Like the
post players, she will benefit from the plethora of shooters on the team
improved point guard play. If she can develop offensively, then Duke's
game will unquestionably be the most formidable in the nation, because
have four very different post players, all of whom can do different things
complement each other nicely. I like the idea of Chante playing at the
with Carrem Gay coming in with her, presenting an ultra-quick frontcourt
can run the court and finish, help press and trap, and use their speed to
down opponents at the defensive end. I think one great game against a
opponent will serve to boost her confidence and establish her for the rest
the year. The opportunity for greatness is there for Black, and all she
has to
do is seize it.

Best Games: Davidson (9 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks), Jacksonville
State (16
points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 4 steals), @ Miami (12 points, 8
rebounds), Maryland (14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Statwise: Chante is already #17 on the career blocks list with 46.

Strengths: Quickness, leaping ability, rebounding, shot-blocking
Needs To Work On: A go-to post move, finishing with contact, getting to
the foul
Role: Rebounder, defender, cleaning up the offensive glass
Must: Develop more of a touch around the basket, get stronger

** Laura Kurz, 6-2 F, So. 5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 45% 3FG

Season Recap: 2005 was an adjustment period for Laura, as she had to
figure out
ways to deal with the speed and physicality of the game. That process was
long and slow one, and the result was that she was the last player in
short rotation. As a frosh, she simply wasn't ready to compete against
nation's elite. She has quite a task ahead of her to earn playing time,
so many guards on the roster, but her size and versatility are assets that
could help get her minutes.

Laura is a deadly shooter, regarded by most on the team as its best.
last year, when she played just 12 minutes a game, she was able to nail 33
threes. This is despite having an unusual shooting motion, pushing the
away from chest level. This is a bit problematic at this level,
that she doesn't have the height advantage that she enjoyed in high
school. As
she adjusts to a newer form, there could be a period where she might
with her shot. The other problem she had as a frosh is that she tended to
cough the ball up too often. Calculating for a turnovers per 40 minutes,
turned it over nearly 3 times a game, a truly alarming rate. She must
learn to
become stronger with the ball and make better decisions.

Coach G is planning to use Laura a bit at the post this year. That's
because of the team's guard glut, but also because Laura is a good
and understands offensive and defensive flow. Because Coach G favors
versatility and creating matchup problems, she's hoping that occasionally
Laura in the post can either leave her open for a three, or else draw
out of the post in order to guard her. Against teams that don't have
front lines, this strategy could be effective. We'll see how proficient
she can
become at this spot, but consider that Michele Matyasovsky did much the
thing in her career, and did it effectively. Both players are about the
size, neither are especially quick, but both understand motion and can
While Matty had to play the post out of necessity rather than design,
could wind up being an interesting change of pace.

In the early part of 2004-2005, Kurz struggled. She had as many
turnovers as
she did field goals (6). In the game against Pacific, Laura exploded,
a team-high 20 points on 8-10 shooting. She continued to play well
the rest of December and early January, getting double figures in 6 of 8
In reasonably limited minutes against Purdue and Auburn, she combined for
shooting and 19 points. In addition to going through a hot period as a
point shooter, Laura was scoring using a floater near the basket, a
weird-looking shot that went in more often than not.

As Duke started playing tougher ACC opponents, Laura began to struggle.
wasn't much help against UNC, and got yanked against Maryland after just
minutes when she committed a bad turnover. She smoked Florida State with
shooting and got about 20 mpg in blowouts, but stopped getting significant
playing time against Duke's toughest opponents. Opponents had figured out
they needed to attack her dribble, and Kurz had trouble adjusting.

There are a lot of guards and wings on this year's team, so it will be
up to
Laura to carve out a role that will get her minutes. If she can cut down
her turnovers, hold her own on defense and continue to use that nasty
Kurz may be able to make some noise this year. Moving her to the post is
interesting gamble, and hopefully it will pay off both for Laura and for

Best Games: Pacific (20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals), Auburn
points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals), Florida State (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2
Wake Forest (16 points, 5 rebounds)

Statwise: Laura already is in Duke's top 25 in threes, nailing 33 as a

Strengths: Shooting, size, moving without the ball
Needs To Work On: Strength, ballhandling, focus, getting to the foul
Role: Swing player
Must: Be ready to contribute at several positions

** Wanisha Smith, 5-11 G, So. 10.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 41% 3FG, 1.7

Notable 2005 Achievements:
Young All-America,
All-ACC Freshmen
3-Time ACC Rookie of the Week
All-Tournament Team, Junkanoo Jam

Season Recap: Wanisha Smith had a great freshman year overall, and yet I
think she received all of the accolades that she deserved. First off, she
to play 32 minutes a game, a rate that is unheard of for frosh. Second,
had to play out of position at point for a team that had few ballhandlers.
Third, she had to defend point guards who were quicker and more
than she was. Despite this, she set a Duke freshman record for assists,
averaged double-digit scoring, shot a more-than-respectable percentage
three, had more assists than turnovers, got to the foul line more than
except Mo Currie and had the third-highest steals total on the team. The
problem is that while Nish was always steady, she was rarely spectacular.
Also, against Duke's toughest opponents, Smith sometimes had trouble with
turnovers or scoring.

Of course, that can be said of many players on Duke's team not named
Currie, but Smith was more visible because she had to handle the ball so
Still, she never was down for long and always seemed to be able to bounce
from tough games. "Next play" was an idea that she was able to absorb
quickly. Her year as Duke's point guard was an experience that will
always be
good for her career, because she had to learn a lot on the fly and became
much more versatile player as a result. Smith brings a lot of plusses to
backcourt, especially for Duke. We all know that she can play either
slot, and can even get some minutes at the wing. She has good quickness
and a
solid first step, even if she isn't as fast as the elite. Her tremendous
strength allows her to finish with contact and get fouls when she attacks
basket. The fact that she's a fine shooter from the foul line makes her a
tremendous weapon. Nish can run and finish on the break and also find
ways to
score in the halfcourt. With so many other scorers on the team this year,
won't likely raise her own ppg average by much, but I imagine she'll
become a
more efficient scorer. Her overall shooting percentage was 43%, and she
have the opportunity to better that this season. Smith will also have the
opportunity to play with point guards who can get her the ball where she
it on the floor.

Smith became a starter in the second game of the year, with both
positives and
negatives. She dropped 20 points on opponent South Florida, but had 6
turnovers. Smith scored 11 against Penn State but coughed it up 7 times.
There was a certain point where her occasional wildness was simply a fact
Duke had to accept in order to reap the benefits of her game. Against
Tennessee, she broke off 8 assists, methodically carving up the Lady Vols'
stout halfcourt defense. She exploded offensively against Liberty and
Jacksonville State, notching a career-high 22 in the latter game.

As the ACC season began, Smith really started to cook. She averaged 15
ppg, 6
apg and 2 spg against Duke's first 4 ACC foes and shot over 50% from the
Then came the debacle in Chapel Hill, where Nish was 0-7 from the floor
and had
8 turnovers, including several in a row that turned the game around in
favor. She simply wasn't ready for UNC's incredible speed and made a
number of
nervous errors. To her credit, she bounced back against a tough Maryland
in Duke's next game and had 14 points and 5 assists. She followed that up
another bad game, this time against an ultra-physical NC State team. Held
scoreless once again, she at least had 5 assists to 3 turnovers.

Down the stretch, she was solid. Smith was in double figures in 8 of
her last
10 ACC games. Turnovers were still a problem, but she at least had more
than turnovers in 5 of her last 10 games. Her play was greatly improved
UNC in their last two meetings, scoring 13 points in their second game and
points in the ACC final. Smith had a strong ACC tournament in general,
averaging 13 ppg, 4 rpg and 3 apg. Nish also came up big against Georgia
the NCAA's, scoring 10 points to go along with 6 boards and 5 steals.

It would have been nice for Nish to have Lindsey Harding on the court to
mentor her during games in much the same way that Hilary Howard mentored
Georgia Schweitzer, Schweitzer mentored Alana Beard, Beard mentored
etc. But she didn't have that luxury and simply had to play through it
showed a lot of guts in the process. Wanisha has an extremely bright
future at
Duke, and will benefit from playing with Currie, Harding and the Waners.
will see many more open shots and have many more chances to attack the
Nish will need to adjust to guard off guards and wings more this season,
with her size and strength, she should be able to handle that. With
Currie as
a senior and A.Waner as a frosh, it may be easy to overlook Smith, but
would be a big mistake--both for Duke fans and for opponents.

Best Games: Tennessee (5 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds), Jacksonville
State (22
points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals), Purdue (12 points, 2 rebounds, 4
asists, 2 steals), Auburn (15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists), Virginia
Tech (15
points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals), Maryland (14 points, 3 rebounds,
assists, 2 steals)

Statwise: Nish broke the frosh record for assists, notching 133. This
puts her
at #33 already on Duke's all-time list.

Strengths: Strength, quickness, penetration, shooting
Needs To Work On: Defensive pressure, shot selection
Role: Primary perimeter scorer
Must: Adjust to making the most efficient use of her minutes

** Emily Waner, 5-8 G, So.

Season Recap: Emily sat out 2005 after she transferred from Colorado.
will get to play for three years with her younger sister Abby. While the
will have an opportunity to reestablish their telepathic connection on the
court, there are other interesting things they bring to a team as a duo.
It is
important for both to be thought of as individuals, and it was important
both to know that they were wanted by Duke regardless of their interest in
other. They also noted that they have long been ultracompetitive with
other, and are likely to be harder on each other than their other
They know they can do this because of their deeper connection as sisters.
noted that in one high school game, she had the ball as time was running
She threw a blind pass to the corner with a defender hanging on her, and
happened to be in that very spot. She hit a three to win the game, and
afterward had no idea that she was there--it was purely from knowing her

Emily is a nice complement to Lindsey Harding in particular. The two
were the
captains of the practice team last year and spent a lot of time pretending
to be
the starting backcourt of Duke's opponents. Emily is a deadeye shooter
loves to penetrate and create in the lane. She has excellent floor vision
is adept at feeding the post in particular. Her ability to drive will
defenders as she penetrates and pitches to open shooters. The key for her
season will be learning how to drive on quick players who play her for
penetration. No one will leave her open, because she will sink that shot
given time. Also, Waner will need to be able to quicken the release on
shot in order to get it off when she is closely guarded.

When playing with Harding, she will be able to spot up for threes after
Harding penetrates. She also won't have to worry about guarding
point guards with Harding on the floor. The offense as a whole will
because both players will look to get the ball inside and to cutters,
still being able to make defenses pay either by pulling up or penetrating.
Emily's year of experience at Colorado and practicing with Duke will
her for the rigors of the ACC, especially on defense. The key for her
will be
finding ways to contribute even when her jumper isn't falling, be it
for a steal or setting up scores. A year ago, I compared her to a Hilary
Howard type player, and I think it's still a good comparison. She will
have a
chance to learn how to run this team from Lindsey Harding in much the same
Hibby learned from Kira Orr. It's clear from practice that Emily is
more confident and comfortable in Duke's system than she was a year ago,
and I
expect her to make similar progress in actual games.

Strengths: Penetration, passing, floor vision, shooting
Needs To Work On: Defense, finishing, shot selection
Role: Backup point guard, three point shooting threat
Must: Be able to adjust to a wide variety of players and keep them