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Women's Basketball Review/Preview Part, III

IV. A Look At The Class of 2009

** Carrem Gay, 6-2 F, New York City (Christ The King)

McDonald's All-America
WBCA All-America
Miss Basketball, New York
Dave DeBusschere Award
USA Today All-America, Second Team
Parade All-America, Third Team
Newsday Player of the Year
USA Today Super 25 All-America, Second Team
NIKE All-America Camp
adidas Top Ten camp
Women's Youth Development Festival

Stats: 18.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 5.3 bpg, 4.7 apg

Ranking: Blue Star #26, All Game Sports #14, All Star Girls Report #28

The Scoop: In some ways, Carrem Gay is Duke's most important frosh. On a
roster now dominated mostly by guards, Gay will help shore up the post,
both in terms of scoring and defense. Considering that the only quick
post player on the team is Chante Black, Gay's tremendous speed and
leaping ability could make her a potentially huge asset throughout the
season. Gay is far from just being a raw athlete. Her poise and calm
under pressure make her especially qualified for dealing with intense
post play. That maturity was developed by playing for one of the best
high school basketball programs in the country. Christ the King is the
school that produced Chamique Holdsclaw, after all. She helped lead them
to national top-10 finishes as an underclassman, and her leadership
propelled them to the mythical high school national championship as a

This is a big reason why Gay has adapted so quickly to playing at Duke.
wasn't even the best player on her own team (top rising senior Tina
Charles was
the go-to star), and so she understands how to sacrifice portions of one's
own game to help fulfill team goals. Gay understands roles and how to
play them, and is a quick study as to her own teammates' tendencies,
strengths and weaknesses.

The first thing one notices about Gay is her sheer speed. When
the players sprint, Gay is often at the head of the pack. She will fit in
quite well with Duke's transition game. The second thing one notices is
the way Gay always seems to be around the ball. Her timing is every bit
as remarkable as her quickness, and the result is lots of tip-ins and
offensive rebounds. Carrem is not that strong, and can certainly be
muscled out of the way when she's being posted up, but often finds ways
to compensate for her lack of power.

Carrem's so quick that she can recover by elevating and blocking a shot,
or simply by rolling to the basket and snatching away a rebound. What
sets her apart from other athletic bigs is her overall skill level. She
has about 3 pet moves in the post that she executes confidently. She can
post, pivot and extend all the way to the basket; she uses the
up-and-under effectively, often throwing in a head-and-shoulders fake that
almost always frees her up, and she's got the ability to drive a bit as
well. Gay loves attacking the rim, nearly dunking it in a high school

Gay is a rapid decision maker, and so will be a perfect target in the
post for
Duke's passers. Unlike many young posts who tend to hesitate before going
up for a move, Carrem is so comfortable with her skills that she usually
acts decisively. She'll make an interesting matchup paired with Black;
that would be two of Duke's quickest players and stickiest rebounders
playing at the same time. That duo could run and attack the boards, and
Gay could certainly get plenty of scoring opportunities. Additionally,
that would be a great frontcourt for when Duke chooses to trap and press,
because both have the quickness to recover on defense. Putting her in with
Williams would mean more of a half-court game for Duke, with Carrem having
the opportunity to clean up any of Mistie's misses or set up for open
shots when opponents double-team Williams. Throwing her in with Bales
brings up some interesting scenarios, especially if Bales is in the high
post and Gay in the low post. Ali dishing to a cutting Carrem for a score
or even lobbing it towards her could be plays we might see.

Carrem does need to get stronger in order to be more effective. She can
rely on her speed for so long. Gay can be moved out of the post by
players and needs to demonstrate range on her jumper. Opponents could
disrupt her by making her play away from the basket. She has aspirations
play at the three spot in college, but she will also need to improve her
if she wants that to happen. One could look at her Developmentmental
numbers: 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 50% FG. These aren't dominant numbers, but
they do
indicate that she can adapt to a situation where she's not the focus of
In addition, her understanding of help defense is limited at this time,
and will be a crucial issue for her and the other frosh as the season

In the postseason, she played well both at the McDonald's All-America
game (12
points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) and WBCA High School All-America game (6
8 rebounds). She proved that while she can't bang inside like the big
girls, she finds ways to hang with them anyway. For Duke, she will be the
long, quick post player needed to guard so many talented players of
similar abilities in the ACC, like Camille Little, Crystal Langhorne,
Tamara James, etc. How effective she can become in slowing those
opponents down will determine in large part how many minutes she'll
receive in important games. The need for Duke and hence the opportunity
for Gay are both there.

** Keturah Jackson, 6-0 F, Columbia, SC (Dreher)

Parade All-America, Fourth Team
Gatorade Player of the Year, South Carolina
Miss Basketball, South Carolina 3A
Women's Youth Development Festival

Stats: 19.8 ppg, 9 rpg, 4 spg, 4 apg, 44.6% 3FG

Ranking: Blue Star #46, All Game Sports #32, All Star Girls Report #13

The Scoop: Keturah (aka "KJ") is a quick, athletic forward who can shoot,
penetrate, pass and defend. Monique Currie will pretty much hold a
on playing where KJ could contribute most, and so she will most likely see

limited playing time as a frosh. Coach G has noted that in particular, KJ

will have to adjust to scoring at this level, considering that she's so
to being quicker and stronger than all of her opponents.

Jackson was a superstar in the state of South Carolina, an area that has
produced some superior individual talents in recent years (Ivory Latta and
La'Tangela Atkinson to name two), but whose talent pool overall is still
In Jackson's senior class around the state, top prospects Kalana Greene
up going to UConn and Christina DeWitt to UNC. However, Keturah didn't
a lot of AAU ball against the top talents in the country. That showed
when she
was invited to the Developmental Festival and had a lot of trouble
yielding just 3.4 ppg at an 18% clip. At the same time, her defense and
unselfishness also came to the fore against the best of her peer group,
as she grabbed 4.4 rpg, over 2 spg and dished out 4 apg.

Defense needs to be KJ's calling card as a frosh. If Duke does indeed
to press and trap more, they will need to dip a bit deeper into the depth
chart, and so Jackson will have a chance to earn playing time pressuring
ball. The fact that she's unselfish and loves to get her teammates
will also aid her in getting more minutes. In terms of scoring, look for
as a finisher on the break thanks to her speed. In general, this will be
learning year for Keturah. She'll have a chance to understand how the
game is
played in college while competing against high level athletes in practice,
and will learn what it is Coach G wants on the court. In particular, look
her to improve her handle, find ways to get open against quick opponents,
up her shot release, and most of all, get a taste for how physical the
game is
in college. With Currie leaving after this season, the wing will be
at Duke, and KJ will have as a good a chance as anyone of taking that

** Brittany Mitch, 6-1 G, McLean, VA (St. John's College HS)

Parade All-America, Third Team
NIKE All-America camp, First Team
NIKE Tournament of Champions, All-Tournament
WBCA All-America, Honorable Mention All-America, Second Team
Women's Youth Development Festival

Stats: 14.7 ppg, 8.6 apg, 7.8 spg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg

Ranking: Blue Star #22, All Game Sports #23, All Star Girls Report #27

The Scoop: Brittany is an unusual player who may need time to adjust to
college game, but has the potential to provide all sorts of matchup
She was the first player to commit to Duke in this class (back in March of
2004), and had visited Duke a number of times as a young player. She
her prep career at The Bullis School, better known as the alma mater of
Duke star Kira Orr and current Duke star Monique Currie. Kira was in fact
assistant coach at Bullis when Mitch played there, but Brittany decided to
transfer when head coach Wayne Ferrell (the father of former Wake Forest
Erin Ferrell) moved on. I think it's safe to say that Brittany has a good
of what it means to play for Duke and had a taste of what the experience
was going
to offer.

Throughout her high school and AAU career, Brittany has played on
teams. With the Fairfax Stars, her team won the 10, 13 and 15 & Under AAU
National Championships. She was usually teamed with a lot of top talent,
played a number of years with incoming Maryland frosh (and former Duke
Marissa Coleman. Coleman was the star of those teams, but Mitch was the
guard and leader. She sprouted up to 6-2 after starting in AAU as a 5-5
guard; that extra height has given her an edge over opponents for quite
time. While she's always been willing to defer to others for the good of
team, Mitch also has a knack for hitting big shots. She sank the
that upset the #1 team in the country as a junior, for example. It's
that she knows how to win and how to play for a winning team and against
opponents. In addition to dealing with the strong programs of the DC area
of whom are nationally ranked), her team went to every major tournament in
country...and that's not even counting her AAU days. Suffice it to say,
has played with or against virtually every top player in her age group.

In terms of her skills, Mitch is a superb shooter. Her release and form
textbook, reminiscient of former Duke men's player Trajan Langdon. Like
Langdon, she doesn't elevate much when taking that shot, but her stance
mechanics are consistent in shot after shot. Her height gives her an
of seeing the basket for an unobstructed shot. It remains to be seen if
will be able to get a lot of open looks early in her career. Teams will
to play her for her jumper and get in her face. Will she be able to
her release or become adept at putting it on the deck and driving to the

Mitch is an excellent passer with a good handle, although she tends to
it too high. Against quick, aggressive defenders that high dribble can
lead to
turnovers. Brittany will need to be careful in valuing the ball. Coach G
notes that her court vision is excellent and that Mitch is especially
adept at
throwing the "baseball pass" to start fast breaks. As a defender, her
helps make up for a lack of lateral quickness. Also in her favor is her
general scrappiness. She loves diving on the floor for loose balls and is
heady, smart player who can think the game a few plays ahead of time. At
Developmental festival, she hit 50% of her threes and racked up a lot of
steals, along with averaging 7.6 ppg.

With so many guards ahead of her this season, it will be difficult to
get a
lot of minutes. In Mitch's favor is the fact that she's being groomed to
all five positions. In general at Duke, the guards and posts are taught
skills of the other group because versatility is something that Coach G
demands. However, Mitch is being groomed as the ultimate sub, someone who
come in and do whatever is needed for a period of time. In a sense, she's
being trained as Wynter Whitley's replacement. While Mitch feels most
comfortable at either point or off guard, her size and shooting ability
make her an interesting matchup inside. While she's not especially strong
could get overpowered by many players, I can see Coach G trying to create
mismatches for Mitch, posting up smaller guards or even smaller forwards.
might see her as a frosh when Duke is going for a sweet-shooting lineup,
another ballhandler, or wants to create a mismatch against a guard. How
she plays will depend on how well her impeccable mechanics translate in
time against top-notch opponents. Her ability to defend other guards will
be important. I suspect that fans may be surprised by how much she plays.

** Abby Waner, 5-10 G, Highlands Ranch, CO (ThunderRidge)

Gatorade National Player of the Year
McDonald's National Player of the Year
USA Today All-America, First Team
EA Sports All-America, First Team
Slam All-America, First Team
Parade All-America, First Team
NHSCA National High School Senior Athlete of the Year
Miss Basketball, Colorado, 2004 and 2005
WBCA All-America
McDonald's All-America
USA Today Super 25 All-America, First Team
USA Under-19 team, Gold Medal
Women's Youth Development Festival, Gold Medal

Stats: 32.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.7 spg, 6.9 apg

Ranking: Blue Star #2, All Game Sports #3, All Star Girls Report #3

The Scoop: Abby is the most celebrated recruit Duke has signed since
Hunter. Her stats speak for themselves...2670 career points, a 27.2
scoring average, dropping 61 points in her last regular-season game.
Colorado doesn't have a deep pool of talented teams, her ThunderRidge
travelled widely and performed quite admirably, as did her AAU team.
West team won in the McDonald's All-America game as she scored 9 points
(including some important late baskets) and her White team won at the WBCA
All-America game as she registered 16 points. At the Developmental
she led the West team to its first-ever Gold medal, averaging 17.8 ppg.
nailed an astonishing 54% of her threes along with averaging nearly 4 spg,
apg and 4 rpg. That led to her being invited to play on the Under 19
Championship team, where she scored 12 ppg in the qualifying round and 8.9
in the championships, where the USA (coached by Gail Goestenkors) won a
medal. Throw in three state championships and it becomes clear that Abby
wherever she goes, and looks good doing it.

The question becomes: how quickly can she adjust to the game at the
level? Waner has an inexhaustible supply of energy and will constantly
both on offense and defense. She has the scrappiness and passion of an
Beard; effort will never be a problem for her. That said, she will have
face several adjustments as a collegian. First off, Abby is used to the
depending on her to do everything, especially on offense. Coach G noted
Abby simply isn't going to average 30 ppg at Duke. This is not to say
Abby is a gunner (those 7 apg as a senior are no misprint), but rather
that she
had to shoot in order for her teams to be successful. But Abby will have
learn when to shoot, when to pass, when to defer and when to take charge.

Another adjustment will be learning how to let bad plays go. Again, as
player most responsible for her team winning or losing, Waner tended to be
hard on herself when she made a mistake or lost her temper. In an
tournament last year, she yelled at a ref and was called for a technical
This wound up affecting the outcome of the game. In college, there's
simply no
room for that kind of micromanaging blame; one must be able to move on to
play" in order to succeed.

Basketball-wise, Abby is reasonably quick but certainly not at an elite
She can be beaten off the dribble defensively and will have to learn how
anticipate bad passes, communicate and call for help, and make smart
about how to handle the player she's guarding. In terms of offense, it
will be
harder for her to get to the basket unmolested by defenders, and so she
must be
able to finish with contact and also work on pulling up for short jumpers.
While she has an accurate three point shot, she will have to work hard to
enough separation to release it. This will come as she masters running
opponents through screens. The fact that she's always active will aid her
considerably on the court, though she must be prepared for how physically
opponents will try to handle her.

If it seems like I'm trying to downplay her impact as a frosh, that's
I am. Duke is deep at guard this year and has plenty of scorers. The
trio of
Harding, Currie and Smith will get a ton of minutes. Wily veteran Jess
will also be in the mix. Emily Waner will see plenty of time backing up
Harding. Throw in Laura Kurz, Keturah Jackson and Brittany Mitch and
there are
a lot of skilled players vying for limited minutes. While Abby is quite
talented, I'm not sure that she's going to be a 30 minute a game type of
as a freshman. Instead, she needs to pick her spots and make the most of
minutes. There's no question that she's going to play, and play a lot.
her determination and skills, she will challenge every guard on the roster
playing time. But she'll need to take good shots, make wise decisions
with the
ball and play smart defense. It may take time for her to make that
but I'm certain by the end of the season that she will be getting a lot of
minutes and making a difference for Duke. The impact she has may just
doing all of the little things instead of making all the big plays.

V. Preliminary Season Preview

This is a season of high expectations for Duke, and it will be
interesting to
see how this group handles them after unexpectedly losing early in 2004.
was the preaseason #1 that year and there were times when they looked like
simply weren't having much fun. One hopes that the team can still embrace
joy of simply playing the game while striving after the ultimate prize.
To a
degree, the team felt the weight of playing with Alana Beard and knowing
badly she wanted that national title. Certainly, injuries have played a
in slowing down Duke, but the team simply played way too tight at times.
why 2005 was so much fun--everyone just played as hard as they could and
worry about matchup problems or injuries. While the quality of play was
far from pretty, the team was such a tight-knit group that the defense was
there, and that single factor kept Duke in every game. Even when Black
out, or Currie was hurting, or Foley was out, or Bales' knee was
team somehow found a way. That way often revolved around the indomitable
will of Monique Currie. In January and February, she single-handedly
the team at the offensive end, often stepping in as point guard. This was

while she had to defend the other team's top scorer, attack the boards and

find ways to score herself.

This team is a bit different. There are no major injuries to deal with,
Duke is suddenly 2 or 3 deep at every position. After being forced to
use Currie at point, the team suddenly has four new players who can handle
the ball and pass. After being forced to install Wynter Whitley at off
guard, Duke is now 4-deep at that spot. The team's athleticism has been
upgraded and its capacities for scoring have been deepened and broadened.
short, Duke has all the tools it needs to win it all.

Let's look at the team's options in the post. The number one offensive
target will be Mistie Williams. She's extended the range on her jumper
and should look to take it more often this season, but the big key for her
will be how she handles double-teams in the post and defenses that play
her for her shot tendencies. If Williams significantly improves her
scoring efficiency (not necessarily her scoring average), then Duke's
chances at a national title are excellent. She will team with Bales and
form a high post/low post duo, with both players switching off roles at

Bales will also get a lot of looks in the post. While not as polished
as Williams or as aggressive, she has the potential to cause a lot of
matchup problems. Ali also needs to have more confidence in her jumper.
Black and Gay will also be looked to for scoring, but not quite with the
same urgency. Gay will need awhile to adjust to the speed and intensity
of the game, while Black will need to work on her finishing.

Williams and Bales are the likely starters, along with Currie, Harding
and Smith. That matches a relatively slow post game with quick perimeter
players, and certainly favors a halfcourt style for Duke. I would be
reluctant to unleash a full court press with this group, but a halfcourt
trap could be a powerful defensive weapon with Bales stationed under the
basket to swat away penetrators.

A team that had Black and/or Gay in there would be an off-and-running
squad, one that should take advantage of its quickness by trapping more
often and running as much as possible. That would mean Gay needs to catch
on to Duke's help defense principles quickly, if she wants to be part of
such a lineup. That group would also be adept at attacking the basket and
drawing fouls. Black and Harding have both been shaky at the foul line,
and so will need to bring up their average to make this effective.

Looking at the guards, there's an embarrassment of riches. Currie's
experiences last year as a leader who played all over the court will boost
her this season. Mo will have a lot more freedom on offense and will be
in a position where she can decide where she's needed most in a given
situation. There may be some games where Currie draws double-teams and so
should look to be a playmaker. There will be other contests where Currie
should post up shorter guards, or look to take the open jumper, or simply
attack the basket. With fewer minutes, Mo should be fresher towards the
end of the year, with less wear and tear on her foot. The fact that she's
still having some problems with it even now is a concern, and it's
imperative that she's not overused.

The return of Harding is the single biggest factor in Duke's chances at
national title. All indications note that she's better now than when she
last played. Her shooting form is greatly improved and she just seems
confident as a player. I do think there will be an adjustment period
her body lags a bit because of travel, elbows from opponents, etc, but I
think that will last long. With Currie, Harding, Smith and the Waners,
Duke has
a nice complement of players who can penetrate and either get to the
basket or dish off.

Both Waners will have an impact for Duke this season. Abby is a pure
scorer who can also pass and play scrappy off-ball defense. Emily is a
passer who can shoot and penetrate. Abby's experiences with the Under-21
team not only gave her a good idea of what Coach G wanted from her, but
also got her used to the playing on a team where she was not the first or
second option on offense. The idea of platooning them together is
somewhat attractive because of their long history together, but I'm not
sure I'd feel comfortable with their defending against elite opponents as
unit. I think both players may do better as complements to players like
Smith and Foley. Running two penetrating points with Harding and E.Waner
would give Duke a great passing and ballhandling team that could attack
opponents from multiple angles. Running two scorers like Smith and
A.Waner would give Duke a high-octane offense look, where both players are
potent scorers who can still pass.

Veteran guards Smith and Foley will still play important roles. Like
the other returnees, they must look to make their games more efficient and
cut down on turnovers. Both shot quite well last season from three, and
the duo has a chance to do even better, given that they are likely to get
more open shots. Smith will get a chance to play a lot more at the wing
and the two this year, using her size and strength to get to the basket.
Her experience as a point guard will benefit her career down the road,
making her a triple-threat whenever she has the ball in her hands.
Foley's understanding of the offense, shooting and experience will get her
plenty of minutes, particularly in crunch time. When cooler heads need to
prevail, Foley will be on the floor.

I haven't even mentioned Mitch, Jackson or Kurz so far. That trio will
give Duke many more options, based on how they develop in practice and how
well they play defense at their positions. Kurz has the advantage of a
year under her belt, but she now has to learn how to play inside a bit.
Mitch is brimming with potential, and only needs to get used to
college-level play to unleash her versatility. Jackson can be a great
defender whom Duke might use in pressing situations, in addition to her
offensive skills which will catch up later. They will also push the
veterans in practice and give Coach G options during games when particular
players aren't performing. Those who have followed Coach G's career know
that she's always been willing to give her frosh a chance on the court.
There are the obvious players like Beard, Tillis and Currie, whom all
became starters and big contributors as frosh. But players like Crystal
White, Missy West, LaNedra Brown and others all had a chance as frosh.
The key will be taking advantage of chances, because opportunities
will arise for all three players at some point this year.

Duke's overall team strengths will include shooting (with nine players
capable of hitting the three), ballhandling, post defense, penetration,
size, power, and experience. Weaknesses may include overall team speed,
overall versatility, and potentially an unbalanced offense. Regarding
speed, Duke has several players who aren't that quick. They will need to
combat that by playing smart defense and relying on footwork and
positioning in the post, and the use of screens and quickening releases
from the perimeter. As to versatility, Duke's most experienced players
are limited to playing one or two positions at most. Other than Currie,
the most versatile players are frosh, and that lack of experience will
limit how widely they're used. As a result, every player must know and
respect not only their own role, but how that role affects their team as
a whole. Lastly, this team has a lot of guards, and there is a worry
that this may lead to jacking up too many threes. This is great on the
nights when those shots are falling, but this can lead to quick deficits
when they aren't. The team must understand that it's to be built from the
inside out, with the three emphasized either when other teams try to take
away penetration and the post, or when Duke's post players spot teammates
for good looks. You will know Duke is having a good year if the post
players all sport solid assist totals, because this means that the
shooters are getting easy looks and the posts are getting to touch the

The best news for Duke is that on nights when everyone looks slow, no
one can buy a jumper and the bigs are shut down, the team can still look
to Monique Currie to bail them out. While everyone hopes that those
nights are few and far between, knowing that they can fall back on Mo has
to be a great comfort for coach and player alike. Her simple presence on
the floor is an intimidating one (there's a reason the Nate James "Badass"
chant was transferred over to her), and this gives confidence to her
fellow teammates. As Jess Foley noted, "Mo doesn't take crap from anyone
on the court, and when we see that, we feel like that too."

The pieces are all there for a great season, possibly Duke's greatest
There will be fierce competition from within the ACC, with up to 7 or 8
vying for an NCAA tournament bid. Despite the team's talent, not even
is at a Beard-level standard of greatness. That means that everyone must
on each other and learn to communicate in order to meet the team's goals.
more you hear the team barking out screens and calling for help on the
the better its chances late in the year. Hopefully this team will retain
its tight-knit nature this year while still drawing strength from numbers.
long as everyone puts aside individual agendas, this team could do some
amazing things.