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Duke’s Kara Lawson Seems Pumped Up For Basketball Season, Part II

A look at the players old and new

NCAA Womens Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame
Feb 21, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Miela Goodchild (3) drives to the basket in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. 
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Jordyn Oliver is a point-guard from Baylor. She suffered an Achilles injury in September and will miss the season.

Two of the newcomers are post players. Amaya Finklea-Guity is 6-4, another Fuqua grad student. She played at Syracuse before becoming part of the mass exodus following the dismissal of Quentin Hillsman over abuse allegations.

She declined to discuss Syracuse in any detail, stating simply “Duke has been treating me really well.”

Finklea-Guity was a rotation player at Syracuse, known more for her rebounding and rim protection than her back-to-the-basket offense.

She says she’s working on her passing skills and expanding her shooting range.

Then there’s 6-1 Imani Lewis, who came to Duke from Wisconsin. Lewis has the body of a wing but the game of a post. She was second-team All-Big 10 last season, after averaging 15 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Badgers.

Anyone who can average nine rebounds per game in the Big 10 can average nine rebounds per game in the ACC.

Lawson praises Lewis’ work ethic and consistency but mostly her rebounding skills.

“Every night, you know that she’s going to give you a chance to win because of her commitment to the glass on both ends.”

Lewis is not a stretch-4. She’s never made a 3-pointer in college and has averaged less than one assist per game. But she had 12 double-doubles last season and she’ll do the dirty work that will enable the wings to strut their stuff.

And the wings have stuff to strut. Goodchild will be joined by a quartet of talented newcomers, all between 5-11 and 6-1.

Elizabeth Balogun is a name that should be familiar to ACC fans. She was ACC Freshman of the Year in 2019 at Georgia Tech. Balogun averaged 14.6 and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Yellow Jackets, including a 35-point game against North Carolina. Tech coach MaChelle Joseph was dismissed after abuse allegations and Balogun transferred to Louisville, where she was a complementary player for Jeff Walz’s loaded Cardinals. She’s 6-1, a tough, athletic defender and rebounder, who can run the floor and play multiple positions. Can she regain her earlier scoring skills? Does Duke need her to?

Here’s how she sees her role.

“Lead by example mostly because I see myself leading the younger girls because we do have a lot of transfers and a lot of younger players. Just leading the team, doing defensive stops. On offense, see if I need to because you know we have a lot of scorers on the team, which is really great for us. Basically, just leading to win, to be honest.”

Balogun played 12 minutes for Nigeria in the most recent Olympics, on a team that also included former Duke player Oderah Chidom.

Lexi Gordon started at Connecticut before transferring to Texas Tech. Gordon is 6-0 and she can score. She averaged 15.7 points per game last season for Tech. She made over 80 percent from the line, made 47 3-pointers and averaged 19 points per game over the final five games of the season.

Can she carry over that hot streak to this season?

“I’m going to do what I need to do to make sure that we come out with a win. I want to win and have a successful last year. Getting older, time is getting short. It’s time to dial in, to lock in.”

Like Williams and Finklea-Guity, Gordon is in grad school at Fuqua.

No one would be surprised to see Gordon lead Duke in scoring.

Likewise, no one would be surprised to see Celeste Taylor lead Duke in scoring. Taylor is a 5-11 junior who averaged 12 points and five rebounds per game last season for an Elite-Eight Texas team.

Blue Star ranked Taylor as the number six recruit in the prep class of 2019.

Taylor scored 24 points in an NCAA Tournament win over UCLA and was second in the Big 12, with 2.1 steals per game.

What does Taylor think of her game?

“There’s never something that I don’t think I need to work on. I feel like I just need to keep getting better at the things I’m good at and just work on those things that I need to work on.”

With the more experienced Goodchild, Gordon and Taylor ahead of her, Nyah Green may have to wait her turn.

Or perhaps not.

The 6-1 Green was a McDonald’s All-American. She red-shirted her freshman year at Louisville and played only five games last season before announcing her plans to transfer to Duke.

Green says she’s been a front-court player and is working on improving her perimeter skills, especially footwork, lateral quickness and “becoming more of an efficient scorer.”

At worst Green provides depth this season, at best she shows why she was a top-15 talent at Allen, Texas and forces her way into the rotation.