DURHAM, N.C. – The 2015-2016 edition of the Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball team possesses talent and abundant youthful energy.
Returning three starters and eight letter winners overall, the Blue Devils showcased as much during the team’s Blue-White scrimmage played at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
Led by sophomore forward Azurá Stevens (17 points) and redshirt-sophomore guard Rebecca Greenwell (16 points), the team’s top-ranked incoming freshman class of players also got a chance to showcase their skills against one another.
Guard Crystal Primm (16 points) posted the class’ top-scoring performance during three 10-minute quarters before taking on the program’s male scout squad in the final period.
The scrimmage’s playing format was new for the women’s game as mandated by National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules changes that are in effect for the incoming season.
Formerly, two 20-minute halves were played, but now four ten-minute periods structure the game’s playing format.
As most season-opening scrimmages go, the pace of play was high while the quality of finish was impressive, yet rushed and overplayed at times.
Head coach Joanne P. McCallie looked on from the scorer’s table while assistants Hernando Planells and Rene Haynes managed the benches along with Al Brown.
“The only thing that we really tried to do today is just to get out there and get a feel for playing together, and get some officials to help us out with calls, and understanding how the game will be called,” McCallie said.
“Everything needs improvement. There is nothing that is good enough at this point. It’s fun to see different people step up.”
Stevens converted 5-of-19 from the field and added seven free throws on nine attempts to go with seven rebounds.
Greenwell’s 50-percent shooting (6-12) in close, along with two three-pointers beyond the arc, easily got her into double-digits, while Primm went 7-of-12 from the field in her first game-situation run in Cameron.
Junior transfer Lexie Brown added 15 points and six steals, and made her only appearance of the season with the Blue Devils as she will sit out due to NCAA transfer rules following two seasons of playing at Maryland,
“Today was really fun,” Brown said.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game all summer. It’s actually my second time playing in Cameron, but the first time I was the opponent, unfortunately, so being able to be on the home team was amazing. The crowd was really fun, and to finally be out there playing together after we’ve been practicing for the past couple of weeks was great.”
Along with Primm, freshmen guards Kyra Lambert and Haley Gorecki, as well as combo forward/guard Faith Suggs, all made their debuts wearing Duke Blue.
Lambert and Suggs led all players with four assists, and Lambert added 11 points (5-11) and five steals while Gorecki posted nine points, three assists, and claimed four rebounds.
“I think there are definitely similarities in their play – I think they look for each other, and I think that they can play off of each other pretty well – like all of our guards,” McCallie said of Greenwell and Gorecki.
“I saw some nice play with Kyra and Lexie. I just think we have an opportunity here, like with what Crystal did, to be an interesting group of guards, with a lot of diverse strengths and talent. It is going to be fun to see how we develop it and how each person brings their game to it.”
Forward Amber Henson, the team’s longest tenured player as a graduate student, finished with 12 points (5-8), including two three’s, while fellow forwards junior Oderah Chidom and sophomore Erin Mathias led the team with eight rebounds apiece, to go along with eight and three points respectively.
A handful of players did not play – frontcourt players redshirt-freshman Lynee Belton and junior Kendall Cooper did not dress, while guards senior Mercedes Riggs and highly-touted freshman Angela Salvadores also watched from the sideline.
“Mercedes and Kendall were both out due to a car incident that occurred,” McCallie said.
“So nothing on the court (for them), so they will be back within the next week I would guess, and Angela we have been holding her, and Lynee has been out for the ACL since last year. So nothing is new from that group, except I must say it was disappointing to have Kendall and Mercedes not have the opportunity. I would say hopefully everyone will be back for the next exhibition.”
As a team, the Blue Devils shot 41 percent from the field, converted on 10-of-31 three-point attempts, and dropped 65 percent of their free throw attempts.
“I felt great; it was great to be back out there again,” Henson said.
“Obviously we have a different team, but I’m extremely excited about the newcomers. Obviously we wish Lexie could play; we’re going to miss her competitive spirit, but hopefully that rubs off on some of the freshmen. We have a lot of things to work on – execution, shoring up our defense – but that will all come.”
Duke begins a two-game exhibition set at home against Pfeiffer on Nov. 5 and Saint Leo on Nov. 8, before opening the season in Philadelphia, Pa. against the Ivy League’s Pennsylvania Quakers on Nov. 13.