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Previewing Duke's Sophomore Class
Previews of Ga. Southern & Charlotte
Previewing Duke's Junior Class
By Rob Clough
November 18, 2009

Jasmine Thomas, Karima Christmas, and Krystal Thomas Bust Into the Starting Lineup

We continue our previews with Duke's class of 2011...

Duke's Junior Class: Karima Christmas, Krystal Thomas, & Jasmine Thomas

#5 - Jasmine Thomas

5-9 Guard - Fairfax, Virginia

Strengths: Jasmine grew into her role as a starter last year, frequently proving herself as an explosive scorer. The bigger the stage, the more she rose to the occasion, with her unforgettable performance against UNC in Cameron being a particular highlight. On a game-to-game basis, Jasmine demonstrated the ability to change speeds more adeptly. Instead of going all-out, all the time, she learned to pick her spots, when to shoot and when to set up teammates. She also got better at pushing tempo and hitting her teammates in transition. Jasmine has also grown physically stronger, which helped her nearly double her free throw attempts. Watch for her to split defenses off the dribble, run the break, pull up for jumpers on the foul line and beyond and feed the post from the wing. I expect her to lead the team in scoring.

Needs Work: Like many of her teammates, Jasmine needs to get to the line more often. She's quicker and stronger than most of her opponents will be and can't simply settle for a jumper. Her shot is also a bit unorthodox, looking more like a heave than a smooth catch-and-release. Still, when she's on a roll, there are very few players who are bigger scoring threats in the country. Given her improved strength, Jasmine now needs to become tougher and more physical. In addition to going to the line more often, this would also include fighting for rebounds and bodying up opponents. The last component of her game that could propel Jasmine into superstardom is leadership. Jasmine is a natural leader, and having the ball in her hands will give her an opportunity to either step up and take big shots or else find the right player to do so. She already has demonstrated that she's not afraid to shine in tense moments; Jasmine simply needs to do this in every game and every practice.

#13 - Karima Christmas

5-11 Forward/Guard - Houston, Texas

Strengths: Karima emerged last year as a clutch, physical and high-energy super-sub. Everyone knew that she was a tenacious offensive rebounder for her size (5-11), fearlessly attacking the rim whenever she was near it. What was remarkable last year was how much she improved long range shooting, hitting 45% of her threes. She got to the foul line, rebounded, kept her turnovers under control, and came up with timely steals. She's currently starting at off guard and is feeling her way through that role. As an upperclassman, she's trying to figure out when to shoot and when to defer, a process the rest of the team is experiencing as well. As a two-guard, she will be a matchup problem for a lot of opponents who won't be strong enough to stop her off the dribble. Karima will need to read defenses carefully but quickly and take advantage of these matchups. At the same time, she shouldn't be afraid to shoot when she's open.

Needs Work: Karima will need to focus on her off-ball defense and pull-up jumper this season. With regard to the former, Karima will have to be disciplined when the team rotates on defense, especially since it will be her job to close out on shooters. With regard to the latter, teams will play her for her drive but may leave her open from 15', hoping she will hesitate. If she can confidently pull up and drain that shot in stride, Duke will be very difficult to defend this year. As Karima gets more playing time, she will have to be careful not to pick up cheap fouls. Figuring out when to be aggressive, but not too aggressive, will be a key to her maturation into one of the team's leaders.

#34 - Krystal Thomas

6-4 Center - Orlando, Florida

Strengths: At 6-5, Krystal is an imposing defensive presence. While her knee injury that she suffered as a freshman has held her back a bit, she's still a tremendous run/jump athlete who has great baseline to baseline speed. She's become much stronger over the past couple of years, and she came in with a solid frame to begin with. Krystal is a fine rebounder who knows who to block out and create space and is strong enough to fight for bouncing boards. She's also a superior shotblocker who does well at keeping the ball in play. Thomas is unselfish to a fault and has developed some nice chemistry with her fellow juniors. She knows that if she passes the ball out she'll get it back, and they know the same.

Needs Work: More than anything, Krystal needs to get into the rhythm of being a starter and an important low-post scoring presence. She has a workable hook shot that she can get whenever she wants and decent footwork around the basket. Improving her ballhandling would give her more flexibility around the basket and open up some more options for her. Krystal needs to nurture a more aggressive mindset when she has the ball, making her mind up to attack the basket quickly and directly. The good news is that she has no trouble getting to the line, notching 63 attempts last season in only 12 minutes of play a game. I expect her to easily double that total this season. If she can get her FT% over 70% (she hovered around 68% last year), then this will only make her more effective. Look for her teammates to get her some attempts early in games. As long as she can finish strong so as to get foul calls, she should have enough touch on her shot to earn a number of three point plays.

Previewing Duke's Sophomore Class
Previews of Ga. Southern & Charlotte

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