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Previewing Duke at Stanford
Stanford Bests Duke, 71-55
The Nutshell
Devils In Detail - December 2009
By Rob Clough
December 14, 2009

A Closer Look at Duke's Roster Thus Far

Editor's Note: Building on Rob's preseason player previews by class, we launch a new DWHoops feature: Devils in Detail. It include a breakdown of Duke's 11 active players through the first eight games, focusing on performance to date and examining specific areas where each player might have room for improvements to their game. DWHoops will revisit this format periodically throughout this season.

Joy Cheek

Key Stats: 10.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 spg

What She's Done So Far: Joy's been a bit up and down this season as she continues to try to consistently harness her talent. It's only recently that she's put up good numbers against good opponents. She was only 2-12 from the floor against Texas A&M and had 8 turnovers against Western Kentucky, but she punished Marquette for 11 points & 8 rebounds and had 12 points & 6 rebounds vs Southern Cal. Joy's been at her best this season when she's concentrated on posting up and powering through. Her versatility is at its best when she puts the ball on the deck and powers her way to the basket, rather than pulling up for a long jumper. The numbers bear this out when you consider her shooting percentage over the past couple of years. Joy has done a great job of keeping out of foul trouble this season, which was something that haunted her last year; she's yet to pick up more than 2 fouls in a game. She's also been scrappy on defense, frequently digging out steals and using her strength to force jump balls.

What She Still Needs To Do: Joy has great feet and has always been able to get good position in the paint, but has at times dallied a bit too much on the perimeter. Cutting down on taking pull-up jumpers from 15' and beyond would go a long way to helping get her into a more solid offensive rhythm. Getting closer to the basket will also get her to the foul line more often. Joy did hit some big shots against UNC from the perimeter, but the difference was that someone else set her up, rather than taking a shot off the dribble. She also needs to be a bit more careful with the ball, especially with her dribbling, because she's been called for steps fairly often this year. Beyond these details, Joy simply needs to relax and stay in an attack mindset. Her numbers are solid so far, but she has the potential to become a star this year. If she can play with the energy of Mitchell and the poise of J.Thomas, her talent & skills will do the rest.

Keturah Jackson

Key Stats: 5.9 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.5 spg

What She's Done So Far: KJ has done a nice job slipping into the starting lineup and taking away some of the point guard burden away from Jasmine. Considering that she didn't play at all from roughly April til November, she's done a good job of getting back into the flow of things relatively quickly. After some rocky moments against Charlotte & Texas A&M, things have picked up for her since then. She had a strong overall game against Western Kentucky; played outstanding defense, hit some big shots and had a great floor game vs Ohio State; and again hit some big shots in the win over Southern Cal. Above all else, her perimeter defense has been consistently strong.

What She Still Needs To Do: KJ's shooting is still erratic at best if it's further than a couple of feet away from the basket. She's 0-6 from three and has missed a number of short jumpers. Early in the year, she was missing layups as well, but that can be partly be attributed to not having full range of motion in her shoulder. She needs to keep attacking the basket, drawing defenders and dishing to open shooters, and use her size to shut down perimeter opponents. Any offense she happens to provide is gravy, and she simply has to be careful not to take bad shots (especially when other teams bait her to do so) and take care of the ball. Her teammates should look to get her the ball when she's spotting up, because she's a much better shooter in such situations.

Bridgette Mitchell

Key Stats: 10.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 56% FG

What She's Done So Far: Bridgette is very close to maximizing her potential. For the most part, she's managed to stay under control on offense, concentrating mostly on stickbacks. At the same time, she's done well sinking open jumpers, hitting 40% of her ten three point attempts and also hitting some mid-range shots. Like the other shooters on Duke who have had some success, she shoots better when she spots up and someone else penetrates and dishes off to her. Unsurprisingly, B has been a maniac on the offensive boards, with 2/3 of her total caroms coming off of Duke's shots. That unique skill of hers makes hers a vital role, given that Duke is not a high-percentage shooting team to begin with.

What She Still Needs To Do: Bridgette is still a little sloppy on defense, biting on fakes and failing to rotate to cover shooters at times. She'll still commit the occasional silly foul as a result of being out of position, but she's mostly managed to limit that problem, with the notable exception of the Ohio State and Texas A&M games. She'll have to be careful against elite opponents, especially those who have size and/or quickness to match her own. Bridgette still makes me nervous when she's dribbling out near the top of the key. She's really not the sort of player you want making a lot of decisions for the offense. Instead, she's someone you want to see reacting to plays: hitting open shots when the ball is passed to her and flying to the basket whenever a shot goes up. She's a little undersized to do so, but I'd also like to see Mitchell battle just a little bit more for some defensive rebounds. 10 ppg and 5 rpg would be an ideal stat line for her.

Karima Christmas

Key Stats: 6.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.8 spg, 73% FT

What She's Done So Far: Karima began the year as a starter and then went back to the bench when Keturah Jackson returned from injury. Coach McCallie considers her to be a sixth starter, and she's actually played a few more minutes than starters Mitchell and K.Thomas. Karima's been her usual cannonball self, filling in where she's needed. It's not been widely discussed, but it seems like the wrap on her hand is affecting her shooting. The numbers would seem to back this up: just 2-17 from long range after shooting over 40% last season. Karima's bounced back from that difficulty by focusing on her ballhawking defense and passing.

Of course, Karima is frequently at her best when the team needs her the most. That was certainly true against Ohio State, where she did most of her damage playing power forward. Considering that she started the season as a shooting guard, that aptly displays how versatile she's become. Of course, she's at her best when she's attacking off the dribble, and that was certainly true of her showing against USC, as she drove into the teeth of the defense and hit twisting jumpers.

What She Still Needs To Do: Karima mostly just needs to get her hand better so she can help stretch out defenses. Duke desperately needs a reliable long-range shooter, and Karima has shown in the past that this is something she can do. Other than that, she could get to the foul line more often and pick up her defensive rebounding a bit. When she's fully healthy, she has the potential to be a double-digit scorer for Duke. If she can do this, that will make Duke's bench a force to be reckoned with.

Jasmine Thomas

Key Stats: 17.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 34% 3FG

What She's Done So Far: In the past few weeks, Jasmine has been a dominant player. She dropped 20+ points on three very good opponents and came up with a triple-double against another. What we're seeing is the maturation process of a talented sophomore who's now become a self-possessed junior. She's learning to change speeds, feel her way through game situations to determine how she should affect it, and exert her will on her opponent. Against Western Kentucky, she was feeling it from the floor and kept calling her own number, hitting 7 of 10 shots. Against Marquette, she knew her shot wasn't falling so she dished for 12 assists and hit the boards hard. With Ohio State and USC, she abandoned her jumper in favor of attacking the basket, getting to the foul line a combined 18 times in those two games to put up career scoring highs. Beyond all that, Jasmine has become the team's most vocal leader. Whether or not she's running point at a given moment, everyone knows that the offense flows through her, and she's accepted that responsibility. That responsibility has meant knowing when to pass and knowing when to shoot, and she's becoming increasingly more adept at making the right decision.

What She Still Needs To Do: While her assist/turnover ratio is nearly 2:1, Jasmine is turning the ball over 3 times a game. While one wants her to be daring, she's still just a bit too careless with the ball at times, especially going off the dribble. Her defense has been solid, but her role is not to spend time as a lockdown defender. To become a complete player, I hope to see her balance her offensive aggressiveness with more refined defensive instincts. Above all else, she needs to continue to attack the basket and not settle for jumpers. She can get those shots whenever she wants and they tend to drop for her more when she's in the sort of rhythm established when she's going to the hole.

Krystal Thomas

Key Stats: 8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 56% FG

What She's Done So Far: Krystal was filling some big shoes by stepping into Chante Black's starting job, and she's done a solid job in a number of areas. Defensively, she's been a physical presence, blocking shots and throwing elbows when needed. Despite that physicality, Krystal has been careful to avoid picking up cheap fouls that hinder her minutes. She has scored enough to make herself a threat that opponents have to worry about, especially given her effective hook shot. She's been a steady rebounder, never grabbing less than 5 in a game so far. She went toe-to-toe with Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and didn't flinch; her 13 boards were an impressive achievement in that game. Above all else, Krystal has been playing some big minutes this season and has stayed healthy. She's not nearly as quick as she once was, but one can see her getting that back as her confidence grows.

What She Still Needs To Do: Basically, she needs to do a little more of everything. She needs to demand the ball more often. She needs to continue to develop a rapport with other players so they can get her the ball. Given her excellent block-outs, she needs to grab more rebounds (double digits should be her goal). Krystal needs to learn how to pass out more quickly when she's double-teamed (which will happen more and more this season; I am certain UNC will do it.). She also needs to get that free throw percentage up, since she will get fouled early and often.

Chelsea Hopkins

Key Stats: 1.1 ppg, 1 rpg, 1 spg

What She's Done So Far: Chelsea has played solid defense and bought Jasmine Thomas some rest on the bench. After committing 6 turnovers in her first game, she's only coughed it up 3 times total since. Hopkins has also pressured the ball nicely.

What She Still Needs To Do: Chelsea is nowhere near her early freshman-year form in terms of quickness and baseline-to-baseline speed, and it shows in the way she's struggled at times against quick guards. That speed was a weapon most opponents didn't possess and made up for the flaws in her game. Without that speed, it's been tough for her to be effective, because she's not quick enough to get to the basket and her shooting has never been very effective. At the moment, she has to continue to strengthen that knee and build up her speed back up. Over the break, she also needs to take as many mid-range shots as possible. Duke's opponents know that Hopkins is no threat to score and thus ignore her; given that Duke doesn't have a lot of dynamic scorers, the Devils can rarely afford to go 4-on-5 on the offensive end. If Chelsea can pull up and hit that short jumper, it will buy her some more minutes, because her court vision is very good and she always looks to get the ball to others.

Kathleen Scheer

Key Stats: 2 ppg, 1 rpg, 6.3% 3FG

What She's Done So Far: Kathleen has battled and scrapped in every game she's appeared in and has done a credible job of trying to move the ball. Against Ohio State, she appeared as a decoy in an attempt to stretch the defense and was part of a Duke upswing.

What She Still Needs To Do: One word: relax. Kathleen is putting way too much pressure on herself in every minute she plays, and it shows in her body language. She doesn't seem to be having any fun at all and instead is thinking about shooting instead of just playing. It's no surprise that she's just 1-16 from the three point line; she's taking the first shot that comes along instead of working within the flow of the offense. Scheer's size, moxie and stroke are all big positives for her, and she'll have a chance in the next month to get into games and make a positive impact. I'd say the next month is crucial for her, because if she can't crack the rotation playing against lesser teams, she won't get to play meaningful minutes against good ACC opponents. Kathleen doesn't lack for intensity or effort; she simply needs to dial it down a bit and stay patient.

Shay Selby

Key Stats: 3.6 ppg, 2 rpg, 1 apg, 37.5 3FG

What She's Done So Far: Shay has done a lot to address any of her shortcomings to make a strong case for more playing time. Coach P has noted that the team's 8th player is currently a fluid situation, but since the games in Cancun, Shay has played extremely well. What's made her so impressive is that she's finally thinking defense first after a frosh season where she struggled at that end. Against Western Kentucky, she took a charge in her first appearance in the game. That got the coach's attention, which was repaid in a fine overall performance against Marquette, where she had 9 points, 3 rbounds and 2 assists. She also had some key plays against Ohio State,including a three and several timely steals. The real key for Shay is that she finally looks healthy and in good shape. It seems like she's retained all of her speed after her knee surgery, with a lot of bounce in her step. That's crucial considering that she had to deal with mono on top of her knee rehab. With several of Duke's other perimeter reserves struggling, Shay is close to cementing a regular spot in the rotation.

What She Still Needs To Do: Shay still needs to be careful not to miss defensive rotations; she was yanked early in the USC game after she didn't get down the floor quickly enough to prevent a wide-open shot. There are also times when she's feeling so loose and free with the ball that she fires up a shot without even thinking about setting up a teammate. At this point, Shay simply needs to continue her all-out style of play and zero in on what her team needs from her at that moment. Sometimes it will be long-range shooting, sometimes it will be running the floor & attacking the basket, and sometimes it might be setting up her teammates. As she gets more minutes and gets a better feel for her teammates in tight situations, she will continue to get better

Alexis Rogers

Key Stats: 3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 64% FG

What She's Done So Far: Lexi had a nice debut with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, a block and only 1 turnover against Houston Baptist. She displayed her versatility and ability to run the floor. That performance earned her ten minutes against Texas A&M, a game in which Duke desperately needed some kind of spark. She did not play well in that game, picking up 4 fouls in just ten minutes. Since then, she has played sparingly, essentially becoming the last player in the rotation. She played about 7 minutes a game up until the Ohio State and Southern Cal games, which she did not appear in at all.

What She Still Needs To Do: Coach McCallie has noted that Lexi's work ethic is not yet up to the standard of the rest of the team. She said that Rogers thinks she's working hard, but isn't working "college hard" just yet. The way that's materialized during games has been in the form of fouls and turnovers. She's committed a foul and turned the ball over once for every five minutes of play, a sign that the game is moving too fast for her. On defense, she's fouling because she's not in the right place at the right time. On offense, she's being asked to make decisions and hasn't yet found a way to click with her teammates. At this point, she needs to make practice her game time: treat each practice like it's the ACC championship, going all-out against her teammates. This is difficult to do for a player used to being a high school star, but such effort will get the attention of her coaches and another shot at playing time. She's got all the tools needed to become a very good player; she simply needs focus and patience.

Allison Vernerey

Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 54% FG

What She's Done So Far: Allison has improved on a game-by-game basis, getting into double figures in scoring her last four games and earning her first career double-double against Southern Cal. After shooting under 50% in her first two games, she's been over 50% in every game since. Allison played her most minutes against Ohio State and USC and averaged 12 ppg and 10 rpg in those contests. She's proven to be tough to guard one-on-one, especially when opponents let her set up on the left block. What's been remarkable about her development is the way she's developed tools so quickly. After being almost useless with her right hand, she showed off a steady right-handed hook against USC. Vernerey's aggressiveness has continued to rise as she's seen her success against tough opponents. As a result, she's quite confident in calling for the ball. Vernerey's presence has given Duke an incredible lift off the bench and the sort of scorer that gives the team a huge advantage over most opponents. Other teams simply don't have this kind of post firepower off the bench.

What She Still Needs To Do: There are three obvious areas for improvement. First, Allison has racked up 19 turnovers against 2 assists. This isn't because she's a black hole on offense, but rather because her passes into the low post have been forced. This is an example of the game moving a bit fast for her at times. Second, she piled up a number of fouls (especially early in the year--she fouled out at Houston Baptist), another testament to having some difficulty adjusting to the game. It should be noted that her turnovers have decreased a bit of late, and she's stayed out of any kind of foul trouble in the past three games. Third, she's highly erratic as a foul shooter. After sinking 7 of 8 against Texas A&M, she's shot 10-21 from the line ever since. Her stance, her stroke and her follow-through all look broken. If she works on just one thing during the break, it should be this. Defensively, Allison has done well in providing aggressive pressure (forcing some hidden turnovers) and has backed down to no one. She's not always in the right position, but Vernerey continues to learn from every game experience and improve. She's made a bigger and quicker impact than anyone would have guessed.

Previewing Duke at Stanford
Stanford Bests Duke, 71-55
The Nutshell

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