McCallie: Blue Devils improving and healing in off-season



CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke has been a model of consistency in the top tier of women’s basketball for the last two decades, and in her six-year tenure as head coach Joanne P. McCallie has definitely kept that going.

On Thursday she hosted a handful of area media for a luncheon to discuss the program’s most recent activities and

introduce new assistant coach Hernando Plannells and new director of recruiting operations and former Blue Devil All-America center Michele Van Gorp.

McCallie is 171-34 at Duke (457-180 overall) and has taken her team to the NCAA Elite Eight for four straight seasons.

This season the goal is once again to win the ACC title and advance to the Final Four, she said.

The Blue Devils will try that with a five-member senior class that was ranked the top recruiting class in the country, junior center Elizabeth Williams who was ACC rookie of the year two seasons earlier, sophomore guard Alexis Jones who was MVP of the ACC Tournament in March, and a four-member freshman class that is generally considered the No. 2 class in the country.

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie
McCallie on the new staffers: “Hernando came on board with a great deal of experience in the NBA and overseas. He took a position with us that wasn’t exactly a full position. I always told him something could with out with us and it did. He’s a great on-the-floor coach and our guard workouts are just tremendous. And I’ve seen Michele at our functions at the Final Four when I see all my former players (also from Michigan State and Maine), and she always interacted so well with everybody. I was always struck by that. We had the opportunity and the opening and she had all that (coaching) experience at Georgia Tech, and I was just hopeful she’d come back to Duke.”

On injuries from last season: “Everyone’s doing great. Chelsea (Gray, who had a dislocated kneecap) is sprinting full speed and she’ll be back for practice in mid-September. She looks great. Katie (center Heckman) is the same. Amber (Henson, who will be a redshirt freshman in her third season) is still working on some things, but she still has a chance to start with us in practice in October or so. Becca (incoming freshman forward Greenwell) is still getting her knee ready (from an MCL tear) and could be ready for December — she’s pushing for that.”

On the new freshmen: “They are purposeful, they are focused and they are very good. It’s a gift to have them, for what they will do for our other players as well. When you think about what Elizabeth (Williams) has had to take on, and now you put (6-4 posts) Kendall (McCravey-Cooper) and Oderah (Chidom) into that as well as Amber, suddenly the physicality is going to disappoint among more people. And Kianna (5-9 guard Holland) is jet-quick — by far the quickest player on the team hands down and faster than Jasmine Thomas was on the sprint. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch like this. … When you come to our practices you’ll say ‘Who are the freshmen?’ Chelsea and Kendall and Oderah all know each other out of the same AAU program. And Haley (Peters) benefits because she can move from ‘four’ to ‘three’ and she shoots the ‘3’ as well as anyone.”

On Tricia Liston, who won gold at the World University Games: “The experience for her (playing in Russia) was incredible. There’s a certain carry to your game itself. When you put the uniform on and represent your country and win gold, something kind of changes inside of you. The thing that I love is that she’s quicker and more athletic. She has a nice, confident swagger to her game.”

Add a comment