by Mike Potter
So even with the addition of a Final Four team to the mix, the Blue Devils still command plenty of respect in the conference.
ACC media day was on Wednesday and Duke was picked to finish first by both the conference’s Blue Ribbon Panel and the coaches, followed by Notre Dame, Maryland and UNC in the top four. N.C. State, under new head coach Wes Moore, was picked 10th.
The Blue Devils, who had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country led by forward Oderah Chidom, placed seniors Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston along with junior Elizabeth Williams on the preseason all-conference team. Blue Devil freshman Kendall McCravey-Cooper was named to the panel’s newcomer watch list.
UNC, deemed to have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, will begin the season with Hall of Fame head coach Sylvia Hatchell sidelined as she battles her recently diagnosed leukemia. Her career-long top assistant Andrew Calder will coach the Tar Heels in her absence.
Tar Heel sophomore Xylina McDaniel made the all-conference team, while Diamond DeShields is on both newcomer watch lists.
Georgia Tech and Florida State tied for fifth in the panel’s poll, while the Yellow Jackets were fifth and the
Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas was named preseason player of the year on both the panel and coaches’ teams.
Wake Forest’s Chelsea Douglas made the panel’s team.
Also named to both teams were Georgia Tech’s Tyaunna Marshall, Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Virginia’s Ataira Franklin. Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa was selected to the panel’s team, while teammate Jewell Loyd made the coaches’ team.
Others on both newcomer watch lists are Georgia Tech’s Kaela Davis and Notre Dame’s Taya Reimer. Maryland’s Lexie Brown were named to the panel’s watch list while Florida State’s Morgan Jones was named to the coaches’ list.
They said it:
McCallie: “We challenge our players pretty consistently with the things we do. We challenged them with a team retreat, we challenged them at different times. But every year is a new year. Whatever you’ve done in the past is great, but it’s really not relevant to the year ahead which is now. We’ve had some tough times. We just want to get better. But all in all, this is a great group.”
Calder: “What we lose (without Hatchell) is the fact that she’s in the Hall of Fame and has all that knowledge. But she has prepared and has always made a commitment to prepare her assistant coaches to be head coaches.”
Gray: “I wasn’t there at the end of the season last year (because of a knee injury), which kind of hurt. It’s definitely a motivation factor to get back out there with my team. The five seniors started together and we’re definitely in it together. Just being back on the court with them during practice is an amazing feeling. We definitely have work to do, but we’re very excited to get this season started.”
UNC guard Megan Buckland: “(Hatchell) is not there, and it definitely gives us something else to fight for and something else to play for, knowing she would want us to work just as hard as we have been before.”
NCSU forward Kody Burke: “I’ve been working on my 3-point shooting all summer. When Coach More came in he said ‘If you can’t shoot the three you can’t play with me,’ so I took that to heart. I will be out on the perimeter a lot more than last year, so I’ve worked on perimeter skills such as simple ballhandling and the pull-up jump shot as well.”