CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM It’s finally basketball season.
Duke was the first of the local ACC women’s basketball teams to put its product on display, with its annual Blue/White Scrimmage at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s a “Fan Fest” as well, with games for the kids and free popcorn and some giveaways and a post-game autograph session.
And there are perhaps a thousand fans in the house.
Last season the Blue Devils were so banged up in preseason that Coach Joanne P. McCallie put her team up against the male players that often go up against the team in practice.
This time there’s a modification. Duke has only 10 healthy and available players at the moment as sophomore center Allison Vernerey recovers from a recent blow to the head in practice.
So with five returnees plus a five-player freshman class touted as the nation’s best available to play, McCallie has elected to have some of the guys participate.
Duke will have absolutely no dead weight this season. If it means anything, today’s “White” team starters are returning starters Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas along with junior sharpshooter Kathleen Scheer and freshman forward Richa Jackson.
The game is played in 10-minute quarters, and after the first freshmen Chloe Wells and Haley Peters switch to the White team with Christmas and Scheer going to Blue. And it continues, as the White team is going to go without subs in each segment while the guys come off the bench to supplement the Blue … until the final period, when it’s “Battle of the Sexes” time. The boys took an awful whipping last year and should be really fired up. We’ll see.
And it does get physical. Probably the toughest moment of the game comes when Gray takes a hard charge and gets up OK. Krystal Thomas gets an inadvertent elbow to the chin which isn’t good, but later Gray gets fouled taking a 3-pointer and hits all three shots. The practice guys win that segment 27-26.
Freshmen Wells and Tricia Liston lead the ladies with 18 points each, followed by Jackson and Christmas with 16 apiece, Peters with 13 and Jasmine Thomas 10. Krystal Thomas adds seven points and 11 rebounds.
Georgie Kerber leads the scout team with 10 points on the day while Ari Seelinger chips in seven.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “I think it was a good ten minutes, and good intensity. I did see certain players really step up against the guys which they had not done against their teammates. It was interesting and that’s part of the reason the last ten minutes we decided to do that. We rotated. We didn't play it like we’d play it in a game — obviously we're not going to have Jas on the bench and Karima and others. We rotated people to give experience and that’s what I liked about that, there were some good plays made, good time and score down the stretch, especially for young players.”
Jasmine Thomas: “I think you saw it when we got a few steals back-to-back, and got a fast-break layup. You can just see the tempo pick up. A lot of that comes with knowing that you don't have to save anything, you have subs, and you can put it all out there. When you're going five-on-five you want to go as hard as you can but there's something in the back of your mind saying ‘OK, I've got to rest at some point.’ We talk a lot about resting at the right time, resting on offense, but when you go against the guys you can go all out.”
Christmas: “Playing those 30 minutes five on five then being able to play now and give it your all is just what we've been trying to do in practice. Going out there and playing against the guys gave us more freedom and allowed us to go all out.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke’s highly-touted freshmen are having no problem keeping up with the veterans, giving the Blue Devils potentially their deepest team in years.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Christmas’ alley-oop from Jasmine Thomas off the left sideline late in the third.
Duke vs. Wingate (exh.), Nov. 3, 7 p.m.