Leaning on Liston
Tricia Liston is Duke’s leading scorer this season, but if not for some extra recruiting work by head coach Joanne P. McCallie, the senior sharpshooter would not have even become a Blue Devil.
“I didn’t find her until very late,” McCallie said. “So what happened was my assistants were out recruiting, and I was following that lead like I always do. I went to Augusta, Ga. where there’s a big Nike tournament. I happened to see [Tricia] for the first time, which was the end of July heading into her senior year. I thought she was just fantastic—I was just adamant [about recruiting her]."
Luckily for the Blue Devils and for Liston—the 46th-ranked player in her high school class of 2010 by Blue Star Report and 33rd-ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz—McCallie made her find just in the nick of time.
“It was close to the time when I was trying to wrap up the recruiting process,” Liston said. “[McCallie] just called me one day and I think I was asleep and got a voice message. I was just so excited because I had always dreamed about coming to a school like Duke. It was just like a dream come true.”
Liston has capitalized on her opportunity by becoming arguably the greatest outside shooter in program history. She needs just 13 more treys to break Abby Waner’s all-time career mark of 222 3-pointers made and will also likely hold the record for highest career 3-point percentage—Liston has knocked down threes at a 45.5 percent clip for her career.
Liston also set the record for the most 3-pointers made in a single season with 80 last year—one that she is on pace break again this season—and has shot 87 percent from the free throw line for her career. The River Forest, Ill. native credits her success as a shooter to the habits she built growing up.
“From a young age, I was shooting the right way,” Liston said. “I had the right form, which my dad had taught me, and I was always going to my older sister’s practices since he coached them. That repetition and the practice over the years helped me.”
Although Liston’s legacy will primarily be one of an assassin from beyond the arc, she has added new dimensions to her game each season. The senior is averaging a career-high 5.5 rebounds per contest this season and has taken on an increased role as a defender and playmaker as well.
Liston has also been a captain each of the past two seasons and has been a much more vocal leader of late. With the recent news that senior point guard Chelsea Gray is out for the season with a fractured kneecap, Liston’s role will likely only continue to grow.
“She just continues to be a person who understands the game, can communicate with her teammates and can bring people together on the floor,” McCallie said. “It’s an important component—being a person who can bring the best out in others and work through difficulties.”
Equally noteworthy is Liston’s improvement each season. Just as with her rebounding, Liston’s point production has risen consistently each season from a 5.5 point-per-game clip as a freshman to a 16.7 mark as a senior. She currently leads the Blue Devils with seven 20-point games on the season and had her best performance at then-No. 5 Kentucky on Dec. 22 with a season-high 28-point effort.
Her efficiency as a shooter has also improved from year to year—Liston shot just 45.8 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point range and 68.9 percent from the free throw line as a freshman but currently has marks of 54.6 percent, 47.9 percent and 92.9 percent in the same categories.
“She really is a hard worker, and she’s motivated me to get better because of how hard she works,” Liston’s fellow senior captain Haley Peters said. “She’s just been consistent in her approach. She’s put her time in, and she’s just incredibly confident with the ball in her hands now.”
One of the main ways Liston improved last summer was by competing for Team USA at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia. The team went 6-0 and won the gold medal with Liston as one of its primary scoring threats.
In her first tryout for Team USA, Liston showed enough prowess to be included on a team featuring many of the nation’s top players including Connecticut’s Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel.
“It’s just a great opportunity to be invited to something like that,” Liston said. “Actually making the team and going to Russia and training camp with all of the top players we play against was cool, to be on their team rather than against them. It was a good thing for my game, [as was] playing overseas—that’s something I might want to do in the future.”
For now, Liston is happy solidifying her status as one of the top sharpshooters on campus. Still, Duke’s humble star remains uncertain she would win in a 3-point shooting contest with men’s basketball graduate student Andre Dawkins—a career 40.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
“I don’t know,” Liston said. “That’s a good one. I’d like to say me, but he hits some great threes—he’s a great shooter.”