Greenwell, green light
As redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell remembered the sight of then top-ranked South Carolina celebrating on the Blue Devils home court following a one-point victory, the Owensboro, Ky. native couldn’t help but reflect on one of the most painful growing experiences a young player will ever have.
With 17.9 seconds remaining in the contest, Greenwell lost the ball off a trap on the inbounds play, giving the Gamecocks the final possession of the game—a possession that ended with a buzzer-beating putback layup for South Carolina that dealt Duke its only regular-season home loss of the season.
“It was a huge learning experience and I’ve had a lot of those this year, but that one will stick with me for a while,” Greenwell said. “I’ve learned from my mistakes a lot this year, so I think I’ll carry that throughout the tournament.”
Heading into the NCAA tournament, the guard commonly known as “Becky McBuckets” by her teammates will be the key to a lengthy Blue Devils run in March. On a team loaded with post players that have dominated the paint this season, Greenwell is the perfect perimeter threat with her ability to explode to the basket and shoot the 3-pointer with ease.
The former Owensboro Catholic High School standout has certainly had her share of ups and downs this season. In road games against Texas A&M and Nebraska, without the services of All-American Elizabeth Williams, Greenwell may have been thrust into a role that was a little too big for her just five games into her college career.
“The amount of details that go into everything and preparation was difficult to adjust to,” Greenwell said. “The small things like shot selection and the amount of intensity that the college game brings were also tough.”
But with the return of Williams and Duke’s dominance in the post, Greenwell’s ability to space the floor and prevent teams from packing the paint has allowed the Blue Devils to become multi-dimensional.
“With all the attention that Elizabeth brings to our opponents, whenever they double on [Williams], I can catch and shoot from the 3-point line so it’s really two big threats,” Greenwell said.
Greenwell will make her first tournament appearance a year later than most would’ve hoped. The guard was forced to redshirt her freshman season due to a procedure to repair meniscus damage in her right knee. Although questions about Greenwell’s health continued in her second year on campus, the 6-foot-1 guard has been the only player to start every game for Duke this season and leads the team with an average of 34.2 minutes per game.
“Being out there has been a blessing for me,” Greenwell said. “It’s completely different being on the sidelines and then getting to experience college basketball out there in a real game. It’s been a great season and I’m excited every time I get the chance to be out there.”
In order for the Blue Devils to get to the second weekend in the tournament, Greenwell will have to take care of the basketball against upset-minded Albany and—likely— No. 5 seed Mississippi State. The redshirt freshman has one of the lowest assist-to-turnover ratio on the squad this season at 0.7:1. Although the Owensboro, Ky., native is certainly effective as a spot-up shooter—holding the national high school record with 17 3-pointers in one game—Greenwell is capable of doing much more for Duke on the floor as a facilitator and floor general along with senior guard Ka’lia Johnson.
If the Blue Devils progress to the later stages of the tournament in Spokane, Wash., Greenwell could potentially match up with two of the best guards in the country in Maryland’s Lexie Brown and Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner, as well as the length of an athletic Tennessee team. Greenwell has struggled at times to get going offensively against teams that have relied on using just guards to take her out of the game—such as Notre Dame All-American Jewell Loyd, who limited Greenwell to 10 total points in the teams’ two matchups. But the guard is capable of impacting the game in a multitude of ways.
“Becca has to play smart,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “You can’t box her into just shooting. Becca needs to be a triple-threat player—she needs to be somebody who can shoot off the bounce, shoot off the catch and get assists when she’s doubled.”
Greenwell finished the season third on the team in scoring and rebounding with14.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. But with the tournament approaching, the Blue Devils will need Becky McBuckets to take her play up another notch to make a run to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.