The Blue Devils boast two of ESPN’s top 18 players and two of the 30 names selected to the Wooden Award list. Couple graduate students Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown with three other high-scoring starters, and the bench play has not had a lot of room to operate thus far for the No. 11 team in the nation.

Although graduate student Bego Faz Davalos was the first player off the bench, it was freshman Jade Williams who took a big step forward Thursday night. In Duke’s 77-50 win over High Point, Williams scored her first career points and led the improving second unit with four points and five rebounds.

“She’s extremely talented, and I’ve been in her position being a freshman,” senior Erin Mathias said. “We have some jitters and things like that and we all have tons of confidence in her. We know what she’s able to do. We’re going to keep reminding her of that and I know we’re going to see improvement from her day by day.”

With a performance like Williams had Thursday night, the McDonald’s All-American will see a greater role on the team. In the team's season opener at Grand Canyon Sunday afternoon, the freshman saw the court for only six minutes and was held scoreless on two shots and only two rebounds. But in her second career game, The Colony, Texas, native was left on the hardwood for 14 minutes, with nine coming in the final 16 minutes of the contest.

Williams—a top-15 recruit out of high school—has not seen the minutes thus far that someone of her talent might expect in part due to the emergence of the Fresno State transfer Davalos. Although the frontcourt is crowded, Williams’ newfound confidence could rekindle her production on the floor.

“You look at what she gave us, the five rebounds and four points, she looked solid,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She’s learning how to be stronger and more physical, when necessary, and also to play her finesse game.”

Against Grand Canyon to open the season, all five Blue Devil starters scored in double-figures for the first time since 2015 and all but freshman Mikayla Boykin scored at least 10 against High Point.

Overall, the bench played a more prominent role in Thursday's outing. Through the first three quarters of the young season, the Blue Devil bench contributed a mere seven of 112 points. In fact, only two of Duke’s 39 first-half points Thursday night came by way of the bench after a Williams layup with 34 seconds remaining in the half off an assist from Davalos.

After the game, McCallie talked about one lineup in particular that showed her some promise throughout the game, consisting of sophomore Leaonna Odom, Mathias, Davalos and Williams with a point guard. The lineup could not only score, but it can also dominate the offensive and defensive boards. Three of Williams’ five rebounds came on the offensive end.

With a lineup with four players ranging from 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-2, Duke can win important rebounding battles down the road. In their home opener, the Blue Devils held a 20-rebound advantage on High Point. The Blue Devils are already the tallest team in the ACC, with height maxed at Williams’ 6-foot-5 frame, and the rebounding advantage can propel the team to heights unseen in recent seasons. 

“I like looking at that lineup a little bit,” McCallie said. “We’re going to keep experimenting. We’ve got a long way to go till we find exactly what we like and what our options are.”

Although McCallie maintains that the lineups are continuously shifting, it seems that Williams will play a greater role. With two steals and one block to go along with the offensive numbers, Williams is filling up the stat sheet. Duke hopes these glimpses of effectiveness can become the norm, not the abnormal.