With nagging injuries sidelining Amber Henson and Elizabeth Williams, head coach Joanne P. McCallie will have to rely on her incoming freshman class to play crucial minutes early this season. This year’s new group, the class of 2012, features the guard tandem of Alexis Jones and Sierra Moore along with post player Katie Heckman.
Jones, a native of Irvine, Texas, is ranked No. 3 in her class according to ESPN and second among point guards. Her athleticism, offensive potential and skilled on-ball defense have earned her the first spot off the bench for the Blue Devils. In Duke’s second exhibition game against Queens, Jones had 22 points and nine assists including several difficult passes in the paint. Jones has remained positive about the promise of the coming season and her improvement over time.
“I’m just getting used to my teammates,” she said. “I feel like the more we practice together, the harder we practice, it helps me get comfortable to where when we play games I get more comfortable and play my game.”
McCallie has played Jones off the bench so far this season to maximize her effort and production on the court.
“I think Alexis is a very talented guard. She’s got great speed and quickness,” McCallie said. “She’s got a savvy about the game and interesting passing ability. She’s got to learn, like all freshmen, about how to go hard on every possession and be consistent with that, so that’s going to be a process going forward.” Moore, a wing player from Hanover, Pa. also saw extensive minutes during exhibition play. Moore ranks No. 49 in the class of 2012. At 5-foot-11, Moore will be able to guard multiple positions on the court and contribute on the offensive end with solid mid-range shooting.
“Sierra is not really a guard, she’s more of a three-four player. But I love her physical game, her body, her strength [and] her ability to rebound,” McCallie said. “She’s not going to be the biggest or tallest person on the floor sometimes but she’s very aggressive to the ball, and I’m hoping she can really help us out in that area.”
After playing in Europe during the summer with Duke, Moore feels confident in her ability to play a significant role for the Blue Devils.
“We had an advantage over freshman in past years, but it was a bigger transition,” Moore said. “It wasn’t anything I wasn’t expecting and [it gave us] time to get to know the team.”
As her fellow freshmen have focused on improving on the court, Heckman has been forced to find ways to help her teammates while still injured. Heckmann tore her ACL as a junior in high school and required another surgery that took place Thursday.
“Definitely bringing energy, being loud, cheering on my teammates,” she said. “But also going and seeing if someone’s not hustling or something, and calling them out on it, because coach has really been stressing that. We have to sustain excellence within our team, so if there’s five of us on the sidelines, we have that many more eyes to see and that many more people that can go up to a teammate and be like, ‘Hey, pull it together.’”
When Heckman’s health improves, her 6-foot-4 frame and intensity on the court can be her greatest contribution to the Blue Devils.
“I’m just going out there trying to do my best always, working hard, posting up and playing defense,” she said.
Injuries to several upperclassmen have put pressure on this year’s freshman class to produce on the court early and often. McCallie has been impressed, however, with their effort and contributions to the team.
“They’re doing great. Freshman can do no wrong in my opinion. They just got to play hard,” McCallie said. “Both Lex and Sierra are so coachable, and they listen. They do everything you ask, and they try hard. All I can say is that I’m thrilled with them and we’ve just got to continue to get the most out of them.”