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Trio of freshmen to plug sizeable gaps

The best Duke women’s basketball class ever is now history.

Alana Beard, Iciss Tillis and Vicki Krapohl graduated and Brittany Hunter transferred, leaving gaping holes in the Blue Devils’ roster. Head coach Gail Goestenkors, however, believes her newest recruiting class of Chante Black, Laura Kurz and Wanisha Smith will be able to fill in successfully.

“They’re all going to help us, and they’re all going to help us immediately,” Goestenkors said. “We lost a player at the point, the wing and the post, and that’s what we signed.”

The Blue Devils’ top prospect, Black, a 6-foot-5 center, was the Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year and has the talent to be an impact player from the get-go.

“Chante Black is going to be, in my opinion, one of the best post players ever to wear a Duke uniform,” Goestenkors said. “She’s outstanding. I told her that I expect her to break all of the rebounding and shot-blocking records here at Duke.”

As a senior at East Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., Black averaged an impressive 19.8 points, 16.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 4.2 assists. Her teammates are excited about her developing game, which should add interior defense and rebounding to the Blue Devil roster.

“[Black] is going to be amazing,” center Mistie Williams said. “She is like a sponge—the type of player that works on every aspect of her game... I think that’s the mark of a great player.”

Black, although bigger and more of an inside presence than her predecessor, fills a role formerly occupied by Tillis, but the Blue Devils need to plug an even bigger gap vacated by Beard, the two-time National Player of the Year.

Kurz, a 6-foot-2 sharpshooter who shot an astounding 59 percent from beyond the arc in high school last season, will help make up for Beard’s loss with points from the perimeter. Goestenkors, however, prefers to compare Kurz to another Duke great.

“She reminds me a little of Michael Dunleavy his freshman year,” Goestenkors said. “Long, lanky, can shoot the three very well, understands the game but needs to get a little bit stronger.”

The third incoming freshman is the most versatile in her class. At 5-foot-11, Smith is capable of playing both the point and shooting guard positions. In the 2004 McDonald’s All-American game, Smith scored 15 points off the bench, illustrating her explosive offensive ability.

“[Smith] makes things happen,” Goestenkors said. “She can get to the basket, she has a real flair for the game. She’s going to help us at that point position.”

Because of the Blue Devils’ depth at guard, Smith will probably start as a reserve, but that does not seem to bother her.

“I think my role is going to be to bring a lot of energy to the team and to come to practice with the most intensity and back up our guards and do whatever I can,” Smith said.

Although Goestenkors does not expect her freshman trio to equal the production of her much-heralded graduated class, she anticipates that the three will fill numerous roles on a team that has just seven other eligible players.

“I just wanted to work hard and play as best as I could, and whatever happens happens,” Kurz said.

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