As a sophomore, Alison Bales was the cornerstone of Duke's defense. At 6-foot-7, she nearly doubled the school's single-season record in blocks with 134.
The center was named to the All-ACC Defensive Team and ranked sixth in the nation in blocks per game.
But on offense, Bales' numbers were less than stellar-she averaged only 7.7 points per game and converted only 48 percent of her shots-the second-lowest percentage among the Blue Devils' frontcourt.
Her emergence as a threat on the offensive end of the floor is the next step in elevating her game.
"We feel like she turned the corner last year on the defensive end and became really a dominant post player defensively," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "Now we need for her to have that same type of turnaround on the offensive end."
Toward the end of last season, Goestenkors said her center had shown improvement with the ball in her hands, but that she still needed to become more aggressive on offense.
The junior agreed, devoting her entire summer in Durham to honing her offensive skills and improving her conditioning.
"I was here for most of the summer, mostly running and lifting with the team," Bales said. "I worked on offense, offensive aggressiveness, post moves and just regular shooting."
The coaching staff worked with Bales on adding more effective moves around the basket including right- and left-handed baby hooks, Goestenkors said.
"Everybody has a favorite move and a comfort move, and we're trying to get her to expand her game a little bit more," the coach said. "She can accomplish really whatever she wants to. She's just got to be aggressive."
In addition to training with the team this summer, Bales played pick-up games at Wilson Gymnasium and tried out for the USA World University Games team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
While she spent significant time working on mechanics in the post, she also made conditioning a priority.
Bales said her right knee, which forced her to miss games early in her Duke career, did not inhibit her from working out during the offseason.
"It only took me twice to make my mile time this year, instead of running it the whole preseason like I did last year," Bales said half jokingly.
Goestenkors said Bales' work has been paying off in the preseason and that she is in great shape.
Another result of her hard work this summer is that her confidence has continued to increase.
"I'm finally getting the game," Bales said. "I understand where the help defense is supposed to be, and understand what Coach G wants and can play the game better-especially compared to my freshman year, because I was a little lost back then."
This season Goestenkors said she is implementing a new motion offense that the Blue Devils were unable to run last year because of their lack of depth and a true point guard.
Bales and the rest of the Blue Devils' frontcourt expect to figure prominently into that scheme.
"With our offense-our high-low-we put an emphasis on our post players," Goestenkors said. "We need them to win a National Championship, and I think they know that."
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