Duke freshmen provide spark

Given their recruiting hype, Joy Cheek and Bridgette Mitchell could eventually become Duke's most dynamic duo since last year's pair of Mistie Williams and Monique Currie.

For now, however, the two will scrap and battle their way for playing time. Taking on lesser roles might seem difficult for the two highly-decorated freshmen who almost single-handedly led their high school teams to state titles last year.

But for both of them, the road to Duke did not go as smoothly as it may have seemed. Instead, the two grinded their way into Duke. After a dominant junior year, Cheek-a product of South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C.-nearly had her career derailed with serious shoulder injuries.

"Joy had shoulder problems for two years," her high school coach Troy Gaston wrote in an e-mail. "She agreed to have it operated on in June of 2005. It was a long process, but she worked hard for six months to come back strong."

If Cheek needs any further motivation for returning from the injury, she only has to look into the Duke basketball archives.

"Coach [Goestenkors] told me that Georgia Schweitzer had the same injury, and when she came back, she was two-time ACC Player of the Year [in 2000 and 2001]," Cheek said. "I can prove people wrong."

In contrast to the physically imposing Cheek is the lanky Mitchell, a lightning-quick forward from Peddie High School in Highstown, N.J. Normally a scrappy defender, Mitchell had to step into the lead scorer role last year after another Division I recruit, Devon Casey, went down for the year with a knee injury.

But Mitchell has made no complaints about being a complimentary player for the Blue Devils this season.

"My contribution to the team this year will be intensity and enthusiasm on the defensive side of things," Mitchell said. "Offense will come."

Goestenkors, however, doesn't mind. She fully expects production to come once Mitchell hits the hardwood.

"She works so hard," Goestenkors said. "Great things happen when she's on the floor, especially on defense."

For the meantime, though, the two will reside on the bench and learn from the upperclassmen. The primary challenge for both of them will be taking care of the ball, Goestenkors said.

"If you want to play, you at least have to be steady," she said.

Nevertheless, if both players live up to the comparisons Goestenkors gave them, the Blue Devils will be prepared not only for this year, but also for the next four.

"I talked to [Cheek] about being our next Mistie Williams," Goestenkors said. "[Mitchell] kind of reminds me of Peppi Brown, just all over the place.

"They're both pretty strong, both athletic and they're mentally tough kids. I think they'll be ready, and the returners are helping them."


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