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Duke women's basketball to open season with Blue-White scrimmage

Point guard Chelsea Gray is set to make her return for the Blue Devils after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.
Point guard Chelsea Gray is set to make her return for the Blue Devils after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.

The Blue Devils will take to the court for their annual scrimmage after a successful offseason and busy first week of practice.

Duke, ranked in the top three nationally in every preseason poll released thus far, returns all five starters and 93.7 percent of its scoring from the team that went to the Elite Eight last season. The Blue Devils added the second-ranked recruiting class in the offseason and will start the 2013-14 campaign with the Blue/White Scrimmage Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"It's a great opportunity all the way around," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "Sunday is [going to be] a lot of fun. It's great to be out playing against each other with officials. We get a chance to play against each other, execute and compete and then can bring the scout guys in and compete against them. It's like a gameday mentality."

The Blue Devils will be seeking redemption in this year's Blue White scrimmage. Last year, Duke fell 70-69 to the team's all-male practice squad, which will once again serve as the Blue Devils' competition for Sunday's contest.

Duke started official practice last Wednesday and will play two exhibition games following the Blue/White scrimmage before starting the regular season at California on Nov. 10—the Golden Bears have been ranked in the top-15 in most preseason polls after reaching the Final Four last season. Duke's practices have been very focused so far in preparation for another long, grueling season.

"It's very exciting to be back together and working hard on the little details," McCallie said. "Our practices have been intense and I think we've been working at a pretty fast pace. The challenge is to get the consistency, particularly in defense and rebounding and get everybody to understand the importance of those elements of the game to get an emphasis on both sides of the ball."

The most decorated returning starters for Duke are senior point guard Chelsea Gray and junior center Elizabeth Williams. Gray, a two-time All-American, missed the end of last season with a knee injury but has fully participated in practice. Williams, also a two-time All-American, is looking to become the first Blue Devil to be named an All-American in each of her first three seasons.

The other returning starters are senior guard Tricia Liston, senior forward Haley Peters and sophomore guard Alexis Jones. Liston made a team-record 80 3-pointers a season ago and was a second-team All-ACC performer, as was Peters, and Jones was the MVP of the ACC tournament.

Other returning contributors include senior guard Chloe Wells, senior forward Richa Jackson and junior forward Ka'lia Johnson. Because of the familiarity of the players and coaches, Duke has been working heavily on another specific aspect of the game in addition to focusing on defense and rebounding—ball movement.

"We need to do a much better job of passing the ball more quickly, particularly into the post," McCallie said. "Dribbling is overrated. It's very slow and can take the air out of the ball, so passing is critical. The quickness of the post entry pass and ball reversal are keys for us."

Adding even more depth to the team are highly touted freshmen post players Kendall McCravey-Cooper and Oderah Chidom, who look to provide valuable frontcourt depth this season. Freshman guards Kianna Holland and Rebecca Greenwell were also top recruits and give Duke a very balanced freshman class. Holland has been battling injuries but is scheduled to return soon and Greenwell will redshirt. With their talent and versatility, the freshmen make Duke one of the deepest teams in the country.

"I'm really impressed with the transition they've made," McCallie said. "Kendall Cooper and Oderah Chidom have blended in beautifully with the team. They're playing very hard, they're improving every day and they've really been outstanding. I've been very pleased with them."

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