Cooper steps up for Duke women's basketball in Chidom's absence

Sophomore Kendall Cooper scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds after being inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured Oderah Chidom.
Sophomore Kendall Cooper scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds after being inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured Oderah Chidom.

The news that sophomore Oderah Chidom will be out for the remainder of the season with shoulder issues opens up a major role in Duke’s rotation.

Fellow sophomore Kendall Cooper—along with senior Amber Henson—proved in the Blue Devils’ 89-60 win against Clemson Sunday afternoon that they will be more than able to overcome the team’s loss. Cooper posted an impressive 11 points on the day, along with seven rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.

Although not quite as impressive statistically, Henson tallied 4 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in Sunday’s contest. Chidom’s situation is disappointing, but Duke has been resilient all season and this loss will not be an obstacle as it approaches the final stretch of the regular season.

“Kendall [Cooper] was a great example of energy [in terms of] playing hard, playing aggressive, getting rebounds and looking to score,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I don’t make a conscious effort to change things because someone is not able to play. I really focus on the players that we have and driving us forward.”

Chidom’s shoulder injury had been a nagging issue for quite some time. There were multiple instances in the past when she dislocated her shoulder due to contact plays. During the Blue Devils’ game against Wake Forest Feb. 5, Chidom fell clutching her shoulder under the basket after extending her arm, but this time there was no contact on the play. She left the contest and did not return.

Although the Oakland, Calif., native was able to rally past her previous shoulder dislocations, this one ended her season for good. Even though the injury likely would have likely required surgery after the close of the season, its severity increased enough to demand immediate attention. Chidom had been averaging 8.5 points per game, making her the fourth-highest contributor on the team.

“She cannot play,” McCallie said. “It doesn’t make any sense [because] there wasn’t any contact. She just stuck her hand out and that was enough. There’s nothing left there to support the shoulder. She’s going directly to surgery.”

Cooper was clearly confident that she could prove herself worthy of her starting position Sunday. On the first possession of the game, she stepped up and hit a jumper from just behind the charity stripe. She finished the half with eight points, two rebounds and a steal in 11 minutes.

In the second half, Cooper posted three points and two assists but was absolutely dominant on the defensive end. With 30 seconds remaining, she had a monster block on a 3-point attempt from Clemson’s Shelbie Davenport. Cooper also finished the half with five defensive rebounds.

“I felt like when Oderah [Chidom] went out, somebody had to step it up and fill in her spot,” Cooper said. “She’s very crafty around the basket, so in a sense I had to pick that up for her. As far as preparation, I was playing more for her than for myself.”

Henson also played a major part in filling the hole Chidom left behind, contributing greatly on defense from off the bench. Her eight rebounds helped the Blue Devils overcome their recent issues on the glass.

The Tampa, Fla., native was also responsible for many of the hustle plays that allowed Duke to jump out to a quick lead early in the contest, tipping the ball out from the post to the Blue Devil backcourt multiple times. She was only credited with one steal but had a role in many of Clemson’s 20 turnovers. The leadership Henson provides coming off the bench is also a huge contribution to a young Duke squad.

“This group is resilient,” McCallie said. “There’s been some tremendous leadership at critical times.”

The Blue Devils have displayed incredible resolve throughout what has proven to be one of their toughest seasons. Through the loss of three scholarship players—freshman Lynee Belton to an ACL tear, freshman Sierra Calhoun to transfer and now Chidom—the team has managed to improve and power through the most difficult schedule in women’s basketball.

Duke will hit the road for its next four games—its longest road trip in ACC play. Although the Blue Devils have suffered five of their six losses on the road, they enter the contest on a five-game winning streak and—perhaps more importantly—reassured that their team will not falter in the face of the adversity it knows so well.

“At this point, with what we’ve been through, I think our team can handle just about anything,” McCallie said. “It’s been a tough year for us for a lot of reasons. But it’s the perfect time for us to go on the road and be a much better team upon returning for that last game here.”


Share and discuss “Cooper steps up for Duke women's basketball in Chidom's absence” on social media.