Sophomore Azurá Stevens and freshman Angela Salvadores will not return to the Blue Devil program next season, Duke announced Friday.
Stevens—Duke's leading scorer and rebounder—was a first team All-ACC selection last season despite missing seven conference games with a partially torn plantar fascia, and also earned honorable mention AP All-American recognition. Duke stumbled to a 3-4 record down the stretch without the 6-foot-6 forward, and her departure is a major blow to the Blue Devils for the next two years.
“My experience at Duke has been amazing,” Stevens said in a press release announcing the departures. “I would like to thank the staff and the Blue Devil community for all their support over the last two years. At this time, I feel it would be best for my basketball career to go in a different direction.”
Stevens has not yet announced her next destination. The Cary, N.C., native would be required to sit out the 2016-17 season under NCAA rules if she chooses to transfer to another school. Doing so would make her the fourth Blue Devil to transfer out of the Duke program in the past four seasons. Sierra Moore left for Penn State after the 2012-13 season, and Kianna Holland and Sierra Calhoun each left after the fall 2013 and fall 2014 semesters, respectively. Both players ultimately signed with Ohio State.
Salvadores entered Duke as a top-5 recruit from Leon, Spain, and averaged 8.7 points per game and a team-leading 3.3 assists per game during her rookie campaign. According to the release, she will pursue a professional basketball career. A team spokesperson wrote in an email that Salvadores is heading back to Europe to do so.
“I loved working with both Angela and Azurá,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said in the release. “I wish them the very best in their future basketball careers.”
McCallie eased Salvadores into game action after a heavy workload playing internationally last summer, but she came into her own during the second half of the season, scoring in double figures seven times against ACC opponents and shooting 53.1 percent from 3-point range during conference play.
“Thanks to my teammates, support staff and the Duke fans for always being supportive,” Salvadores said in the release. “The Duke community opened their arms since day one and I always felt loved by them.”
Duke lost just two players to graduation from last season's squad—Amber Henson and Mercedes Riggs—and expected to contend with the return of a healthy Stevens as well as the addition of Lexie Brown, a third-team All-American as a sophomore at Maryland before transferring to Duke. Six-foot-1 forward Leaonna Odom, the No. 9 recruit in the Class of 2016, is Duke's lone incoming freshman.
Brown will likely slide into the starting point guard role, taking potential minutes away from Salvadores—who shared the backcourt this season with fellow freshman Kyra Lambert—but Stevens’ versatility and size will be much more difficult to replace on both ends of the floor.
Rising senior Oderah Chidom becomes the most proven post option returning for next season, after averaging 9.6 points and 6.5 rebounds as a junior. Another veteran forward, Kendall Cooper, could return in the fall after the junior was not enrolled at the University for the spring semester and missed the second half of the season.
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