During Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s first few years in the NBA, it was clear he was a rising star in the league.
But when fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson arrived in the Bay Area, Curry’s game went to another level with another deadly shooter for defenses to cover.
All-American transfer Lexie Brown sees parallels between the 2015 NBA champions and this year’s Duke team.
“I know it’s a longshot, but we’re comparing ourselves to the Golden State Warriors,” Brown said. “We’ve got [Rebecca Greenwell] and I as the Splash Sisters. Kyra [Lambert] is going to be our do-it all utility guard.”
It might seem crazy for a team that just missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994 following an injury-plagued season, and lost two key pieces in the offseason, but Brown’s proclamation might not end up being that far-fetched.
After two seasons, Greenwell is eighth in Duke history in 3-point field goals made and seventh in points per game—last year, the Owensboro, Ky., native shot better than 40 percent from long range as a redshirt sophomore. Brown is also dangerous from long range, canning 120 triples in her first two seasons at Maryland before sitting out as a transfer last year.
The scary thing for opponents? The duo’s efficiency figures to improve playing alongside one another in the backcourt.
“Teams are not going to be able to face-guard Becca or throw two people at her, because you’ve got me and Kyra right next to her,” Brown said. “They’re not going to be able to do it to me because I have these two next to me. I’m really excited to see what defenses teams try to throw at us.”
Again, it might seem crazy to think Lambert—who averaged 6.2 points and 2.5 assists per game last year—could be the third piece in a dynamic backcourt. But after being forced into 23 starts as a rookie, the 5-foot-9 guard feels much more comfortable with Brown and Greenwell taking pressure off her has a ball-handler.
Lambert worked on her outside shot throughout the summer, and a faster style of play should suit the Cibolo, Texas, native’s game very well.
“As a freshman last year, I’m still so proud of what she did,” McCallie said. “She’s just greatly improved and benefitting from not always having to have the ball in her hands.”
Lambert scored 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting in the annual Blue-White scrimmage Sunday, including an electric buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter. McCallie said she plans to have Brown and Lambert, both natural point guards, on the floor at the same time, though Lambert will likely play more off the ball to start the year.
Although Brown went 2-of-13 from the field Sunday, she too had plenty of open looks, and worked with Lambert and Greenwell in the first quarter to run an efficient offense that had just two turnovers in the period.
“It’s very comfortable,” Brown said. “I know Kyra had her struggles last year, but she has been more calm, comfortable, and collected with me next to her on the floor. We balance each other out really well. She’s really great to the basket, and I’m really good at shooting. I don’t really know what teams are going to do with both of us on the floor at the same time.”
Duke’s potentially lethal backcourt trio has been a long time coming—Brown had to sit out all of the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. But the Suwanee, Ga., native used the year to her advantage, dominating at times in practice and getting to know her new teammates.
Now Brown is a team captain along with Greenwell and Chidom and looks much different than the sometimes soft-spoken floor general who starred at Maryland from 2013-2015.
“I struggled my freshman year when I was younger being confident and things like that,” Brown said. “But now I don’t really have a problem speaking. I’m fine.”
An All-Big Ten Defensive team selection, Brown also boasts postseason pedigree that none of her teammates do—she played in the 2014 and 2015 Final Fours after the Blue Devils were eliminated from the postseason.
Last year, Duke missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, and is hoping to lean on its guards to make the team’s first Final Four run in McCallie’s 10 years as head coach.
“We’re extremely motivated,” Greenwell said. “It was tough all the way around for everyone involved, but it’s definitely been a motivating factor for us. Right once we found out that we weren’t in the tournament, we’ve been working toward it…. It will definitely show this season.”
Like Brown, Greenwell has had to sit out a year as she was sidelined as a freshman due to injury and was forced to redshirt.
The Splash Sisters hope to guide Lambert as she continues her development and lead a faster, up-tempo offense with freshman Leaonna Odom as the team’s Kevin Durant and post players like Chidom holding down the paint.
Other players will undoubtedly make their mark for the Blue Devils this year, but as is the case with the Warriors, all eyes will be on the guards for their next Splash Sisters moments.
“We have the quickness, we have the talent, we have the knock down shooters, and the drivers,” Lambert said. “We have the best backcourt in the country.”
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Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.