The Blue Devils’ heartbreak from last March will have an impact for longer than expected, as Duke will be without one of its leaders for the rest of the season in its quest to advance deep into the NCAA tournament this March.
Junior Kyra Lambert will use a redshirt this season and begin the 2018-19 season with two years of eligibility remaining. Lambert tore her left ACL during the Blue Devils’ first-round victory in the NCAA tournament last season against Hampton and was aiming to return at some point this season, but that will not be the case. Head coach Joanne P. McCallie revealed the news during her first radio show of the season.
“It just didn’t work out,” McCallie told team radio broadcaster Chris Edwards. “It’s best that she medically redshirt, and we support her.”
The Cibolo, Texas, native started 56 of her 65 games in her first two years with the program. Although she has been vocal on the bench and in practice throughout this fall as a team captain, the 5-foot-9 point guard has not been able to facilitate for her teammates on the hardwood.
“It is going to be very hard not being out there with the team, but I know they are very capable of going very far and accomplishing great things and the goals we have set for ourselves this season. As of right now, I don’t feel like my knee is strong enough to get me at the level that I was playing at and I don’t want to come back anything less than 100 percent,” Lambert said in a press release Tuesday. “I want to step on the court just like I was and even better than I was before the injury happened.”
Out of high school, Lambert joined the Blue Devils ranked as high as the ninth in her recruiting class from multiple publications. She lived up the anticipation as a freshman, starting 23 games and averaging 6.2 points. Last season as a sophomore, Lambert played more than 30 minutes per contest, chipping in 7.8 points per contest in the backcourt.
The No. 14 Blue Devils will now need freshman Mikayla Boykin to continue to step up and lead the backcourt. Graduate students Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown will have to play their entire final season under McCallie without their fellow captain.
According to McCallie, the starting lineup would have ideally included Lambert alongside Greenwell and Brown to form one the most formidable and experienced backcourts in the nation. But for now, Boykin will remain at the point guard spot, as she has in Duke’s eight games to date.
Next season, the Blue Devils will be in need of reinforcements following the departures of Greenwell and Brown. Lambert can be expected to start alongside Boykin in the backcourt when 2019 rolls around.
“I cannot wait to see how far we go. I am going to be on that bench cheering my bottom off each and every day,” Lambert said. “I am also going to be working as hard as I can to get back to 100 percent so that next year when that time comes around I am going to be more than ready to come out here and lead this team.”
This article was updated Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. to include Lambert's comments.
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