The Duke seniors have changed substantially since they walked into Southgate dorm on East Campus in 2015. Entering as a group of five, that Blue Devil recruiting class was tabbed the top of any team country.
So, where is the class of 2019 now?
The biggest change for the Duke seniors—not including two trips to the NCAA tournament and one to the ACC finals—was the loss of two of their teammates, Angela Salvadores and Crystal Primm. Only three of the original five remain: guards Haley Gorecki, Kyra Lambert and Faith Suggs.
Salvadores, a Spanish phenom who led her home nation to a U18 European championship in 2015 and was named MVP, left the team after her first year to pursue a professional career back home.
Primm then left the team following her sophomore season in 2017. She transferred to Auburn, becoming the Blue Devils' sixth transfer since 2013.
“I hope everything’s great with them,” Suggs said. “We still keep in touch with Crystal—she’s still part of our fab five. We came in together, went through a lot together, missing the tournament and all that stuff. No matter what, they’re both my sisters and we had so much fun together.”
Suggs, the only true senior on this Duke team, will be a key piece of the Blue Devil offense this season. Starting only seven games last season—but seeing action in 31—Suggs was tagged to start each of the three NCAA tournament games. She notched six points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds in the first round against No. 12 seed Belmont.
Suggs is both a threat from the perimeter, hitting 33 percent of attempts from beyond the arc, and a defensive powerhouse. She brought the intensity that Duke needed following the departure of Primm and injuries to both Gorecki and Lambert.
On a more personal note, Suggs was also recently featured in a short film titled “Faith.”
When asked about her experience as a Blue Devil, Suggs said that her favorite part of Duke are the people and the opportunities after graduation. She said that she was very impressed with the alumni network and was excited to see where it could take her next year. Suggs hopes to work in marketing with athletes or play overseas following graduation.
The Flossmoor, Ill., native still has a few items to check off her bucket list with her fellow seniors before leaving campus in May.
“One of the things we want to do is go draw our names under the bridge on East," Suggs said. "That’s definitely something we will do as seniors before we graduate.”
Also hailing from the Chicago area, Gorecki will graduate this year but retain one more year of eligibility due to a medical redshirt. It's been a tough go for Gorecki, who redshirted sophomore year due to a hip injury sustained in the middle of her freshman campaign. She then returned to action as a redshirt sophomore, but suffered another hip injury at the end of last January that ended her season.
With the loss of both Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown, Gorecki will be the first option at guard. She hit 42.3 percent from beyond the arc last season while averaging 11.0 points per game, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
When reflecting on her final year as an undergraduate, Gorecki focuses mostly on basketball. She says that the experience of being an athlete at Duke is an incredible one and says that the people she has met has made her experience much better. She notes that her medical situation has been incredibly difficult, but that it helped her learn a lot about herself in the process. She hopes to play in the WNBA in the future or overseas.
“It has been awesome," Gorecki said about her time as a Blue Devil. "I think being through what I have been through, not many people can say that. It is kind of a blessing in a way when you look at it. You have different obstacles you need to face, which has taught me certain things and made me who I am in a way.”
Lambert, the last of the crop, will also maintain a year of eligibility due to a torn ACL that was accrued during her sophomore campaign. She redshirted last season and has been steadily recovering to return to the helm for the Blue Devils. Despite the injury, Lambert said that last season was her favorite at Duke.
“Even though I wasn’t on the court playing, I think going on to the Sweet 16 and being there with my team and seeing how all of our hard work was paying off at the right time," Lambert said. "It’s something I’ve never felt before and I was super glad and appreciative to have that with that team.”
The No. 9 recruit nationally, Lambert played like a veteran from her first day on the court. She started 23 out of 32 games as a rookie, totaling double-digit scoring in six contests. She also had a career-high 16 points at No. 2 South Carolina.
As a sophomore, the Cibolo, Texas, native started all 33 contests she played and averaged 39.7 percent from the three-point line. She also grabbed 3.7 rebounds per game and 56 steals on the season. The highlight of her career came Dec. 4, 2016 when the Blue Devils took down No. 3 South Carolina in a rematch in Durham.
“It was a huge upset," Lambert said. "The crowd was insane—they travel a lot of fans and we showed out and you could literally feel the ground in Cameron shaking. It was incredible.”
Next year, Lambert is looking forward to pursuing a graduate degree at Fuqua while continuing her basketball career at Duke. She hopes to win a national championship with her team and cites last season, being in the Sweet 16, as her favorite year of undergraduate.
While the Blue Devil seniors might have had different experiences in their undergraduate careers, they all still have one more year together to play in Cameron and finally make that coveted postseason run.
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