As the weather cools and fall progresses, the time gets closer to the start of the 2019-20 women’s basketball season.
The team was formally introduced to the Cameron Crazies Friday night before men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his squad took the court for their own Blue/White game. The women's basketball team will get its own opportunity in Cameron Indoor Stadium to showcase its offseason improvements Sunday afternoon in its Blue vs. White intersquad scrimmage.
After a disappointing 15-15 2018-19 campaign, Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie and her crew look to make a splash on the national scale this season.
Here are five questions to think about before the Blue vs. White scrimmage:
Will Haley Gorecki have another dominant season?
Last season marked the first time guard Haley Gorecki was able to go injury-free for an entire year and it looked like it was just the break that the Illinois native needed. She put together a dominant season, starting all 30 games while averaging 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
Much to the chagrin of her ACC opponents, Gorecki is returning to Durham for her fifth year of eligibility. The Blue Devils will need Gorecki to pick up right where she left off in order to return to the NCAA tournament.
In addition to being tabbed to the preseason All-ACC team, Gorecki also has racked up a laundry list of Blue Devil accolades. If Duke is to bounce back from last season, Gorecki will be the reason.
How will the returning core look different?
Undoubtedly the biggest factor the Blue Devils have going in their favor is the fact that they are returning all of their starters.
It will be interesting to see how all of the starters have improved their games Sunday. Sophomore guard Miela Goodchild has already proven that she is an elite shooter, but has she added new facets to her game to become a nightmare for opposing defenders? Junior center Jade Williams burst onto the scene last year and had a solid season, but it will be important for her to improve on her rebounding.
What does Coach McCallie plan to do with the freshmen?
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The Blue Devils welcomed a talented recruiting class to campus this fall. Though no freshmen are expected to snag a starting role, McCallie has already made it clear that the rookies will not just be sitting idly by.
It is not clear yet how significant of a role each player will have, but it will be a storyline to look for Sunday. Of the four freshmen, three of them are guards. With Goodchild and Gorecki already comprising a dynamic starting backcourt, it will take some creative lineups from McCallie to make sure they all see floor time.
How will the new Blue Devil coaches play into the team dynamic?
In the past offseason, there has been a lot of turnover in the Blue Devils' coaching staff. Former assistant coach Rene Haynes traded in the luscious forests and barbecue food of Durham for the New York skyline and signature pizza where she is now the head coach at Long Island University. In addition to her departure, associate head coach Hernando Planells is also no longer with the program. In an attempt to fill the void, Coach McCallie brought on former players to get this program back to the NCAA tournament.
New assistant coach Wanisha Smith and special assistant Keturah Jackson look to provide guidance to the squad all season long. Although all the reports of the player and new coach dynamic are overwhelmingly positive, Sunday will mark the first time the relationship will be put to the test.
What will be the identity of this team?
Last season was marked by a lot of chaos. Positions were up in the air, injuries reared their ugly heads and turnovers were rampant. All the disarray led to an overall disappointing season for a Duke basketball team. During the scrimmage, what kind of team the Blue Devils will be this year will start to show.
They undoubtedly have sharpshooters who can hurt opponents from beyond the arc, but the real question is what else will be a part of the Duke DNA this year. There is a possibility that this team will be more physical than in years prior, with McCallie and Smith stressing the importance of rebounding and defense, respectively. In addition, it will be important to see who is going to step up alongside Gorecki and make an impact up and down the court.