After a seemingly endless offseason, Duke basketball is finally back.
The Blue Devil women will take on Longwood Wednesday at 12 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium to open up the 2020-21 campaign. Following the departures of stars Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom to the pros, Duke will be rolling out a relatively inexperienced squad that will face its fair share of challenges as the program moves into the Kara Lawson era.
Wednesday’s contest will mark Lawson's first game as a head coach after the former WNBA All-Star spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach for the NBA's Boston Celtics.
"I always look up to WNBA players," junior guard Miela Goodchild said this preseason. "To be coached by [Lawson]—that's absolutely unbelievable, and it's been awesome so far."
A lot of question marks remain for the Blue Devils heading into their opening matchup, from the starting lineup to the minutes distribution. However, this game provides Lawson the opportunity to try a few things out and find a groove for her inherited squad.
“When you have a new group and it's the first time that you're with them, you're trying some things, and seeing what works, and seeing what doesn’t. And we're still doing that,” Lawson said at a preseason press conference earlier this month. “The basics of how we want to play is much like most other programs: You want to play together, you want to compete at a high level, you want to make sure that your players understand the type of work that it takes to run a game, from a basketball standpoint.”
This will be Duke’s second matchup against Longwood in program history. Four years ago, the teams squared off in Cameron Indoor Stadium as well, a game in which the Blue Devils dominated the Lancers 105-48.
Longwood is coming off a very underwhelming season in which it went 12-18, including 8-12 in the Big South. However, the team is returning its star player in Kayla McMakin—the now-sophomore guard averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last year en route to Big South Freshman of the Year honors. Stopping her will have to be a point of emphasis for the Blue Devils if they hope to start this new era off in the win column.