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X-factor: Mikayla Boykin ready to take the reins of Duke women's basketball

<p>Mikayla Boykin will debut against Marist after sitting out the first games of the season due to lingering injury.</p>

Mikayla Boykin will debut against Marist after sitting out the first games of the season due to lingering injury.

Two of our women's basketball beats Christian Olsen and Ramona Naseri engage in a point/counterpoint debating who will be Duke's X-factor following the departures of Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom. Here is Christian's argument for why Boykin is the one to emerge—to read Ramona's argument, click here.

Haley Gorecki, one of the best guards to ever call Cameron Indoor Stadium home, is gone. Not only that, but dynamic wingmate Leaonna Odom left with her.

Those two departures mean there are colossal shoes to fill this coming season. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Mikayla Boykin.

The senior point guard is Duke’s most skilled ball-handler, and has proven herself to have a smooth touch from deep. Last season, she had multiple breakout games and was essential in back-to-back wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, victories that turned the Blue Devils’ season around. Boykin is undoubtedly one of Duke’s most talented players—the only issue is Blue Devil fans haven’t been able to watch that talent very much over her four years in Durham.

The Clinton, N.C., native arrived at Duke in 2017 as a five-star recruit with lofty expectations. But just 10 games into her freshman campaign, Boykin tore her ACL, sidelining her for the season. She returned the following year only to reinjure her knee, putting her game on hold for most of another season as well. 

It wasn’t until last season that the Duke faithful was finally able to see Boykin find a rhythm, and she more than made up for lost time. After a few games of limited minutes, her usage skyrocketed, culminating in 22 minutes or more in her final eight games. Overall, Boykin amassed 7.1 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game in addition to an astonishing 40.5 percent mark from deep across 17 contests.

Now with Gorecki, Odom and former starting point guard Kyra Lambert gone, Boykin will be the gatekeeper to the Blue Devils’ offense, where she can fully maximize her unique playmaking abilities. Last season, she recorded 50 assists in just 17 games—now just imagine what she can do as the lead guard.

Furthermore, if you’ve ever watched Boykin hype up her team on the court or talk to the media in postgame press conferences, you know that her skill set isn’t the only thing she brings to the table. More than anyone on the team, Boykin’s confidence and charisma is infectious. She can bring the laughs off the court, but she can also generate intensity on the floor.

As a senior, Boykin brings the wisdom that comes with age and time on the roster. However, her unfortunate injury history leaves her with less playing experience than even some of her younger teammates. If it were a more abrasive personality in her shoes, the leadership dynamic could fall apart. But considering her respectable and charming stature, the transition from Gorecki/Odom to Boykin should be smooth.

If there’s one argument against Boykin, it’s that she hasn’t seen enough time on the court to lead the offense. Nevertheless, opponents saw enough of her at the end of last season to know what she’s capable of. And now that she has a full summer of recovery under her belt, this season should finally showcase Mikayla Boykin at her best.

Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle's women's basketball season preview. Find the rest here.

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