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Q&A: Duke women's basketball's Nyah Green discusses transfer, Final Four aspirations and more

Green says reaching a Final Four is a realistic goal during her time in Durham.
Green says reaching a Final Four is a realistic goal during her time in Durham.

On Dec. 17, Louisville guard Nyah Green entered the transfer portal. Just over two weeks later, after “over 30 schools” had contacted the 2019 McDonald’s All-American and former five-star recruit, she committed to Duke.

While Green obviously won’t take the floor this season—she wouldn’t have been eligible even if the Blue Devils didn’t opt out of the season—she says she’ll be on campus Jan. 13 to begin working out with the team, and still has four years of eligibility remaining after she redshirted last season.

Green spoke to The Chronicle over the phone to discuss her transfer from No. 2 Louisville, what stood out about head coach Kara Lawson and Duke, the possibility of reaching a Final Four in Durham and more.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Chronicle: Could you talk a little bit about what motivated you to transfer out of Louisville, especially during the middle of the season?

Nyah Green: Louisville just wasn't a good fit for me. The offense didn’t fit my game, and I know playing for Kara, I'm gonna have the opportunity to play my game within her system and within her offense. And the fact that she believes in me, she really believes in me and I believe in her and the coaching staff that she's put together. [Their] knowledge of the game has the potential to [make this] one of the best coaching staffs to be a part of, and that's a big deal to me.

TC: What [else] stood out about Kara and Duke?

NG: It was basically their system, their offense—I can really see myself playing my game and doing what I've been doing since I was in high school. Because at Louisville, I was playing out of position. I was very uncomfortable. [Louisville head coach Jeff] Walz had me playing the four and the five, which is not my position. Within Kara’s system it’s very free-flowing, a lot of space—that's what I'm comfortable with. So I feel like it's gonna be very comfortable for me to play my game, so that's what I'm looking forward to and that's what stood out the most to me. 

And Duke’s education, that stood out to me. And Kara, she's very even keel, and that's the type of coach that I want. She's gonna have a growth type of environment that I need as a player to grow my game. And her knowledge of the game—just from talking to her, I know I'm gonna learn a lot from her.

TC: So you mentioned your fit with the team, but I’m just wondering what specifically did Kara talk about [regarding] her vision for the program both over the next few seasons as well as in the more distant future?

NG: Her vision is she wants to be good. She wants to go to a Final Four, she wants to win an ACC Championship. And that's what I want. She believes that I can be a good piece to that and I believe in her vision.

TC: You mentioned the academics as also something that attracted you to Duke. I saw on your Louisville profile that you were majoring in Computer Information Systems. Is [Computer Science] what you’re looking to do at Duke, or is that something you haven’t really figured out yet?

NG: Well art is my first thing—Louisville didn’t offer art, like a graphic art or visual art type of major there. So [Computer Information Systems] was my Plan B. So what I'm gonna do [at Duke], I'm gonna major in Visual Arts and Media Studies and minor in Computer Science.

TC: Back to this year’s Duke team, they made national headlines Christmas Day in terms of opting out of this season. So I was just wondering what were your general thoughts once you saw that? Obviously that was during the time of your recruitment—did that come as a surprise to you, and what does that say about both the program as well as Kara Lawson as a first-year head coach being involved in that kind of decision?

NG: I mean, I didn't find it surprising, because Kara cares about her players. And that's a big deal to me also, how she's handling everything. She cares about their health before anything, because that is priority during a pandemic. So I mean I don't see anything wrong with the players deciding to opt out because they're worried about their safety and the safety of their family. So I understand.

TC: In terms of the timeline, you announced [your commitment] after [Duke opted out of the season]. Did you feel like you were leaning Duke at that point, or did you decide after?

NG: I kind of knew what I was gonna do…. Because I mean, honestly that doesn't really affect me, because I'm not eligible to play either way, immediately. So it didn't really affect my decision.

TC: Are there any professional players who you’re trying to model your game after, or look up to?

NG: Maya Moore. We’re the same size and both shooting guards. And I think our games are similar. I'm still striving to be like her obviously, I’m no Maya Moore. But I'm striving to be like her.

TC: Related to that, what would you look at as your strengths right now as a player, and what would you like to improve on in terms of trying to reach [Maya Moore’s] status and help Duke reach a Final Four over the next four years?

NG: My strengths would include I can create my own shot, and I can make tough shots. And I would say my passing ability as well is also one of my strengths. I would say my weakness is I'm my own worst enemy. So that's what I think is my weakness. And also, finishing with my left is probably one of my weaknesses.

TC: Could you elaborate on being your own worst enemy?

NG: Yeah, I mean, I'm my worst critic. I'm a perfectionist. I'm really hard on myself and I want to do things right. I want to get things, and I'm not patient. So if I'm not good at something and I don't get it, like right then and there, I'll stay in the gym all day until I figure it out. I'm just that type of person. I'm very hard on myself and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. 

TC: Kara is unique in terms of the fact that she mostly came from an NBA background, and she wasn’t a head coach before. How do you see her unique background being beneficial to you and the program?

NG: I mean, she has connections, so that's very beneficial. And her background just shows she just knows the game, and she has the knowledge for the game, and that's something that I want to be a part of and play for.

TC: I know she played a while ago, but did you grow up watching [Kara] at all?

NG: No, I think I was too young. But I do always remember listening to her broadcasting all the time when I was younger, when I was like, nine, 10, 11 [years old]. But I never ever thought she’d be my coach, which is so cool to me.

TC: The goal is to be an ACC Championship team, be a Final Four team. What are the stepping stones to that? Obviously the program’s not going to get there right away, but what do you see as the goal for next year and the goal for the year after that in terms of becoming a Final Four type of program?

NG: I mean, obviously it would be winning more games every single year. And that comes with upsetting teams because we're gonna be the underdog for a couple years, which I love that because I love when people underestimate [you] or don't think you're good enough. That's what drives me, that’s what motivates me. So I'm gonna love that feeling the next couple years because it's gonna be pushing me and I'm sure it’s gonna be pushing the team to be wanting to prove people wrong. And I like that. I love that.


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