And, for their last trick, the Blue Devils will pull another wing out of the transfer portal.
Elizabeth Balogun, the former No. 15 recruit in the class of 2018 and 2018-19 ACC Freshman of the Year, announced her transfer to Duke Tuesday afternoon.
Balogun, a 6-foot-1 wing, played her freshman year at Georgia Tech, where she earned conference honors. She left the Yellow Jackets after that year, while head coach MaChelle Joseph was fired under internal and NCAA allegations of "emotionally, mentally and verbally 'abusive'" conduct and Level II violations. She joined Louisville for her sophomore and junior years, winning two regular-season championships on a roster that included recent Duke addition Nyah Green.
Balogun has played wing throughout her collegiate career, spending the vast majority of her time at the 3, while shifting down to the 4 in smaller lineups. She’s been a versatile offensive piece every year, shooting at least 32% from 3-point range every year, with highly efficient assist and turnover numbers for her position. Knowing her way around spot-up shooting, cuts, pick-and-roll handling and screening, she’s a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none” on offense. But besides the screens, her ability on each of those trades is certainly good enough to make her a quite valuable piece.
Defensively, just as offensively, Balogun is solid all-around. She’s got the foot speed and stride length to contest drives from the perimeter, and the wingspan to help in the paint and vertically contest layups. She’s an active off-ball help defender, and closes out efficiently enough to allow her to play farther off of mediocre shooters than most wings.
If there’s any concern about Balogun’s game, it’s that her feel seemed to be her worst skill, and it was especially a problem when plays went unscripted. Offensively, she doesn’t seem to have great intuition for perimeter spacing when it’s not prescribed and she often predetermines her passes. On the defensive end, she gets beat on drives too often by deciding to shade to a passing lane too early or fight a screen unnecessarily.
The defensive problems became more common this past season than they were in 2019-20, which coincided with Louisville center Kylee Shook going pro. Balogun went from spending over 50% of her time with Shook (per CBB Analytics), the 2019-20 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, to having rookie Olivia Cochran behind her, a considerable year-to-year drop-off. Having more solid paint protectors behind Balogun, who are on the same page as her about what screen coverage they’re playing, should help immensely.
Being the quaternary or, at most, tertiary playmaker for the Blue Devils should help her as well. Balogun slots in at the 3 or 4 where she’ll compete with a host of players for both a starting spot and minutes in the rotation, including Green, Lexi Gordon, Imani Lewis and Onome Akinbode-James.
Duke’s roster now sits at 13 players, 12 of whom can be expected to compete for a starting role. It currently has two point guards, four off-ball guards, three wings and four bigs, including two pure centers.
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Preseason scrimmages are going to be hard-fought, that’s for sure.