Former No. 12 overall recruit Jordyn Oliver transfers to Duke women’s basketball

Head coach Kara Lawson has continued to add to her roster through the transfer portal this offseason.
Head coach Kara Lawson has continued to add to her roster through the transfer portal this offseason.

The most-anticipated domino of them all has fallen.

Jordyn Oliver, the former No. 12 recruit in the class of 2019, announced her transfer to Duke Thursday afternoon.

Oliver, a 5-foot-10 point guard, comes to Durham with three years of eligibility after having spent the first two years of her career at Baylor, where she contributed to the Bears' 2019 and 2020 Big 12 regular-season championships as a reserve and spot-starter.

The first thing that jumps out about Jordyn Oliver is her strength. She plays with extraordinary core and lower-body strength on both sides of the court, be it in her explosiveness on drives, her finishes or her defensive containment. There are midair turnaround jumpers that she makes look routine, and layups at the rim that she adjusts on the fly.

Oliver has played a total of 502 minutes in her collegiate career, many of which came in the final minutes of games that were not particularly close, so it’s difficult to make confident assessments of where her game is at right now. In her limited minutes, though, Oliver has shown flashes. Most of those have come from the defensive side, where she’s looked like a potentially great point of attack defender and off-ball denier. She moves extraordinarily well laterally thanks to quick feet and smooth hips, and though she’s vulnerable to a good crossover or stepback, she uses her wingspan to recover adeptly. She’s got active hands but good control as well, ranking favorably in steal, block and defensive fouls committed in her two years.

Offensively, Oliver is a bit of an enigma. The Bears’ system tends to get the ball out of guards’ hands and into the frontcourt while they spot up and as such, there really isn’t much film on Jordyn Oliver working off the dribble. From the film that does exist, she seemed hesitant to face-up in iso, and while her form doesn’t suggest that she’d be especially good or poor at shooting, she’s hit just 50% of her 58 career free-throw attempts, and took zero 3-point attempts in the entire 2020-21 season.

Elsewhere on offense, there’s no doubt that Oliver is an excellent distributor, having ranked in the 98th and 99th percentiles in assist-to-turnover her two years at Baylor, respectively, according to CBB Analytics

The addition of Jordyn Oliver to Duke’s 2021-22 roster fills out its lone remaining hole of backup point guard. Now, the question remains: who is actually the backup? Given Oliver’s pedigree, it’s unlikely that she left Baylor with the intention to come off the bench. And Vanessa de Jesus looked every bit the part of a starting lead guard in her four games this season. But to start both her and Oliver, Celeste Taylor would have to slide to the bench, and it seems hard to believe that a 52-game starter for the Longhorns would come to Durham to play sixth woman.

De Jesus and Oliver are certain to have their minutes staggered anyway, as there’s no other backcourt player on the roster who can create for themselves and for others like de Jesus and Oliver can. The development of Oliver’s jump shot will play a large role in how playing time shakes out as well; while a backcourt of Oliver and Taylor would be elite defensively, the offensive pairing could be unplayable if neither can be a reliable 3-point shooter.

Duke’s roster now sits at 12 players, 11 of whom can be expected to compete for a starting role. It currently has two point guards, four off-ball guards, two wings and four bigs, including two pure centers. It’s almost unfeasible to give even that many players significant minutes, so it would be quite surprising if the Blue Devils added more to what is undoubtedly a top-five roster in the ACC by both top-end talent and depth.


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