A stacked class of newcomers mark head coach Kara Lawson's first major accomplishment at Duke. Heading into the 2021-22 season, we take a look at film from Duke women's basketball's newest players. Previously, we analyzed Lexi Gordon, Lee Volker, Amaya Finklea-Guity, Nyah Green and Celeste Taylor. Next up, we look at Imani Lewis:
Lawson has said in the past that the team wanted players who could “make an impact on both ends,” and senior Imani Lewis can do just that. The 6-foot-1 forward was a three-year starter at Wisconsin before transferring to play under Lawson this past offseason, and she brings a commendable resume with her, including two second-team All-Big Ten selections. By all accounts, Duke is getting a dedicated player who brings skill and star power to the frontcourt.
A natural power forward, Lewis is not necessarily a do-it-all player, but what she does, she does very well. To start off, she can score. Last season, she was second on her team in scoring, averaging 15.0 points per game. She is not a playmaker and does not pretend to be, but when she gets the ball in her hands she can do something with it.
Though she plays completely within the 3-point line, Lewis is one of the nation’s best at making 2-pointers: Her Hoop Stats had her in the 97th-percentile for 2-pointers made per game last season with 5.6. Her ability to find space and shoot stands out, and her offensive game is not defined by one move or play. From the midrange, this means finding open space and shooting quickly in a variety of situations, something she does often. Watch that in action against Ohio State as she gets open and gets a quick shot off, smartly pausing just a moment to get the open lane.
Additionally, the Willingboro, N.J., native plays confidently with the pressure of opponents around her and is especially adept at positioning her body to maintain possession. Watch as she keeps the Illinois defender on her back as she drives to the net, forcing the defender to commit a foul and getting the and-one opportunity.
Defensively, Lewis is so-so off-ball, but the physical awareness she demonstrates at the other end could translate to better defense in a different system under different coaching. Only time will tell. Regardless, Lewis’ true role in her own end is rebounding, and it’s an area she excels at. Her 6.5 defensive rebounds per game from last season put her in the 98th-percentile according to Her Hoop Stats, and her total 8.8 per game led her team by a wide margin.
Lewis’ rebounding ability doesn’t stop on defense though, with Lawson specifically highlighting her “commitment to the glass on both ends,” as a strength the coaching staff identified coming in. Essentially, the ability is an extension of her confidence under pressure complemented by persistence and focus on the ball. In this clip, Lewis is able to grab her teammate’s rebound and then her own rebound, ultimately scoring surrounded by multiple Illinois players, further demonstrating that confidence under pressure and physical awareness. In this situation, she makes particularly good use of her reach and, in the end, seems to simply outwork the other players around her.
If these clips are any indication, Lewis will be a very valuable addition to the Blue Devils’ roster. She brings a new dimension to the frontcourt—something the team needs—and her offensive skillset will complement a roster already shaping up to be versatile on offense. Between Lewis and the other new roster additions, this could be a very fun year for Duke women’s basketball fans.
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