With the college basketball season just around the corner, the time has officially come to take a deeper look at the 2021-22 Duke women's basketball roster. The Blue Zone has you covered with player previews for each member of the team. Be sure to check out the previous previews: Jiselle Havas, Emma Schmidt, Lee Volker, and Amaya Finklea-Guity.
2020-21 statline: 7.5 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 24.0 MPG
Game breakdown: Akinbode-James spent her first two years at Duke as a high-low big, defending the corner when starting in then-head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s 2-3 matchup zone, and staggering with Jade Williams so as to play the back-up center minutes. She was defensively out of position in the corner but quite solid as a back-to-the-basket defender. Her offense was solid as well, while her low faceup game continued to show promise.
Akinbode-James and Williams never fit particularly well together, however, which now-head coach Kara Lawson tried to fix last year by making Akinbode-James into a stretch-four. Akinbode-James moved to the corner offensively and spent more time cutting and flashing for her 2-pointers instead of roaming around the midrange. Additionally, in just four games, she attempted six 3-pointers, one fewer than she'd attempted in 60 career games before, and she played over 90 percent of her minutes at the four, according to CBB Analytics.
The results of this experiment were mixed. Akinbode-James' outside jumper has potential, and she had a decent feel for paint cuts and managing high-lows. Once she got to the paint, however, she often got stuck there and clogged it up, and her feet weren't moving quickly or lightly enough to defend opposing fours.
The one thing that has remained consistent for Akinbode-James throughout her Duke tenure has been excellent rebounding. Both defensive and offensive rebounding, as well as put-backs, have always been areas of strength for her.
Role on the team: With big things expected from Jade Williams and Imani Lewis, and Amaya Finklea-Guity a good backup center, Blue Devil frontcourt minutes are sparse. Add in big wings Lexi Gordon and Elizabeth Balogun both being experienced playing the four, and there's no guarantee of anything for those backup power forward minutes.
Given the depth of Duke's backcourt, it's more likely than not that those aforementioned big wings will get some run at the four in small-ball lineups, leaving little for Akinbode-James. She'll bring value on the court, of course, but unless she's developed more as a stretch option or added rim protection to her game, it's hard to see her carving out a larger role in this rotation.
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Projected stats: 1.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 7.0 MPG