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, Amaya Finklea-Guity, Onome Akinbode-James, Nyah Green, Miela Goodchild, Shayeann Day-Wilson, Imani Lewis, Lexi Gordon and Celeste Taylor.
Vanessa de Jesus
2020-21 statline: 12.0 PPG, 3.8 APG, 54.5% FG%
Game breakdown: Vanessa de Jesus opened her collegiate debut by fouling 12 seconds in, and she got subbed-out two-and-a-half minutes later without having scored. When she next found the court, she scored seven points in just over a minute, then in the third quarter, she assisted on seven points in a similar timespan.
For her second game, de Jesus became the only Duke freshman in the Her Hoops Stats era to go 6-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from deep in a half. And when the Blue Devils ended their season, she was the only freshman since the 2009-10 season to average at least 30 minutes per game.
The point is, de Jesus may have only played 134 minutes last year, against mostly poor competition, but she was a microwave scorer in those minutes. With such limited film, we can’t say for sure what her best skills are, but she’s clearly a capable shooter both off-the-dribble and catch-and-shooting, and she has decent off-ball-movement acumen and good passing vision.
Defensively, she seemed to have an advanced feel for defending with her upper body and hips; her foul rate would've been above the 90th percentile, per Her Hoop Stats, if she played enough to qualify. And she didn’t have problems with falling asleep on the backside (though none of Duke’s opponents ran much backside action anyway).
De Jesus did have problems with her footwork, however, which led to her getting targeted by multiple opponents. When Louisville visited, Cardinal combo guard Hailey Van Lith repeatedly attacked de Jesus, to the tune of 14 points. On the bright side, footwork is far from the hardest skill to improve, especially with a full offseason in a collegiate weight program. Additionally, praise for her has been effusive:
From graduate senior center Jade Williams: “Vanessa—amazing handles. She's still relatively young, but I'm so impressed with her vision, getting in the scheme for the post players.”
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From head coach Kara Lawson: “She's very composed, and she's got a great demeanor for a point guard, because she doesn't really get rattled… She's very, very much a student of the game.”
Role on the team: Vanessa de Jesus is Duke’s point guard, plain and simple. A month ago, there might’ve been a question as to whether the starting point guard would be her or Jordyn Oliver. However, with Oliver shelved for at least a year with a torn Achilles, it’d be shocking to see anyone but de Jesus initiating the halfcourt offense. Celeste Taylor has yet to even flash on-ball facilitation, while Shayeann Day-Wilson is but a freshman.
Projected stats: 9.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 23.0 MPG