It is no secret that Duke women’s basketball is having a stellar year. The Blue Devils have lost just two games this year, both to teams ranked in the top 20. Credit for the Blue Devils' success has gone to players like senior guards Celeste Taylor and Elizabeth Balogun, along with head coach Kara Lawson. But perhaps one player who has had a slower start to her year has been sophomore guard Shayeann Day-Wilson. The Toronto native was named the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. But this year, Day-Wilson has seemed to struggle to get off the ground, averaging 8.8 points and 2.7 assists per game.
Part of that downturn can possibly be attributed to an increase in the team’s overall talent level. Transfers such as Reigan Richardson have had major impacts on games, leading them to often start games and see a relatively high usage level. Even Taylor has made a sizable leap this year, adding a point and a half to her per-game average. Day-Wilson simply hasn’t had to do as much for her team to be successful, and her minutes have dropped from 28.0 last season to 23.3 this year.
That is, until these past few games. The Blue Devils have been caught in some tight contests down the stretch, and Day-Wilson has stepped up. In a difficult loss to North Carolina, she dropped 24 points and played 30 minutes. Against Syracuse in a back-and-forth nailbiter, she had 16 points, on a 62.5% mark from the field, and saw 30 minutes on the floor.
So what has changed? Why now? For one, Day-Wilson has been picking up some slack when other teammates have struggled to find the basket. At the game in Chapel Hill, Taylor had two points and shot just 16.7% from the field, while center Kennedy Brown also scored two points from the charity stripe and missed all seven of her field goal attempts.
Lawson has been tracking Day-Wilson’s development closely.
“[Day-Wilson] is learning how to run a team, as a sophomore. She's still nineteen,” said Lawson after the Syracuse game. “She's seen substantial growth on the defensive end, running a team.”
Day-Wilson has been turning up the heat on both ends of the floor, and not a minute too late. The Blue Devils will face tough competition in the coming weeks, with big-time ranked matchups against No. 12 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Florida State and No. 7 Notre Dame on the horizon.
If she keeps her performances at the same level that she has been over the past few weeks, Duke has the potential to go from a good team to a great team. As long as her supporting cast can continue to produce at a consistent level, the Blue Devils will continue to win conference games and continue climbing the rankings.
Despite a relatively sleepy start to her season, Day-Wilson is awake, and Duke's future opponents would be wise to keep that in mind as the Blue Devils continue to roll through the meat of the regular season.
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