Kara Lawson rebuilt the Blue Devils through the transfer portal. Two years later, the tables have turned.
Duke star Shayeann Day-Wilson has entered the transfer portal, she announced Monday afternoon via social media. The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings had previously reported Day-Wilson's potential departure Monday morning.
“It's not the typical end that you want, but I'm staying positive, keeping my head up,” Day-Wilson said following the Blue Devils’ season-ending March 20 loss to Colorado. “To not make it the year before and to get to at least Round Two — I wouldn't say I'm super happy with it, but I'm grateful. And, next year, looking forward to it, same way. And I'm just proud of my team, and I'm gonna miss all of them.”
Day-Wilson won the head coaches’ Freshman of the Year award last season (the coaches’ and media awards have since been combined into one award). But the sophomore point guard and Lawson appeared at times to have visible tension this season, and after seeing her numbers fall across the board from her 2021-22 debut to 2022-23, Day-Wilson may be looking for a more leading role. After Duke's loss to Colorado, Day-Wilson left the team’s postgame huddle while the rest of the players and coaches were still circled up.
Before arriving at Duke, Day-Wilson was a star on the Canadian basketball scene, the Toronto native having been the impetus for the creation of AAU club Sisters Keeper. She came to Durham as a late recommitment in the Class of 2021, the top-50 recruit originally committing to Syracuse in May 2020. She left the program, however, in August 2021 after head coach Quentin Hillsman resigned following a report by The Athletic detailing accusations of his improper behavior. As a Blue Devil, she came off the bench for the first 12 games of her freshman year before entering the starting lineup. She finished the year averaging 12.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals on a 95th-percentile usage rate, per CBB Analytics.
“I think there's still a lot of room to grow,” Lawson said in October 2022. “I mean that as a compliment to [Day-Wilson]. She has a high level of skill, a high level of competitiveness. … She's working hard, and she's doing well. And we look forward to another solid season from her.”
Day-Wilson ended up having a streaky sophomore year. She started the season cold, averaging 6.3 points through her first 10 games on 31.9% from the field and 24.1% from three. Over her next 12 games, she was even better than her freshman campaign: 12.4 points per game on 99th-percentile true-shooting with a 96th-percentile free-throw attempt rate, per CBB Analytics. Duke went 10-2 over that span.
“[Day-Wilson] is a big-game player; she's been since she came here,” Lawson said after Day-Wilson scored 24 points at North Carolina in January. “Offensively, things, when they break down, she has the ability to create her own shot. … Hopefully that gives her more confidence, because she is a big scoring threat when she's aggressive.”
But across her final 11 games as a Blue Devil, Day-Wilson scored just 4.9 points a contest, on first-percentile true-shooting, with a 21.2% field goal percentage and 9.7% from three. Duke went 7-4 over those 11 games.
Overall, Day-Wilson’s numbers fell across the board from 2021-22; the only notable statistical improvements were her assist-to-turnover ratio and free-throw attempt rate. She did, however, demonstrably improve defensively, developing into a solidly above-average defender for her 5-foot-6 height.
Day-Wilson's announcement came minutes before senior captain and combo guard Celeste Taylor, initially expected to declare for the WNBA draft, announced her return to the Blue Devils for her final season of eligibility. The duo combined for almost a third of the team’s points, nearly half of its threes and over a third of its assists this season while leading the team in usage rate, per Her Hoop Stats.
With Jordyn Oliver also entering the portal, the Blue Devils’ 2023-24 guard room currently consists of Taylor, off-ball guard Reigan Richardson, point guard Vanessa de Jesus, off-ball guards Ashlon Jackson and Emma Koabel and Class of 2023 top-30 recruits Jadyn Donovan and Oluchi Okananwa. Duke has four open scholarships for possible additions to that roster.
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