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Film room: Analyzing Duke women's basketball guard Oluchi Okananwa

Oluchi Okananwa rounds out a trio of top-30 recruits in head coach Kara Lawson's incoming class.
Oluchi Okananwa rounds out a trio of top-30 recruits in head coach Kara Lawson's incoming class.

After exceeding expectations a season ago, Duke women's basketball is bringing in an elite group of talent from the recruiting trail and the transfer portal. The Blue Zone will analyze film on each of the newcomers for the 2023-24 season. We've already seen Camilla Emsbo, Jadyn Donovan and Delaney Thomas. Next up is Oluchi Okananwa:

As one of Duke women’s basketball’s three top-30 prospects this year, combo guard Oluchi Okananwa has been ecstatic about coming to play in Durham, telling The Salem News that head coach Kara Lawson has been creating an “empire.” With a strong offensive skill set and tenacious defensive ability, the Boston native can help the Blue Devils realize their full dynasty potential. 

Much of Okananwa’s offense relies on her toughness, as the incoming freshman has proven her willingness to go up against bigger defenders with her 5-foot-10 frame. Watch how she makes a high jump to grab a contested board before hitting a tough layup against a taller opponent.

Okananwa also possesses a high degree of athleticism, most notably with her quickness. When asked in an interview with Light It Up Sports what separates her from other combo guards, she said, “My motor. Any time I step on the court, I don’t stop until the last play of the game.” 

Watch here as the guard showcases her blazing speed when she blows by opponents for effortless buckets.

Overall, Okananwa’s combination of fast break ability and decent shooting gives her the potential to be a solid scorer for Duke this season. In her U17 league last year, where she played for the Mass Rivals, the guard averaged 16.5 points per game on 38.8% 3-point shooting, albeit on relatively low volume — 49 3-point attempts in 13 games. In the first game of her season with the team, the Boston native put up a monster performance, scoring 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Adding to the evidence of her dominant abilities, Okananwa had a 15-point double-double in a 30-point blowout win against the Gauchos 17U team. She averaged, however, just 1.3 assists per game in the league, suggesting that as a Blue Devil, she will be less of a playmaking guard and more of an athletic high-flier.

In addition to her offense, Okananwa has been noted for her skills on the other side of the ball, which will pair nicely with a Duke squad that ranked as one of the best defensive units in all of Division I last year. Watch how she refuses to be backed down by a taller opponent, culminating in an emphatic rejection.

Okananwa should provide excitement to a Blue Devil team that lost many of its key stars from last season, namely the backcourt duo of Celeste Taylor and Shayeann Day-Wilson. Given only five players are returning from last season – one being Vanessa de Jesus, who will miss the entire season with a knee injury – it’s not far-fetched to think that Okananwa will earn solid minutes as a freshman. With a strong two-way impact, her addition can breathe life into the guard position and help Duke recapture the magic of the 2022-23 season.


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