by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
In basketball, much attention is paid to the players, and rightfully so. But watching a good coaching duel develop can be like watching a work of art being created in front of you.
SLAM has always appreciated all facets of the game and will be linking with a distinguished women’s college basketball coaches every month to discuss the ins and outs of the game and what happens in-between the lines.
This month, Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie discusses the recruiting process, the Blue Devils’ pre-season workout scheme, the team’s season-opener on the road against Cal and more.
SLAM: You added four freshmen this year in Kianna Holland, Kendall McCravey-Cooper, Oderah Chidom and Rebecca Greenwell. Tell us a little bit about the recruiting process and their roles on the team this year.
Joanne P. McCallie: The preseason has been great. I am very lucky because Duke is a special place. I have a great staff that I work with and recruiting is a lot of fun. The freshmen are doing very well, looks like Rebecca will be red-shirted this year. Three of the four are playing this year, getting playing time and building their role within this team. I expect their roles to increase some because they are hard workers.
SLAM: Tell us a little about the off-season program. Duke has one of the most rigorous off-season programs in the nation.
JM: I think we are really good in the weight room. I think anyone who plays at Duke gets a lot stronger. We have a couple players pushing over 185 pounds on the bench press and over 70 pushups in a set. The weight room is an important place for us. We work hard to be more physical in the right way.
SLAM: How to you prepare the team for the style of play in early season practices?
JM: We wanted to be faster from foul line to foul line. We want to be more up-tempo and really quick with pushing the ball up the floor in transition with the pass. Our early offense has been expanded to the how versatile our guard play is. We want to be more aggressive, we want to attack more in transition and get more free-throw attempts. In regards to defense, we are always building on defensive rebounding and making that better.
SLAM: Last year you lost Chelsea Gray mid-season due to injury. Now she is back on the floor for the Blue Devils. Tell us about her recovery, adjustments to her game and role on this team.
JM: Gray is a special player and I would call her the most versatile guard in the country. She can play the 1, 2 or 3 with ease. She is very strong, she was two rebounds away from a triple-double against Vanderbilt a couple games back. She is a attacker of the rim, but a great passer as she knows how to deliver a good pass. It is tough to lose any player in February, but to lose an All-American point guard is devastating to any team.
SLAM: Elizabeth Williams is coming into her junior year for Duke. Many consider her one of the best centers in college basketball. Tell us about her role on this team.
JM: Liz is very versatile, she’s already gotten a triple-double under her belt in her career. Her sophomore year she worked through some legs injuries, but played hard. Right now she’s healthy, got her bounce back in her legs. Liz has always been a great shot blocker with amazing timing. Offensively she has improved and becoming more demanding on the block and we encourage that. Liz is awesome, a very hard worker with a terrific attitude.
SLAM: Starting out the season, you had a tough road game against Cal. Tell us how you were able to pull off a decisive 70-58 victory.
JM: It was a great game, and Cal is a super team. We played well and steady, but I didn’t feel like we played great. I think it was great to open up that far away from home and show poise in a early season match up against a top-10 opponent. In the second half is when we really took over, as we were up 17 at one point. We should’ve pushed it a little further than that, but didn’t, and it will be a good lesson to the team to stay focused on what we do offensively and defensively. They had wonderful guards with great quickness and athleticism, so it was a great challenge for us though.
SLAM: If you were to use one word to describe your coaching style what would it be and why?
JM: Not one word, but I would say “great communicator.” There is a lot of communicating that goes on as a coach and what makes people tick. You have to be a good motivator.
SLAM: How do you gauge success at Duke?
JM: Getting the most out of each player and team as a whole. You don’t figure that out until around the end of the year. If you do that and the talent is there, you can pursue Championships.