Kara Lawson lands her first Duke commits. Notes and links from around the ACC.

Lawson recently added players to her 2020, 2021 and 2022 rosters at Duke. More links, notes and ramblings included.

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The opening tip…

Kara Lawson has wasted no time in adding to her future rosters in Durham. She picked up two commits for Duke recently, with Emma Koabel (2022) and Lee Volker (2021) both verbally committing to the Blue Devils within the past week.

Both recruits are the first to commit to Duke in their respective classes.

Koabel is considered to be one of the top players in her class from Canada and has been heralded for her passing ability. A 5-foot-10 guard from Niagara Prep, she is Lawson’s first 2022 recruit. Koabel is a native of Port Colborne, Ontario and played in the 2018 Junior NBA World Championships for Canada. At 15, she was invited to try out for Canada’s U-17 national team.

On her Instagram, Koabel said that playing at Duke has been “a dream” of hers since she was young.

Volker is a three-star 2021 recruit from Purcellville, Virginia. A 5-foot-11 product from Paul VI, she also had offers from Villanova and a host of mid-majors, including Campbell, Appalachian State and George Washington. She was named to the Washington Post’s All-Met Second Team this past season.

In addition to the two commitments, Duke gained a player for the upcoming 2020-21 season last week by adding Jiselle Havas as a walk-on.

Havas previously spent two seasons playing at Lafayette of the Patriot League. She averaged 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per-game there and was a decent three-point shooter off the bench. A native of Windermere, Florida, she was twice selected to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.

“Jiselle has impressed me during the preseason with her commitment to this program,” Lawson said in a statement.  “She is someone that has fit in seamlessly with the rest of our team… Her skill, work ethic and attention to detail will help us be a better team.”

Around the ACC

  • The Duke Chronicle has more coverage of the program’s recent commits here and here.

  • Unfortunately, Duke senior Jayda Adams will miss a second straight season due to injury. Adams re-tore her ACL over summer break and will not play this year. She recently had ACL revision surgery. A 6-foot senior from Irvine, California, Adams last played in the 2018-19 season, seeing action in 30 games. She is expected to graduate from Duke in May and has two seasons of NCAA eligibility remaining.

  • Anna Griffin, a highly-touted 2021 recruit, announced her commitment to Virginia last week. A 6-foot-1 forward from Illinois, she also had offers from Illinois, Marquette, Seton Hall, Central Michigan and Penn State. Playing for Aurora Christian last season, she averaged 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per-game. Griffin said this of head coach Tina Thompson to the Chicago Tribune: “She’s a Hall of Famer, but as a person, she’s even more impressive. She’s easy to talk to, so down-to-earth and just really cool.

  • Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman is very high on his team heading into the 2020-21 season, and he has several reasons why. The Orange bring back Tiana Mangakahia, regarded by many as one of the top players in the country before she had to sit out last season to battle breast cancer. She’ll pair up with All-ACC selection Kiara Lewis and the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class. Hillsman told NCAA.com recently: “We’re strong. We're putting the No. 4 recruiting class in the country with Kiara and the best point guard in the country. So, we're just excited. We're a very deep basketball team this year. We have enough to definitely win the ACC and win the national championship. That's our only goal, so we're looking forward to the challenge."

  • ESPN updated its 2021 recruiting rankings recently, and Courtney Banghart’s North Carolina Tar Heels has four commits inside the top 20. Teonni Key checks in at No. 9, Kayla McPherson and Morasha Wiggins are 17th and 18th, and Destiny Adams rounds out the class at No. 20. Louisville has one player inside the top 20, with Payton Verhulst at No. 12. Still uncommitted Azzi Fudd remains at the top of the class.

  • Pitt received a late addition to its 2020 class, bringing in Canadian guard Sandrine Clesca in late August. A native of Laval, Quebec, Clesca played her senior season of high school ball in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s unclear what other offers the 5-foot-9 play-maker had, but it’s hard to argue with her resume. She led her team to a 28-2 record this past season, earned a spot in the 2020 Biosteel All-Canadian Game and was previously invited to play with the U17 Canadian National Team.

  • Pitt head coach Lance White said of Clesca: “She is one of the top players to come out of Canada this year, and we think Sandrine can grow into a really special player. She is an athletic point guard who has an ability to not only score and attack the rim, but also understands how to create for others.”

  • Former Pitt player Jasmine Whitney has been named captain at George Washington.

  • Wake Forest added to its staff earlier this month, bringing on Erin Dickerson as an assistant coach. Dickerson, who spent the last three seasons at Georgetown, will work with the Deacs’ perimeter players. Her previous stops include Towson, Illinois State, La Salle and Furman. She played at Northwestern and led the team in three-point shooting as a senior.

  • Maya Banks, Gina Conti and Ivana Raca will be team captains for Wake Forest this season. Conti is just 135 assists away from breaking the program’s all-time record, and Raca was named to the ACC All-Tournament team last year.

  • N.C. State promoted assistant coach Erin Batth to Recruiting Coordinator. She’s been on Wes Moore’s staff for two seasons and had previously worked for VCU, Virginia, Towson, Tennessee Tech, Georgia State and Liberty. She is a graduate of Clemson and the first player in the program’s history to be drafted into the WNBA.

  • Freshman guard Vanessa de Jesus will be the first Asian to ever play for Duke’s women’s basketball team. This story from PhilStar.com explains her journey.

Spanning the South

  • UNCW has added Jocelyn Floyd and Matt Lynch to its staff as assistant coaches. Floyd was previously an assistant at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She played a Duquesne, where she is the Dukes’ all-time leader in steals with 366. Lynch worked with UNCW’s men’s basketball team from 2017 through last season.

  • The SEC will begin conference play in women’s basketball this season on Dec. 31.

  • The ASUN will begin its women’s basketball schedule on Jan. 2. Each of the league’s nine teams will play a 16-game double round-robin conference slate.

Elsewhere in Women’s Basketball

  • Louisville’s Kylee Shook has quietly emerged as a symbol of the Liberty's team culture, according to Jackie Powell of The Next. Shook finished her rookie season averaging 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per-game.

  • Also from The Next and also from Powell, players around the WNBA mourned the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As Cheryl Reeve said: “This person represented so much for so many people.”

  • Going hyper-local here for a second: Tiffany Cephas — probably the best girls basketball player on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — is leaving the region for her senior season and is transferring to a private school in Buffalo, New York, according to Seth Tow of the Star Democrat and Travon Miles of WMDT47. Cephas played at North Dorchester, where she was coached by her mother. Cephas was mostly a one-girl wrecking crew, putting up several big-time scoring performances en route to passing the 2,000-point mark as a junior. The Eagles made the 1A East Region Final last season, which a huge accomplishment for a school with little history of success in girls basketball. Cephas will hopefully garner some Division I attention in Buffalo.

  • Here’s Delaware State’s 2020-21 roster, which is loaded with transfers. Don’t be surprised if the Hornets make a run at the MEAC crown. Also, they need some games.

  • Laura Harper is bringing in five newcomers for her first season at Coppin State. Two of them are from the JUCO ranks, one is a freshman, one is from Division II and the fifth — Nailah Delinois — is a grad transfer from St. Joe’s and a former Top 100 recruit.

  • Gina Mizell on The Goat is worth your time.

Also read…

  • This story by Casey Cep of the New Yorker hit close to home for me, literally. Like her and Frederick Douglass, I’m an Eastern Shore “from here.” And I’m a bit disappointed that it’s still home to a single Confederate monument. Cep’s kicker hits hard: “Hurricanes find their way to the Eastern Shore, too, but Talbot County does not need an act of God. It needs, from just one more council member, an act of conscience.”

  • I am a nerd and a huge Star Wars fan. However, I have to admit that I’m tired of thinking and talking about The Rise of Skywalker, the saga’s uninspired and disjointed finale that I was massively dissatisfied with (you can read more of my complaints about it on Letterboxd). Anyway, Daisy Ridley said some things recently and I just sighed and shook my head. But for The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh captured what he, myself and many other Star Wars fans are feeling — fatigue, and an eagerness to move on.

  • Some 20 years ago, I played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for the first time on the OG PlayStation. I was probably sitting in the floor of the house my dad and step-mom had in Mardela Springs, engaged in battle of trick-attack with my brother. Our matches would continue through the game’s second and third versions, and then we shifted to PS2 and continued to play Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, often with cheat codes (mostly just perfect grind), admittedly. Along the way, the game introduced me to music that I had never heard before, but still love today. Bands and artists like Goldfinger and House of Pain, Johnny Cash and Public Enemy, KRS-One and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sports video games often make good soundtracks, but with all due respect, Madden and NBA2K can’t hold a candle to the jams that accompanied Tony Hawk games. The series is back with a remastered edition on PS4 and whatever the new XBox is called (yes, my brother and I have already played it. Yes, he beat me two-out-of-three times. Yes, I’m mad about it). At NPR, Stefanie Fernandez wrote a terrific piece about the legacy of the game and its jams.

  • I really enjoy watching Nikola Jokic play basketball. Sometimes he’s clumsy, other times he’s graceful, sometimes he pours in the points, and other times he throws full-court passes with such precision that I think he could play for the Denver Broncos. Until I read this fun piece from Scott Cacciola, I never thought of those tosses as hallmarks of… water polo? Apparently, that’s the sport that groomed the Joker into the NBA unicorn that he is today.

  • Check this out too. Support your local newspapers, y’all.

Some stuff I’ve written recently

  • For WUNC — and with the help of Rusty Jacobs — I put together a voter guide and broke down statewide races for North Carolina. If you live in the Tar Heel state, check them out, and make sure you’re registered to vote. With my camera, I also helped cover a “Trump Train” that was met with counter protesters in Hillsborough this past weekend.

  • Earlier this month, I went to Annapolis to watch BYU beat the snot out of Navy in football. It wasn’t easy to watch, but it was the first live sporting event I had covered since March. Here’s my column from that weird day, for Against All Enemies and SB Nation. Navy won its next game thanks to an awesome comeback led by Dalen Morris.

  • For The Next, I wrote about Sue Semrau taking the year off at FSU.

Stay safe. Y’all be good.


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"We ain't gotta dream no more, man. We got real shit."


Mitchell Northam is an award-winning journalist based in North Carolina. He grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is a graduate of Salisbury University. He is a digital producer at WUNC, and his work has also been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, NCAA.com, the Delmarva Daily Times, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Sports Now and elsewhere. He is a member of APSE, NWSLMA and USBWA. He’s on Twitter @primetimeMitch. More of his work can be found at MuckRack.