Kaydra Duckett ready to follow the script with Gamecocks

USC guard likely will be a distributor, not a scorer

dcloninger@thestate.comJune 20, 2014 

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Dawn Staley can be hard on her guards.

Many of her recruits grew up watching her play, so they understand that they’ll do two things playing under her – they’ll learn, and they’ll often feel overwhelmed by what Staley expects them to do day-in and day-out.

Kaydra Duckett, from down the street at Dreher High, knew that. It’s why she watched Staley when she first came to South Carolina and why she felt perfectly prepared to play for Staley when she caught her attention.

Now that she’s on campus, she’s finding out first-hand what Staley expects. And she loves it.

“I knew how it was going to be vs. knowing what coach Staley expected,” Duckett said. “She’s very fair. Now it’s just, ‘OK, now she’s ready to get me on campus, now we’re about to start getting ready to go.’ 

As a do-everything guard at Dreher, Duckett was used to creating her own offense and being the focal point of the opponent’s defense. She could play the one or two, direct or score.

Staley – for now – wants to curb the scoring in favor of ball-control. Part of it is natural progression – the college game can be head-spinning fast to a freshman. Part of it is Staley doesn‘t hasn’t prefer her point guard to be her best scorer if she can help it, and with the talent surrounding Duckett this year, she can help it.

“I know that her offense is very strict, it’s very disciplined and one thing about it, even though I had to create my own shot, my own things at Dreher, I was still disciplined,” Duckett said. “That’s what coach Staley is doing inside her offense. ‘This particular play, you have to slow down. This particular play, you have to go game-speed.’ 

Starting point guard Khadijah Sessions averaged 29.5 points per game as a high-school senior and is averaging between six and seven as a collegian. The thinking is that there is more than enough talent around the point spot to score; if there’s a need for the point guard to take over, the scoring ability will be there.

Duckett already has shed the high-school mentality and placed herself in Staley’s hands for the next phase. While individual workouts haven’t placed Duckett at point or two-guard, Staley is working with the freshman on the basics.

“The things I was doing in high school, razzle-dazzle is nice, now she needs me to keep it tight,” Duckett said. “ ‘I need you more to protect the ball, then show the ball, then show what you can do with the ball.’ Now it’s about protection, making sure you savor every play, because one play can make you or break you.”

With starters Sessions, Tiffany Mitchell and Asia Dozier returning, plus backups Tiffany Davis, Olivia Gaines and Tina Roy, and the signing of A’ja Wilson (a wing despite her height), Doniyah Cliney and McDonald’s All-American Bianca Cuevas, Duckett knows that her days of playing nearly every minute are over, at least for the immediate future. She and her teammates are OK with it. Staley is carrying a roster with more names than she ever has, and minutes will be sparse. Yet nobody left or decided to try their luck elsewhere when they saw the five signees come in.

“One thing about this team, we’re on the same accord,” Duckett said. “No matter if I came from playing 32 minutes and now I play two minutes, whatever is going to help us win a national title, that’s what I need to do. It is difficult to be considered a star player and everybody’s going to say, ‘She didn’t play that much in college.’ That’s not practical.

“What’s practical is what you can do to help your team, not what your team can do to help you.”

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