DURHAM Duke women’s basketball was dealt a major blow Monday evening.
Junior guard Alexis Jones announced her decision to transfer to be closer to home as she recovers from a torn ACL suffered in February. Jones, who is from Irving, Texas, will redshirt the upcoming season. She was a starter the past two seasons and averaged 11.1 points, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals.
“I would like to thank coach P for the opportunity to attend Duke University,” Jones said in a statement, referring to coach Joanne P. McCallie. “Due to injuries, I feel the need to be closer to my family.”
The departure comes on the heels of a disappointing end to the season, as the Blue Devils were upset on their home court by DePaul in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Duke lost four key contributors to graduation. Three of those seniors were guards, making Jones’ decision an even deeper blow.
The injury-based facet of her decision stems not just from the ACL tear, but also from a knee injury sustained several years prior to college when she was involved in a car crash in which her father was left paralyzed.
After a summer playing for USA Basketball and the concluding season and ACL injury, Jones was told by doctors she would require surgery on both knees in order to have the best shot at staying healthy. From there, Jones opened discussions with McCallie and her staff about playing closer to her family while she went through rehabilitation.
“Pretty soon after the idea that she would not be playing this year was the redshirt, then when you redshirt, it means, ‘Well, how are you going to handle your redshirt year being out and not playing?’ ” McCallie said.
“She just thought it was important to go closer to home, in a situation where she was going to sit out anyways, to be closer to family members. Whether it’s her extended family in South Carolina or direct family in Dallas.”
It is unknown where Jones will choose to transfer. Baylor and Texas A&M are in the discussion, as both are within three hours of Irving and boast successful programs. South Carolina also has some pull.
Should she choose the Aggies, Jones would see her former teammates in a mere four months, as Duke and Texas A&M have a home-and-home series beginning with the Nov. 30 game in College Station.
The Blue Devils will have to use that time to find a suitable replacement at point guard. Senior Ka’lia Johnson will be the initial choice, with redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell sure to see her time increase.
“It’s a great opportunity. We have 12 special women on this team that are all capable of a great deal,” McCallie said. “Ka’lia, of course, had experience last year running point. That bodes well for her professional career as well as playing for us.”
Duke will have to bring along highly touted incoming backcourt players Mercedes Riggs, Sierra Calhoun and Azurá Stevens faster than previously anticipated. Riggs, a junior college transfer, was brought in during the spring as a contingency plan just in case Jones decided to play her remaining two years elsewhere. The young core of ball-handlers will have to adapt quickly to the speed and skill level of basketball in the ACC.
If Jones proved anything when she took over for an injured Chelsea Gray during her freshman year, it’s that skill – not age – is what matters.
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