DURHAM, N.C.— Over the summer once again, the Blue Devils will be catching up with Duke women's basketball alumnae to see what they have been up to since leaving Durham. Our next alumna is 2015 graduate Amber Henson.
Henson, who hails from Tampa, Fla., competed in 88 contests over four seasons with the Blue Devils. She dealt with injuries for most of her career limiting her time. The McDonald’s All-America selection scored 282 points, pulled down 295 rebounds and blocked 89 shots. She was a part of the 2013 ACC Championship squad for the Blue Devils.
GoDuke.com: Since graduating from Duke, what have you been up to?
Amber Henson: I live in Charlotte now doing management consulting for Accenture. I mostly work within the financial services industry. I enjoy it and have learned so much about management, technology, and leadership, but the game is pulling on me again. Hopefully I’ll find something to scratch that itch very soon!
GD: Have you been able to keep in touch with many former teammates/coaches, especially EJAK?
AH: Mostly through social media. I talk to EJAK in our group chat too. Each one of us took completely different paths since leaving Duke, which I think is a testament to how being a part of DWB can set you up for so many different things.
Obviously we produce some superstar pros (We usually make a trip to Atlanta every summer to watch Elizabeth play and hang out for a few days) but Jenna is finishing up med school, Ka’lia is coaching, and I’m making my way in Corporate America. It’s pretty cool to keep in touch and celebrate our big wins, promotions, finishing board exams, etc.
GD: Do you still follow DWB and watch games when they are on television?
AH: Yes. I’ve caught almost every DWB game that was on TV. I live in this region so I get to catch quite a few.
GD: Have you been able to make it back to Durham recently?
AH: My mom and sister live in Chapel Hill so I come back to the area a lot. I need to stop by campus more often to see everyone.
GD: Since leaving Duke, who are a few DWB players you have enjoyed watching play?
AH: Lexie Brown - unfortunately I never got to play with her but she’s so fun to watch and one of the toughest competitors I’ve seen.
Erin Mathias - mostly because I was able to see her evolution from beginning to end. The improvement in confidence and toughness really showed in big time moments her senior year.
Haley Gorecki - a star who can do it all.
And last but not least Kyra Lambert and Mikayla Boykin. If they can get back on the court together, that’s a scary backcourt. Always wishing them the best with their recoveries!
GD: You dealt with injuries most of your collegiate career. What did you learn about yourself and life in general having to deal with that?
AH: When you work all your life to play basketball at Duke (and yes I knew very early Duke was it, see attached lol) and aren’t able to in the way that you imagined, it’s tough mentally and emotionally. But it forced me to explore who I was outside of basketball and forced me to become multidimensional. It also taught me the greatest lesson on resilience. Sometimes life sucks and you have no control over how the chips fall. But you do have complete control over how you respond and bounce back. Maybe I wasn’t the player I could’ve been without the injuries, but I put in the work and focused on what I could to do to help the team—whether it was motivating from the sidelines, getting assists, playing great defense, or reminding Oderah (Chidom) what the plays are—there’s always something to contribute. I appreciated every minute I was able to be on that court because I knew there were moments I thought I’d never be able to get back out there.
GD: Do you get a chance to play basketball any these days?
AH: I play pickup from time to time, but most of my physical activity these days consist of yoga, lifting and running because it’s lower impact and keeps my knees feeling good.
GD: When looking back on your days at Duke, what are some of your favorite memories?
AH: Just being around my teammates. From early morning practices, to road trips, to hanging out on the weekends. There’s nothing like the time spent battling together, winning together, losing together, and the sisterhood forged in that locker room. It’s something that’s hard to recreate after your college career is over.
GD: You won an ACC Championship during you career. What was that experience like?
AH: Incredible. ACC Tournament week is a grind and to win game after game in a conference like ours made it that much more special. Everyone’s tired, everyone’s banged up, everyone has some adversity their dealing with and to come out on top is special. It also helped that we had an mega talented core (E, Chelsea, Tricia, Haley, and that whole class) to get us there. As I watch some of them play at the next level, I’m just amazed that they were all on one team and lucky I got to play with them.
GD: Have you developed any new hobbies, etc., that you are involved with these days?
AH: Cooking. I’ve always loved to cook, but the program always made sure we were fed with training table (go Sam!) so I never had to cook much in college. I picked it back up and really enjoy trying new recipes.
GD: How has a Duke degree helped you?
AH: Obviously the alumni network is incredible but also people are always impressed when I say I have a two degrees from Duke. It’s something that can instantly spark interest before you even have a conversation. One of the most powerful things is being able to spark interest or a conversation with someone, because you never know how that conversation can open new opportunities and change your life. Duke has given me that.
GD: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to our current student-athletes?
AH: Dig in. Whether you decide to play beyond Duke or not, it’s really a shame to look back and have regrets about what you left on the table. Also, get out of the student-athlete bubble sometimes. I know we spend a lot of time with our sports, but Duke has SO much to offer beyond our sports that can help us tremendously, especially if you don’t end up playing professionally. We should make sure we try to take advantage of some of that while still on campus. There’s so much of Duke that I didn’t see until after I graduated.
GD: Do you remember a specific class and/or professor at Duke that you really enjoyed while in school?
AH: In undergrad I liked Latin with professor Rex. I actually hated the content but our professor was awesome. Jenna and Ka’lia were also in it so we struggled through it together. We always had to rush to that class after practice with our breakfast in hand, still half sweaty after our showers, the true student athlete experience. At Fuqua I liked my public speaking class. The practice with clear communication, charisma, and presence has helped me the most in my career thus far.
GD: While at Duke, you received two degrees. What was it like going to Fuqua Business School and receiving a second degree, while also playing basketball?
AH: It was a great opportunity. It wasn’t until that year at Fuqua that I really came to terms with my decision not to continue playing after college. It allowed me to really focus and immerse myself in the Fuqua experience in a way that I hadn’t been able to in undergrad. I learned a ton and met some of my best friends that I still keep up with today. It also impresses people when I say I went to business school at Duke. I’m really thankful that Coach P and the staff at Fuqua for allowing me the flexibility to excel at both. Super excited to see that other players were able to do the same!