DURHAM, N.C. - Duke University women's basketball Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie along with recruiting coordinators Samantha Williams and Trisha Stafford-Odom have announced on Thursday the signing of Amber Henson of Tampa, Fla., Ka'lia Johnson of Chester, Va., and Elizabeth Williams of Virginia Beach, Va., to national letters of intent to attend Duke in the fall of 2011 and play basketball.
"It's a great feeling for so many people," commented McCallie on the signings. "We love these student-athletes and they are all incredible people. I'm just so proud of them, I'm proud of our staff and proud of the folks at Duke that helped recruit these women. I think the distinguishing fact with this class in particular is the length of time we've been recruiting these kids."
The three-member group is ranked No. 1 nationally by Blue Star Report and the Girls Basketball Report, while being tabbed No. 3 by ESPN HoopGurlz. It marks the second straight year the Blue Devils' class has been listed No. 1 by at least one recruiting service. Williams is rated as the No. 1 post player in the class and either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall player in different listings.
"This class has an incredible will and desire to take it to the next level and be contributors right away," commented McCallie. "Our versatility will continue to grow through these young women joining our team. Each one of them can impact us right away. They're very, very hungry to do that and humble as well knowing that it's a big jump coming from high school to this level. But they all believe in the same vision in terms of coming to Duke, doing something special together, building on it and growing through their four year experience."
Here is a closer look at each future Duke student-athlete:
2010 U.S. Women's Youth Olympic Games Team: Led the squad to a bronze medal in Singapore with a 6-1 record ... averaged 8.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 assists in seven games ... her 11 blocks was a team best.
High School/AAU: A two-time Parade All-America honoree as a sophomore and junior ... All-Western Conference Player of the Year in 2008-09 and 2009-10 ... two-time First Team St. Pete Times Hillsborough County, First Team Tampa Tribune All-County and First Team All-State as a sophomore and junior ... has totaled 1,580 points and 960 rebounds in three years ... owns 42 career double-doubles ... St. Pete Times Hillsborough County Player of the Year in 2009-10 ... as a junior, averaged 22.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.9 blocks, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals ... notched 18 games with 20 or more points and four contests with 30 or more points ... posted 20 double-doubles ... totaled a season-high 34 points against Freedom while collecting 28 points and 20 rebounds against Central ... a First Team All-Suncoast pick ... averaged 19.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals as a sophomore ... registered 21 double-doubles and one triple-double with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocks against Royal Palm Beach ... scored 20 or more points in 11 games ... as a freshman, averaged 14.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks ... had one double-double ... scored a season-high 34 points against Stony Point ... attended the Nike Skills Academy in 2008, 2009 and 2010 ... played for the Orlando Comets AAU squad, which was state champion in 2009 ... attended USA Basketball trials in 2009 and 2010.
Personal: Full name is Amber Elizabeth Henson ... born November 5, 1993 in Memphis, Tenn. ... daughter of Matt and Annette Henson ... has one brother, John (19) ... her brother, John, is a sophomore on the North Carolina men's basketball team ... her father, Matt, played basketball at Norfolk State and graduated in 1986 ... an Academic All-County selection as a sophomore and junior ... member of the Sickles Mentor Program and Best Buddies.
McCallie on Henson: "Amber is just incredibly talented. She'll play the three, four and five in her career at Duke. There's a lot of different things she can do. I just love her ability to shoot the basketball and create from anywhere on the floor. She certainly can post up on the block, but she's much more versatile than that. She loves to step out, she loves to shoot the three and her high post game is very strong. She's quick off the bounce and she's really working on her physical strength. I just think she's going to be a phenomenal collegiate player."
High School/AAU: A two-time Central District Player of the Year in 2008-09 and 2009-10 ... a three-time First Team All-District, First Team All-Metro selection ... First Team All-Region honoree as a sophomore and junior ... as a junior, averaged 23.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 3.5 steals ... hit 53.0 percent of her field goals and 31.0 percent from three-point land ... Second Team All-State and Honorable Mention Parade All-America in 2010 ... Central Region Player of the Year as a sophomore ... averaged 21.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 4.2 steals her sophomore year ... hit 49.0 percent of her field goals and 36.0 percent from downtown ... as a freshman, averaged 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 steals ... Honorable Mention All-Region as a freshman ... invited to participate in the U16 USA Basketball Trials in 2009 ... plays AAU for Boo Williams Elite the last two years ... competed for the Fairfax Stars Elite South AAU team as a freshman ... played volleyball as a freshman and sophomore earning First Team All-District both years.
Personal: Full name is Ka'lia Breana Johnson ... born March 6, 1993 in Fort Riley, Kansas ... daughter of Kenneth and Keshia Johnson ... has one brother, Jay (21) ... her brother, Jay, played basketball at Patrick Henry Junior College from 2007-09 ... owns a 3.5 grade-point average ... Academic All-District and All-Region each of her years.
McCallie on Johnson: "I just love Ka'lia's aggressiveness and I love her versatility. She's a one, two, and three -- she can play all spots on the floor. She's a fantastic rebounding guard, she's worked hard to develop her three-point shot and she's a very committed person. I think what's significant about Ka'lia is her early commitment. We're talking now, two and a half years ago -- Ka'lia was on board, ready to be at Duke and pursue championships. That makes her very special."
Elizabeth Williams 6-3 • Center • Virginia Beach, Va. (Princess Anne H.S.)
2010 USA Basketball U17 World Championship Team: Started all eight games and averaged team-highs of 13.5 point and 7.6 rebounds ... she totaled a USA second-best 2.0 blocks average, while shooting a USA team-high of 61.8 percent (47-76 FGs) from the field ... among the 12-team field, she ranked 11th overall in scoring and rebounding, second in field goal percentage and third in blocked shots ... led the squad to an 8-0 record and gold medal in Toulouse, France.
2009 USA Basketball U16 National Team: Guided the U16 squad to a 5-0 record at the FIBA Americas Championship and a gold medal in Mexico City ... averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks ... named tournament MVP.
High School/AAU: A 2010 First Team Parade All-America, 2010 ESPN Rise First Team All-America and 2010 USA Today All-USA Third Team selection ... named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Virginia in 2010 ... the 2010 Associated Press Virginia Player of the Year and Beach District Player of the Year ... as a junior, averaged 17.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.7 steals and 2.2 assists ... started all 31 games ... totaled season highs of 37 points against Salem on Jan. 12, 2010 and posted 26 rebounds versus Bishop McNamara on Dec. 22, 2009 ... Eastern Region Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010 ... a 2009 All-State First Team honoree and All-Tidewater First team selection ... 2009 Beach District Defensive Player of the Year ... All-Beach District first team selection in 2009... averaged 13.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.7 blocks, 2.1 steals and 1.4 assists as a sophomore ... guided Princess Anne to a 31-1 record and a 3A state title ... shot 51.5 percent from the field ... swatted 172 shots as a sophomore, which was the second-most in Virginia history ... helped Princess Anne to a 29-2 record as a freshman and a 29-2 record ... plays AAU for Boo Williams since 2008 ... a 2008 Second Team All-Beach District honoree ... Honorable Mention All-Region as a freshman ... ran track & field and was an All-Beach District selection in 2008-09 in the high jump.
Personal: Full name is Elizabeth Olatayo Williams ... born on June 23, 1993 in Colchester, Essex, England ... daughter of Dr. Alex and Margaret Williams ... has one brother, Mark (8) and one sister, Victoria (22) ... member of the high school honor roll each year ... on the Principal's List and received the Cavalier Award in 2007-08.
McCallie on Williams: "Elizabeth is a very versatile post player. Certainly she can play the five, the four and she can also dabble in the three. She's become much more athletic from all three of those positions. She looks for her three ball in the trail. We really want Elizabeth to be able to enjoy her three and attack from the perimeter as well as from the block, the high post and the other areas. She is Incredibly athletic and fast down the floor as well as being a terrific leader. Elizabeth has an unbelievable ability to run block-to-block and be effective on the mood. She is greatly experienced by all she's done with USA Basketball and somebody who commands simply because of her great character. All of these student-athletes who have signed have enormous character and certainly Elizabeth exudes that in her game. It's going to be a lot of fun working with her."
The Blue Devils will lose three seniors following the 2010-11 campaign -- Karima Christmas, Krystal Thomas and Jasmine Thomas -- but will return eight student-athletes to go along with the group of three signed today. Duke will feature a roster of 12 student-athletes in 2011-12.
"I just love the work that everyone's doing day-by-day and by doing that the practice has been incredible," said McCallie about the future of the program. "We've been fortunate now to have two outstanding classes. We plan on continuing that trend and really driving Duke women's basketball to a special place. I think you have to be a person who loves challenges, you have to be a person who wants to create history, a special history and be motivated by being in what I call a basketball laboratory type environment -- in regards to student-athletes or choosing Duke. When you look at us and what the men basketball team does, this place is incredible that way. What we're finding is that these are women that get it. They're willing to say yes we want to make a difference and we want to really enjoy this time playing together. We plan on continuing to have some great classes to enhance these last two."
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