September 2, 2021 

Former Syracuse commit Shayeann Day-Wilson bolsters Duke’s depth

Day-Wilson is the fifth Syracuse player to leave since Quentin Hillsman resigned

Syracuse and Duke have dominated headlines this offseason in ACC women’s basketball for very different reasons.

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For the Orange, it’s been about how many talented women have left the program. For the Blue Devils, it’s about how the coaching staff combed through the transfer portal to rebuild and reload, following a year in which they cut the season short due to COVID-19.

Players have left Syracuse largely due to the toxic culture surrounding the program under former head coach Quentin Hillsman, which was exposed by The Athletic and subsequent reporting. While the 50-year-old Hillsman resigned from his post with the Orange last month – after 15 seasons on the job – the exodus from upstate New York began long earlier than that, before reporting unearthed an atmosphere of threats, bullying and unwanted physical contact. In all, 12 players transferred away from Syracuse before Hillsman left the Orange. And five more players left the program after he left.

That latter group includes Shayeann Day-Wilson, a 5’6 four-star recruit from Toronto. An incoming class of 2021 prospect, Day-Wilson verbally committed to Syracuse on May 18, 2020. But 15 months later, she flipped her commitment to Duke, announcing on Twitter she’d be joining the Blue Devils.

Duke made the addition of Day-Wilson official Thursday with a press release, calling her “Canada’s top point guard.” And indeed, Day-Wilson has the credentials to back up that sort of claim.

This summer, Day-Wilson starred for Canada at the FIBA U19 World Cup, leading the squad to a fifth-place finish while averaging 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game across seven contests. Day-Wilson dropped 29 points on Japan and 31 points against the Czech Republic.

At Crestwood Prep, Day-Wilson averaged 17.3 points, 8.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game while leading her squad to back-to-back Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association championships. She was also a Bio Steel All-Canadian selection, akin to the McDonald’s All-American nod here in the U.S. Day-Wilson’s high school teammates, Latasha Lattimore, was also committed to Syracuse but has since flipped to Texas.

In addition to Syracuse and Duke, Day-Wilson also had offers from a flurry of other schools, including Michigan, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Oregon, Louisville, South Carolina, Baylor and Notre Dame.

So, why Duke?

“I chose Duke because of Coach Kara,” Day-Wilson said in a statement from Duke.  “I felt like she could help me develop my game, take it to the next level and become that player I want to become. Also, she could help me not only grow as a player but as a person as well and that’s extremely important to me. I’m really excited to play for Coach Kara as well as for the opportunity to represent Duke. It’ll be a great experience and I’ll learn a lot.”

Duke has grabbed headlines this season for players exiting the transfer portal and offering similar sentiments about Kara Lawson, who is entering her second season as the Blue Devils’ head coach. Lawson led Duke to a 3-1 record last year before the team decided to cancel the season due to the pandemic. This summer, she guided the USA’s 3×3 team to an Olympic gold medal.

Lawson also took the time this summer to reshape Duke’s roster via the transfer market. The Blue Devils added seven transfers from Power Five schools. They are: Nyah Green (Louisville), Lexi Gordon (Texas Tech), Celeste Taylor (Texas), Amaya Finklea-Guity (Syracuse), Imani Lewis (Wisconsin), Jordyn Oliver (Baylor) and Elizabeth Balogun (Louisville). Additionally, 6’5 veteran center Jade Williams opted to return to Durham for an extra season.

Simply put: Duke will be deep and talented this season, and Day-Wilson reinforces both of those facts.

Day-Wilson is only the second incoming freshman on this Blue Devils roster, joining Lee Volker of Purcellville, Virginia, a 5’11 guard who also had offers from Villanova, St. Joseph’s and App State.

It’s unclear how much Day-Wilson will play as a freshman because of Duke’s veteran-laden roster. Starting point guard duties will likely go to either sophomore Vanessa de Jesus or Baylor transfer Jordyn Oliver. Still, should Duke have to turn to Day-Wilson to run the offense, the Blue Devils shouldn’t see much of a drop-off in skill.

“We’re very excited to add Shy to our program,” Lawson said in a statement. “Shy is a dynamic guard who brings a high-level of skill and athleticism to the position. She is somebody that is competitive and wants to win. It’s a perfect fit for all of the players that we already have on our roster. She is a freshman that is going to come in and contribute to our team.”

Duke has yet to release a schedule for this season. But some of its non-conference opponents include Iowa, Penn, UNC-Wilmington, Alabama and Charleston Southern. And, according to Em Adler of the Chronicle (and The Next), Duke is also expected to host South Carolina this year. Against the Gamecocks, the Blue Devils will need all the help they can get.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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