Sara Anastasieska explains why she left Cal for Duke
The Australian is off to the ACC after being granted a sixth year of eligibility.
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Duke’s mascot taunts N.C. State fans on Feb. 2, 2020 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)
Before last Friday, the Duke Blue Devils’ backcourt was looking a little thin heading into the 2020-21 season. No regular starters from this previous season are returning, and Duke looked like it would be heavily leaning on Miela Goodchild and Mikayla Boykin for ball-handling and shooting.
But the Blue Devils’ depth chart at guard got a boost when Cal’s Sara Anastasieska announced in a tweet that she was heading to Durham, North Carolina for her final season of college basketball. She was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will be immediately eligible to play for Duke.
“I was looking for somewhere where I could get an elite and prestigious graduate degree whilst playing very high-level basketball,” Anastasieska told The Next. “Duke basketball speaks for itself. Coach (Joanne P. McCallie) has developed so many pros and has led the team to multiple NCAA tournaments. The elite degree coupled with the high-level basketball will provide me with many different avenues within the pros and the business world.”
Duke will be Anastasieska’s third home in college basketball. The Sydney, Australia native spent her freshman campaign at UTSA, where she averaged 4.8 points-per-game in 2015-16. She then transferred to Cal and ran into some injury issues, missing all but 10 games out of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
She did stay healthy this past year for Cal though, starting 25 games and averaging 7.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Anastasieska also showed she could score in bunches, pouring in 25 points on the road at UConn and notching 22 points at home vs. Utah. In the super-competitive Pac-12, Cal finished 12-19.
Over her collegiate career, the 5-foot-11 guard is a 30.2 percent three-point shooter and 75 percent free-throw shooter. For Duke fans who might not be familiar with her game, Anastasieska says that her aggressive “scorer’s mentality” is something she thinks will have a positive impact on the team this year.
“I am constantly looking to score and to find ways to create for myself as well as my teammates,” Anastasieska said. “My ability to knock down the three, my hustle, determination, and focus on locking down on defense, will definitely be strengths of mine that I will continue to work on and bring to every practice and game.”
Anastasieska was born in Macedonia, but grew up in Australia where she appeared for the U17 and U19 Australian national teams. Despite both being from Australia, Anastasieska says she hasn’t played with Goodchild before.
Still, Anastasieska says she is already in the team group chat with the Blue Devils and has talked to a few of her new teammates about potentially living together this upcoming semester.
“I’ve been very grateful that the team has welcomed me with open arms and I’m excited to finally get to campus and meet them all face to face,” she said. “I want to come in and be a leader and make an immediate impact on the team.
Coming in with experience and maturity will help me accomplish these goals. Ultimately, the goal is winning a national championship, and I believe team culture is a competitive advantage.”
Duke finished this past season with an 18-12 record and won 11 of their last 14 regular-season games. If not for the coronavirus, they would have appeared in the NCAA tournament. Duplicating that success won’t be easy, especially with the loss of two WNBA draft picks in Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom, but the addition of Anastasieska certainly increases the Blue Devils’ chances of dancing in 2021.