DURHAM — Allison Vernerey says its a little surreal that this will be her last go-round as a Blue Devil.
As the only senior on the womens basketball team at Duke, the 6-foot-5 post player from Balschwiller in the Alsace region of France, has played on two ACC championship teams and been to the Elite Eight three times.
All that has been missing from her career has been a trip to the Final Four, and a lot of people in the prediction business are penciling in the No. 3 Blue Devils for a trip to New Orleans in April.
Im excited to be on my last year, Vernerey, who got a crash course in practical English during her freshman year, said during the Blue Devils media day activities on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Its pretty crazy to think about it, as everybody always says. But when it comes to your turn it is crazy. I just want to enjoy my last year and make the most out of it.
The economics major is the only remaining member of Dukes three-player recruiting class that came to campus in the fall of 2009.
Shes just incredible, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. No one plays harder than Allison. She comes to practice every day ready to go, and she leads by example. Shes vocal in spots. She just needs to be productive, and thats leadership. Its doing what you do, doing it well and giving it all youve got. And Allison personifies that.
Vernerey has played in 105 games, starting 17, including 11 as a sophomore. She has a career average of 6 points and 4 rebounds per game along with 72 career blocks. Last season she shot 56 percent.
A left-hander, she has been dominant from that side on short hook shots and layups.
I think because it stands out people pay more attention to it and try to defend it more, she said. Ive been working more on my right side and I think it will show this season. But its still good when you have a strong side or a strong point.
She said doesnt regret never becoming Dukes regular starting center, a job she certainly would have had last year had the Blue Devils not recruited 6-3 Elizabeth Williams, who was ACC rookie of the year and should be in the conversation for national player of the year after Brittney Griner finishes up at Baylor this season.
When Elizabeth came in, I knew that was best for the team, Vernerey said. Elizabeth is one of the best players Ive seen. Not to demean myself, but I appreciate knowing what my role is. I know shes going to be really good, and when I come in I can bring my part of it. I was very comfortable with it, and E is so genuine. It was a very healthy transition.
Duke junior point guard Chelsea Gray said she is glad to have Vernerey as a key option on the front line.
Shes a big presence out there with long arms, and shes relentless out there on the court, Gray said. Some people dont notice how effective she is defensively. I think it gives our defense a definite look when shes out there on top of a press of a matchup zone. Shes versatile on the block, also. Its hard to guard a lefty, period.
And that elusive Final Four trip? Vernerey said she and her team will cross that bridge in March.
Were not at the point where were thinking about a national championship, she said.
We like the process of building up to (tournament play). Its nice that people think we might be that good, but the people projecting that on us arent with us every day. Taking it one step at a time is kind of nice. We just have to stay on track and not get carried away.