Luke DeCock

DeCock: Duke freshman Rebecca Greenwell gets her shot, now

Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) is upended as she goes in for a second half shot by South Carolina guard Khadijah Sessions (5) at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday, Dec.7, 2014 in Durham, NC.
Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) is upended as she goes in for a second half shot by South Carolina guard Khadijah Sessions (5) at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday, Dec.7, 2014 in Durham, NC. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Rebecca Greenwell could only watch, and wait. As her teammates fell around her, as her own health improved, the Duke freshman wondered if she’d be called into action.

The plan, going into last season, was to redshirt and recover from a torn ACL suffered at the end of her senior year. But as Duke’s injury crisis detoured the Blue Devils into perilous territory, she knew she might be asked to give up a year of eligibility to help save the season.

She was willing.

And she was thrilled coach Joanne P. McCallie never asked.

“It’s definitely a great decision not to play, to sit out,” Greenwell said. “It would have been hard to jump in at the end of the season, having not played a college game.”

In this new season, Greenwell is Duke’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, third among ACC freshmen. Still, there’s the what-if from last season.

Greenwell, who once set a national record with 17 3-pointers in a Kentucky high school game, first tore the ACL in her right knee as a junior. She limped through her senior year with a torn meniscus in the same knee before tearing the ACL again in the McDonald’s All-American game.

Another clean-up surgery on the knee that summer made redshirting as a freshman at Duke a given – at least until star guards Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones were both lost for the season, right after Greenwell was cleared to start practicing. At one point, Duke was down to eight scholarship players and no point guards.

A scorer by trade, the 6-foot-1 guard could have filled in at point guard in a pinch. Greenwell kept waiting for the call. And if it had come, she would have happily given up a year of her eligibility. It never came.

“I was just going to let her make the call, but if she had asked me, I would have,” Greenwell said.

So she watched from the bench as Duke, which opened the season 21-1, closed out the season 7-6, including a home loss to DePaul in the second round of the NCAA tournament as the Blue Devils became the first No. 2 seed to lose that early since 2011.

Greenwell wasn’t going to save the Blue Devils. She was rusty, to say the least. But she might have been able to help, given the all-hands-on-deck nature of the situation.

This wasn’t the first time this kind of scenario has come up at Duke. Football player Jeremy Cash could have played in the Belk Bowl in 2012 after sitting out that entire season after transferring from Ohio State. It would have meant giving up an entire season of eligibility to play in one game, but the stakes were high. It was Duke’s first bowl game in years – and there was certainly a chance Cash might turn pro before his senior year anyway.

Cash might have made a difference in what turned out to be a loss to Cincinnati in Charlotte, but he announced earlier this month that he would pass on the NFL draft and return for his final season.

That worked out for everyone involved. Greenwell is confident the same will be true for her.

So far this season, she’s had success, but a very young Duke team picked for second in the ACC has struggled at times, going 4-2 in conference play and 13-6 overall heading into Sunday’s game at North Carolina.

Greenwell, though, has experience looking to the future.

“It was crazy,” Greenwell said. “I felt like they were going to call my name anytime. It was tempting, but I’m glad they held back.”

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