We're focused on becoming a special team

Courtesy Jon Gardiner, Duke University Photography

Duke won the ACC tournament in grand fashion, beating N.C. State, Florida State and North Carolina.

Wow, the past few weeks have been such a whirlwind for Duke women’s basketball! We finished up the conference season winning the ACC tournament. We beat three quality opponents in N.C. State, Florida State and, in the championship game, North Carolina.

All three posed different challenges in terms of style of play. Our coaching staff did a great job of putting the scouting reports and preparation together. After our win in Greensboro, I told our players to take a few days off, so they could rest up and enjoy spring break before we started preparing for our new season.

During the time off, I went to see my daughter, Maddie. Her team, Miami (Ohio), played in the MAC tournament. As a coach, being a fan is something I don’t experience much, so having this time to watch Maddie and the team compete is something I truly cherish. Unfortunately, our trip lasted only one night as they ended up losing the game, which means they are headed to the WNIT.

Also during spring break, our All-America point guard Chelsea Gray underwent surgery to repair her knee. Chelsea is motivated to come back stronger than ever, and her tremendous attitude and outlook on life is contagious. I visited her after surgery, and that trademark smile was as beautiful as ever! We will need her energy and passion as we head into the tournament.

Last Friday was our first day back from break, and it was a practice you would typically expect from a team that took some time off. It had low energy, and I wasn’t too pleased. The next day, I reminded our team the importance of being prepared and willing to stand up and be a leader. I read them a few excerpts from Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In.”

Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and is ranked in the top 50 of the most powerful women in business. Her book has some great examples on details we can work on to prepare. Saturday’s practice was better, the players were moving well and the sense of urgency had come alive!

Sunday’s practice was scheduled to be a bit shorter; it was also the first time we watched clips from our ACC championship game against UNC. Although we controlled the game, there were still many areas we needed to address -- all of which will help us play better moving forward.

Selection Monday was another step in our journey. We celebrated together as a family as our team, staff and fans came together to watch the show. It was an evening full of energy and anticipation for the Duke family.

We are one of the host sites for this year’s tournament, so we already knew our first two games would be at home. After watching what seemed forever, the Norfolk bracket was announced, and the last bracket had us matched up against a very good Hampton University team.

Tournament time is a new season for everyone. We have to let our players understand that all the teams are excellent. Everyone who is the postseason deserves to be there, and Hampton, which went undefeated in a very competitive MEAC conference, will be a tremendous challenge for us.

We will continue to prepare for this game as we have for every game this year. As always, it truly is all about us, and our focus, preparation and desire is to become a special team.

Go Duke!