February 18, 2009
As a member of the Itawamba Community College women''s basketball team, Beth Duke has been part of one of the most successful tenures in school history.
The sophomore forward has been a part of the best back-to-back years for women''s basketball at ICC since head coach Nanci Gray played for the Lady Indians from 1974-76.
The 5-foot-9 Duke, who played at Oak Hill Academy in West Point, has contributed as a reserve for ICC (20-5 this season), which has won 40 of 47 games dating back to last season.
In addition, Duke was a member of last year''s ICC team that won the MACJC North Division and beat Meridian Community College in the state tournament championship game.
ICC will play in the state tournament next week, and the Lady Indians have their sights set on defending their championship.
"I think we can," Duke said. "We''ve got tremendous talent. If we keep our mind-set, we can win the state championship again."
Itawamba is 11-1 in the North Division, a half game ahead of East Mississippi C.C. The Lady Indians will win the division outright if EMCC loses Thursday and will be co-champions if EMCC wins.
If EMCC wins Thursday, ICC will be the No. 2 seed from the North in the state tournament.
Itawamba started the season 1-7 before winning 20 of its final 22 games Duke''s freshman season, and it''s in contention for another state championship this season.
"(Gray) told us she recruited a team that was going to win a state championship," Duke said. "She kept telling us, ''We''re going to be state champions, we''re going to be a state championship team.'' We worked so hard and we did it.
"It''s the same game plan this year. She keeps telling us we''re another state championship team. We''ve got more talent than we did last year. It''s up to us if we do it."
Duke has tried to take on a leadership role in her final season at ICC.
"During the summer, we came up here for a camp and the sophomores got together and said we were going to make sure the freshmen would follow our lead because we wanted to win another state championship," said Duke, who comes off the bench to average three points and two rebounds per game.
Duke has a keen eye for the basket, making 83 percent of her free throws and 7 of 10 3-pointers.
"Beth has been one of those kind of utility players for us," Gray said. "She can go inside and she helps us with her defense inside. She''s just a warrior on the floor.
"She can also bring the 3-point shooting. She''s had a couple of games where she made two or three 3-pointers in a short amount of time when she came off the bench."
Gray said Duke has contributed to the team even though she has played a limited role on the court.
"She does a good job for us," Gray said. "She''s one of those kids you want to play because she''s got such good character and work ethic. She''s one of the most positive players we have day-in and day-out. Her work ethic and her character don''t stem from how much playing time she gets.
"She''s been a very important part of our program at ICC. One of the most important things, I guess, is every day she brings a competitiveness, even if sometimes it''s in a scout team role. That''s just been key for us."
Duke has had to adjust to coming off the bench after being a starter at Oak Hill Academy, but she accepts her role because she is willing to do whatever it takes to help ICC win another state championship.