Every team needs a Mercedes Dukes.

Energetic. Vocal. Unselfish.

“As much as I would love to play on the court,” Dukes said “I do as much as I can off the court. I just try to stay positive and keep the team motivated. That’s my playing time right there.”

The senior, who has seen limited action in her three years at St. John’s, is averaging just six minutes. But she knows she can help in others ways.

Dukes was chosen by her teammates to lead their pre-game routine. The 5-foot-9 guard greets the starters near the foul line after they are announced. Both bend down, exchange several quick low slaps and then leap into a shoulder to shoulder bump.

“It’s kind of a thing me, [Danielle] Chambers and Ange [Angela Clark] have put together over the past few years,” Dukes said. “They’ve given me the honor of doing it with them so I’m pretty proud of it. The girls they need something to fire them up and I know slapping them in the arms will get them real amped up.”

Freshman Lisa Claxton said that Dukes, who she played against in high school was one of the reasons why she came to St. John’s and praised her as host during her visit. Dukes believes the best approach is to just paint a realistic picture for recruits about what to expect at St. John’s.

“I am honest and I tell them what it really is here, no sugar coating, nothing else,” she said. “This is it. This is what you get.”

What recruits will find is a successful program that will only improve and continue to win. Dukes’ contributions to that have not gone unnoticed.

“Her leadership and commitment to the program have helped us take the steps that we have in the past few years to give us success,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

After a 20-11 season and a first round win in the WNIT, the goals have become loftier: make the NCAA Tournament.

“We made our priority list and that’s on the top of it,” said the sports management major. “I don’t know how much more discussing it takes, but that’s first on our list. Without a doubt I think we’ll be there.”

St. John’s has recently been named the No. 25 team in the country in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. They now can look forward to their next big challenge in No. 9 Rutgers on Wednesday in Piscataway.

While the Bronx native and Monsignor Scanlon alum enjoys the heated competition of college basketball, she has loved nothing more then being able to play in front of her loved ones.

“This is something that most people dream about, being able to play home,” Dukes said. “You got your Duke crazies, your Cameron Crazies and all those people, but when you got your family and friends right here that’s the best feeling.”