2023-24 Duke Awards

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor

The Duke recognizes remarkable Duquesne players, coaches and teams for their successes over the past year.

Men’s Team of the Year: Basketball

This may be the easiest decision in the history of the Duke Awards. Their first ever Atlantic-10 Championship clinched the program’s first March Madness appearance since 1977, where they pulled off an upset of BYU to advance to the Round of 32. Their 25 wins were the second-most in program history and the most in 70 years. They marked consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in 52 years, and made an offseason coaching hire that looks to extend that streak further. They boosted program attendance and galvanized school spirit on campus and around the city to an extent that hasn’t been seen in years. This wasn’t just Duquesne’s team of the year, but of the decade, the century and according to the banner hanging on Chatham Square, “The last zillion years.”

Women’s Team of the Year: Bowling

Duquesne continued to build an outstanding tradition on the Bluff, advancing to the regional final, before falling to eventual national champions Jacksonville State. Their school-record 71 wins were tied for 12th in the country. Kiearra Saldi earned All-American Honorable Mention honors, and was named Northeast Conference Bowler of the year. This was Duquesne’s third consecutive season making the NCAA Tournament.

Newcomer of the Year: The Triathlon Program

Duquesne welcomed the first in a series of new teams to the Bluff last fall, when the triathlon squad debuted with a runner-up finish in the four-team Ridgewood Try a Tri for Hospice at Greensboro College. They followed up that inaugural performance by hosting their first ever event the following week, where they finished fourth of 13 teams. The tri team will soon be joined by an acrobatics and tumbling program, which will begin its maiden season next school year.

Women’s Athlete of the Year: Megan McConnell

McConnell added to her legend in her fourth season on the Bluff, leading the Dukes to the A-10 semifinals and an appearance in the Super 16 of the WNIT. She started all 34 games, and led the team in points, assists, rebounds and steals, all by significant margins. For her efforts, McConnell was recognized as First Team All-Conference, All-Defensive team, and All-Academic team. She can now add a Duke award to her trophy case.

Most Improved Team: Football

Duquesne Football turned a 4-7 record in 2022 into a 7-5 record in 2023, but the most pronounced part of their improvement was in the Northeast Conference. After finishing 3-4 in NEC play the year before, Duquesne went 6-1 to win their sixth NEC championship and just their second outright, the only previous one having been eight years ago. Junior quarterback Darius Perrantes had a huge season coming off a season-ending injury in 2022, starting every game, leading all of Division I in passing yards per completion and being named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, awarded to the best offensive player in the FCS. Wide receiver DJ Powell, defensive lineman Noah Palmer and defensive back Ayden Garnes joined Perrantes on the first team All-NEC team, and six other Dukes earned second team honors. Head Coach Jerry Schmitt also took home a second NEC Coach of the Year award.

Senior Athlete of the Year: Dae Dae Grant

Grant came to Duquesne in the wake of a six-win season, and in just two years, was the face of its turnaround. He scored over 1,000 points as a Duke, and eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau over his college career which he finishes 249th all time in scoring, and 11th among active players.