College hoops season brings excitement nationally, at DU

On the national level, hoops fans everywhere are excited for the 2018-19 college basketball season to begin on Nov. 6. Fans at Duquesne are no
different, eagerly awaiting the arrival of several talented newcomers

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

11/01/2018

The last time Duquesne fans saw the Dukes take to the court was on March 8, an 81-68 loss to the Richmond Spiders in the Atlantic 10 Championship’s second round in Washington, D.C.

The last time America saw college basketball in general, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo poured in 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to bury Moritz Wagner and the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship on April 2. DiVincenzo, then the Wildcats’ sixth man, is now a bench contributor for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s now months later, basketball is finally back, and much has changed — especially regarding the Dukes. Only three scholarship players return from a team that went 16-16 and 7-11 in the A-10 last season, albeit the team’s top two scorers do return in junior guard Mike Lewis II (14.4 points per game) and sophomore guard Eric Williams Jr. (14.3 ppg).

With the team merely days removed from the 2018-19 regular season, where should Duquesne fans focus their attention — especially with so many untapped storylines on the horizon?

Only time will tell. Duquesne’s first opponent, William & Mary, doesn’t visit the Palumbo Center until Nov. 10, though.

So, sit tight, continue studying up on the team’s new head shots and sink your teeth into these three Duquesne basketball developments worth paying attention to, right as the season’s set to begin.

Three things to watch out for when DU begins its season Nov. 10 vs. William & Mary:

1.) Evolution of returning stars —

As a freshman in 2016-17, Lewis was one of three players from Jim Ferry’s last-ever recruiting class at Duquesne, alongside the now-departed Isiaha Mike and Spencer Littleson. From early on in his playing career, however, it became increasingly evident that Lewis was well-deserving of important minutes. By season’s end, Lewis had become only the fourth player in program history to lead DU in scoring as a freshman.

Courtesy of Times-Dispatch (Va.) | Mike Lewis II, who led DU in scoring in 2017-18 with 14.4 points per game, defends VCU’s Jonathan Williams.

However, Ferry was relieved of his duties as Duquesne’s head men’s basketball coach, and as a result, the team saw fervent amounts of roster turnover at the season’s end. Likewise, Mike and Littleson both transferred, leaving Lewis as the sole returnee from his recruiting class.

As a sophomore last season, Lewis averaged 14.4 ppg, becoming the first player to lead DU in scoring as a freshman and a sophomore since Wayne Smith did in 1999 and 2000.

At the current juncture, it seems as though Lewis might lead Duquesne in scoring for a third-straight season in 2018-19 — but that’s only if backcourt mate Williams doesn’t take the title away from him himself.

In his freshman year in 2017-18, Williams showcased a raw ability to score the ball from anywhere en route to a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. On top of a rangy jump shot and 6-foot-6 frame, Williams managed to lead his team in rebounding in 2017-18, too, posting 8.8 boards per game.

In Lewis and Williams, though, Duquesne not only has two guards capable of filling up the stat sheet, but two pillars with which to continue building its program.

Within the arena of sports, however, spotlights are synonymous with scrutiny — surely something Lewis was well aware of when he elected to stay at DU after his freshman year, instead of transferring elsewhere.

Now, after a year full of Williams showing signs of future stardom in a Dukes jersey, too, both Lewis and Williams are set to embark upon what’s likely to be the most scrutinized season either of them has experienced to date.

Beginning with the team’s first game on Nov. 10 against William & Mary, it’ll be fun to see how the aforementioned changing dynamics impact DU’s lead guards from year’s past.

2.) New contributors set to begin Duquesne careers —

Courtesy of AP | Miami University forward Marcus Weathers (left) drives around Missouri guard Frankie Hughes during a 2016 contest. Weathers and Hughes are both eligible at Duquesne this season after transferring in 2017.

With 11 new players eligible to see the court for the Dukes this year, there’s almost surely to be something for everyone on Duquesne’s new team.

Want high-flying dunks? Check out incoming freshman Lamar Norman Jr. on YouTube.

How about a 6-foot-11 forward with a smooth stroke from beyond the arc? See Bizeau, Gavin.

The list goes on, with each incoming player offering something unique to Duquesne’s roster this upcoming season.

Tavian Dunn-Martin, a 5-8 guard, should function as an instant spark-plug off the bench for DU. Marcus Weathers seems to be able to do a little bit of it all, and it’ll be fun to see what Mike Hughes, Amari Kelly, Dylan Swingle and Austin Rotroff can do down on the block.

Likewise, fans are itching to see what the stable of Brandon Wade, Frankie Hughes and Sincere Carry can produce on the perimeter, with each appearing capable of handling the ball on one’s own.

3.) Dukes at new schools —

There’s a lot else to be excited about in terms of DU basketball this year, too, including a fun non-conference schedule, a strong A-10 and one last go-round in the Palumbo Center.

However, it’ll be intriguing to see old Dukes in new places — especially Mike (SMU) and Tarin Smith (UConn), both at AAC schools. SMU and UConn will play Jan. 10 and Feb. 21.

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