By Julian Routh | Editor-In-Chief
With every first dribble, every first play and every first basket of every new season for the Duquesne men’s basketball team, there’s usually an overwhelming sense of optimism in the air.
But that optimism is usually replaced with sadness, cynicism and unfiltered anguish by the time the calendar turns to February. It’s no one’s fault; blame it on the Atlantic 10, one of the most underrated and emerging conferences in college hoops.
So it’s hard to say if being hopeful for this season – Jim Ferry’s fourth and his first with a solid squad of veterans – is a cruel illusion, or if the Dukes can actually crack the middle tier of the A-10.
For the sake of confidence, let’s go with the latter.
The Dukes showed signs of improvement last season, but finished with an uninspiring record of 6-12 in conference play, landing them in 11th place. Their home record (9-7) was much more encouraging, with big wins over NCAA Tournament-bound Dayton, NIT participant George Washington and powerhouse George Mason.
The team – led by prolific three-point shooter Micah Mason and guard Derrick Colter – was even able to steal a first round win in the A-10 Championship over Saint Louis, but fell in the second round to George Washington.
This year, Mason and Colter are two of four returning starters, alongside fellow senior Jeremiah Jones and junior big-man Darius Lewis. That’s great news for Ferry, who hasn’t yet had a consistent lineup of veterans at his disposal.
Duquesne’s backcourt will get a significant boost from sophomore Rene Castro, a strong and physical combo guard who transferred from Butler after his freshman season. He sat out last year, but practiced with the Dukes.
Of course, the team will play a tough schedule again this year, facing Pitt, Georgia Tech and Penn State out-of-conference before a grueling stretch of A-10 opponents.
Ferry, who succeeded Ron Everhart as coach in 2012, has yet to lead the Dukes to a winning record. In fact, the team under Ferry hasn’t cracked the conference’s top-10 yet.
But Ferry has hope for this season.
“Our goal is to always compete for a championship,” Ferry wrote in a statement. “We’d like to be into the top part of the league and compete for postseason play. Our league will once again be a bear, but we feel we’re more prepared for it than we’ve ever been.”