By Adam Lindner | Staff Writer
With the college basketball season set to begin this week, campuses around the nation are buzzing with excitement as their teams are set to embark on a brand new slate of games. Things are no different here on The Bluff as the Dukes take on Loyola (MD) on Friday night at the Palumbo Center.
This year’s team is surrounded by much uncertainty as last year’s four leading scorers have either graduated or transferred. Micah Mason (18.4 ppg), Derrick Colter (17.9) and Jeremiah Jones (9.6) all graduated, and L.G. Gill (10.1) transferred to Maryland.
With so much offense lost, it will certainly be a challenge for this year’s team to put points up on the board. Furthermore, Mason, Colter and Gill combined for 253 of the team’s 322 3-point field goals last year. With such a substantial loss on the offensive side of the court, head coach Jim Ferry will surely be looking to his newest additions for assistance.
This year’s team fields four promising freshmen who figure to see their fair share of playing time.
Perhaps the most readily available is versatile forward Isiaha Mike. Hailing from Scarborough, Ontario, Mike stands 6-foot-8 and looks to play solid minutes right away. With an array of skills, Mike is able to stretch the floor with his ability to shoot from long range, yet he is also athletic enough to finish well around the rim.
Mike Lewis II, another freshman, will compete for a starting role in his career at Duquesne. A point guard from St. Louis, Lewis II provided an encouraging sample of what he is capable of in an exhibition match this past weekend — a 79-74 loss to DII Mansfield — by scoring a team-high 16 points.
Along with freshmen Mike and Lewis II, Ferry brought on 6-foot-4 sharpshooter Spencer Littleson and multi-sport athlete Kellon Taylor (who will join the team after football season).
Emile Blackman Jr. (LIU Post/Niagara) and Kale Abrahamson (Northwestern/Drake) are the first two graduate transfers in the history of Duquesne’s program, and Tarin Smith is eligible after sitting out a year following transferring from Nebraska.
Blackman and Abrahamson should both help light up the scoreboard, as Blackman averaged 15.8 ppg last year for Niagara and Abrahamson averaged 11.1 at Drake. Two experienced scorers should really aid a Duquesne team that is desperate for scoring options.
Smith, a sophomore guard, should help to orchestrate the offense and provide a steady hand, after already having spent a year in the program last year.
The rest of the backcourt is made up of Rene Castro and Josh Steel, a sophomore who should have an enhanced role now after much roster turnover. Steel should also help in the 3-point department, as he shot an impressive 15-29 last year and figures to have more opportunities this year.
Down low, Darius Lewis is hoping for a memorable senior campaign. Lewis – along with junior Jordan Robinson and sophomore Nakye Sanders – must rebound the ball well on both ends of the court for the Dukes to be successful. If Lewis, a defensive prowess, can stay out of foul trouble, he would boost the Duquesne defensive unit.
Another returning forward is Eric James, who started 22 games last year after Jeremiah Jones’ season-ending ACL injury. A versatile wing capable of the occasional double-double, James must improve this year if the Dukes are to progress. After being thrown into a starting role, it’s encouraging that now James has had an entire offseason to prepare for this season with extensive experience under his belt.
While this year’s roster is fairly new, there is a good amount of talent and excitement surrounding the program. Headlining games include a nationally televised trip to Kentucky on Nov. 20, the annual City Game against Pitt at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 2 and numerous solid league opponents.
VCU, Dayton, George Washington and Rhode Island all figure to be top contenders for the A-10 title. Although the A-10 is a competitive mid-major conference, Duquesne has the pieces necessary to make some noise in a rock solid basketball league.