Duquesne basketball program looking toward next season

Courtesy of Chagrin Valley Today | Sincere Carry, a guard, is a valuable late addition to this year’s freshman recruiting class.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

04/12/2018

With the end of the academic year in sight, Duquesne basketball continues to see changes.

After a recent flurry of player movement within the men’s basketball program, Keith Dambrot’s roster continues to grow more and more divergent from the one that took to the court last season.

On March 30, Sarah K. Spencer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that freshman forward Tydus Verhoeven had requested and received his release from Duquesne. Verhoeven, who averaged 3.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 19.5 minutes last season, led the Atlantic 10 in blocks with 71 total swats and 2.2 per game.

Then, on April 7, 6-foot guard Sincere Carry of Solon, Ohio, verbally committed to Duquesne. The school then announced on April 10 that Carry had signed an athletic aid agreement with the Dukes, making Carry the sixth player in Dambrot’s 2018 recruiting haul.

Carry originally committed to Division II West Liberty University, located near Wheeling, West Virginia, last fall, but was able to shift his commitment to Duquesne after West Liberty released him from his National Letter of Intent (NLI).

Since athletes are only allowed to sign one NLI annually, Carry signed an athletic aid agreement with Duquesne, which is commonplace among athletes that have signed a NLI elsewhere before soon thereafter deciding to attend a separate institution — being that the initial school chooses to release the subject from said NLI.

Guard Mike Lewis II, who led Duquesne in scoring with 14.4 points per contest as a sophomore in 2017-18, said that he hasn’t had the chance to get to know any of Duquesne’s newcomers yet, but that he’s excited for the opportunity to do so.

“I look forward to getting to know those guys on and off the court and [to taking] them under my wing and [getting them] ready,” Lewis said. “We are going to need everyone on the team to be ready if we are going to do things our school hasn’t seen in a really long time.”

On April 9, however, only days after Carry verbally committed, Duquesne saw a guard depart from the program when redshirt junior Tarin Smith announced his intent to transfer from Duquesne on Twitter. Since then, he has been granted his release from the university, according to the Post-Gazette’s Spencer.

Smith transferred from Nebraska to Duquesne in 2015 and sat out the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules, so the Ocean Township, New Jersey, native reserves one more year of NCAA eligibility despite being scheduled to graduate from Duquesne with an undergraduate degree this May. Thus, Smith will be a graduate transfer, and will be eligible immediately at wherever he chooses to further his collegiate career next season.

Where do these transactions leave Dambrot’s roster for the 2018-19 season? After all, as things currently stand, Duquesne fans will see 11 new Dukes take to the A.J. Palumbo Center court next season.

Marko Krivacevic and Zach Snyder, a non-scholarship player from Cranberry Township, are Duquesne’s only seniors next season.

Krivacevic, Dambrot’s first-ever signee at Duquesne, transferred to the Bluff from Miami Dade College in 2017. Krivacevic only played in eight games for the Dukes this past season — partly due to an injury, and otherwise due to the coaching staff’s discretion — and it’s reasonable to wonder if he’s on athletic scholarship or not. Named to numerous all-academic teams while at Miami Dade, it’s fair to speculate as to whether the Hungary native is on academic scholarship, instead.

Mike Lewis, Craig Randall II, Kellon Taylor and Caleb Davis currently comprise Duquesne’s junior class for next year. Randall is a redshirt junior that transferred to Duquesne from Memphis in 2017 following his sophomore season, Taylor is a two-sport athlete enrolled on a football scholarship and Davis a non-scholarship walk-on player from New Kensington.

Eric Williams Jr., Nicholas Kratholm, Tavian Dunn-Martin, Michael Hughes, Marcus Weathers and Frankie Hughes will all be sophomores — Williams and Kratholm figure to return from last year’s roster, Dunn-Martin and Mike Hughes will be redshirt transfers from Akron, Weathers a redshirt transfer from Miami (Ohio) and Frankie Hughes a redshirt transfer from Missouri.

Similar to Krivacevic’s situation, it’s reasonable to wonder whether or not Kratholm is truly a scholarship player — the valedictorian of his high school graduating class, it’s possible that Kratholm, who is a biomedical engineering major that was used sparingly as a true freshman in 2017-18, is on some sort of an academic scholarship, instead — but there’s nothing beyond pure speculation to suggest that the 6-foot-8 forward is technically a walk-on player, either.

On top of the aforementioned players that may or may not be on full athletic scholarship, the Dukes will welcome six true freshmen next season: Dylan Swingle, Gavin Bizeau, Austin Rotroff, Amari Kelly, Brandon Wade and Sincere Carry.

A team spokesman recently declined to clarify how exactly the team’s allotted 13 scholarships are currently distributed, and it’s unclear what motivation Duquesne may have in keeping such information privately sealed, if any. It’s almost absolutely certain that the answer has nothing to do with NCAA compliance, as neither Duquesne nor Dambrot has had any issues with the NCAA, and it would be pea-brained to presume that they have anything unruly to shelter now.

Rather, it may be some sort of tactic aimed at equipping Duquesne with a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting.

College basketball has seen a recent trend of programs not being as forthcoming as possible on their respective rosters, often as a measure to misdirect other programs who may be interested in poaching certain players, or as a means to confuse other coaches as to how many scholarship slots a team may truly have left available.

For example, a redshirt junior may not be openly listed as such on a team’s online roster, being that other schools may be especially interested in that athlete once finding that he is, in fact, a redshirt junior, capable of playing immediately during the next season due to the graduate transfer rule.

Likewise, a given program seemingly blurring lines when it comes to who is on an athletic scholarship and who is not is both tactically sound and perfectly legal. Doing so may leave other teams and coaches uncertain of exactly how many roster spots the program in question remains interested in fulfilling during a certain recruiting period.

Nevertheless, Duquesne’s current roster has 18 names on it, and 15 remain without those that are known to be walk-ons in Taylor, Snyder and Davis. Given that each D-I men’s basketball program is allotted 13 scholarships each, it’s unclear whether or not Duquesne has reached — or perhaps surpassed — its scholarship limit for the time being.

In any case, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to fans if Dambrot’s roster continues to evolve. In today’s day and age of rampant player movement within the college game, it’s possible that Duquesne’s 2018-19 roster is not solidified until the new school year is well underway.

After all, Chas Brown didn’t appear on the Dukes’ 2017-18 roster until students had already returned to campus for the fall term last year.

While hoops fans need not place too much stock in the Dukes’ 2018-19 roster as it appears today, they can look forward to this: Keith Dambrot’s team will face Penn State, Notre Dame and Marshall next season during its out-of-conference slate, Alan Saunders of Pittsburgh Sports News reported on April 11.

The Dukes will host the reigning NIT champion Nittany Lions at PPG Paints Arena and Marshall at the Palumbo Center, and will travel to play the ACC’s Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana. The dates of the games have not yet been announced.

Penn State, who the Dukes faced in each season from 2010-2016, won the Postseason NIT on March 29 over Utah at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Nittany Lions went 9-9 in Big Ten play last season, its first with former Duquesne coach Jim Ferry on its staff.

Ferry, who was fired by Duquesne in March 2017, is accompanied in Happy Valley by Jamari Wheeler, a point guard who originally committed to Duquesne as a 3-star recruit out of high school. Wheeler reopened his commitment once Ferry was dismissed by Duquesne and ended up at Penn State, where he played 14.4 minutes per game and recorded 52 steals in 39 total games as a true freshman in 2017. Ferry wound up as an assistant on Pat Chambers’ staff soon thereafter.

The game between the Dukes and Nittany Lions will be the 49th meeting between the two programs.

Losing star forward Bonzie Colson and solid guard Matt Farrell to graduation this May, Notre Dame will be a much different team in 2018-19 than it was this past season, where it finished 21-15 overall and 8-10 in ACC play. Colson was held out for most of his senior season by a broken foot, and it’s likely that the Fighting Irish would have been substantially better had he been healthy. Even without Colson for the vast majority of the regular season, the Irish just narrowly missed out on a NCAA Tournament bid.

Robby Carmody, a 4-star recruit from nearby Mars, Pennsylvania, will be a freshman at Notre Dame next season. The Dukes are 5-2 all-time versus the Irish, last playing in 1995.

Dukes fans should be excited that such a solid mid-major program will be paying a visit to the Palumbo Center next season, as well, in the Marshall Thundering Herd. Coach Dan D’Antoni just led the C-USA’s Marshall to the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1987 and knocked off No. 4 seed Wichita State in the Round of 64 in the process. The Herd ended up losing to No. 5 West Virginia in the Round of 32.

Duquesne is 3-1 all-time against Marshall, with the teams last playing in 1978.

A particularly vital Duke is already looking forward to next season, no matter who his team is facing.

“When it comes to our non-conference schedule, it’s going to be fun,” Lewis said via direct message on Wednesday. “We have one of the most talented teams that Duquesne has seen in a very long time so it’s time to put some big-time programs on our schedule if we want people to take us seriously.

“As far as motivation, I’m always motivated,” Lewis continued. “Whoever steps on the court [across] from us is going to have to bring it.”

Last updated 04/12/2018 at 1:27 p.m.

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