Duquesne men’s team is mostly new faces, new attitude

Julian Routh | News Editor

Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke
Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke

Jim Ferry knew what he had to do this off season, and he did it.

After posting an abysmal 8-22 record last season, most of the Dukes’ squad graduated or abandoned ship. Only three scholarship players (Derrick Colter, Jeremiah Jones and Jerry Jones) decided to return.

With a difficult task at hand in assembling a brand new team, Ferry managed to field a group of guys from all around the world that are more than just serviceable; they’re actually quite good.

“It’s an exciting time right now,” Ferry said. “I think it’s something that happened, but needed to happen.”

The 2013-14 Duquesne Dukes feature eight first-year scholarship players, including three transfers and five recruits.

Fifth-year senior Ovie Soko, who transferred from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in May 2012, will finally get to sport Red and Blue after a year of ineligibility. At UAB, the 6-foot-8 forward recorded 11 double-doubles and scored in double digits 28 times.

Soko, who Ferry said is better than anyone the team has had in the frontcourt last year, brings three years of college experience to Duquesne.

“I do hold myself accountable to set an example for some of the younger guys, just having been around college basketball longer than the other players on the team,” Soko said.

To bolster the frontcourt, Ferry brought in three more versatile forwards in Dominique McCoy, Isaiah Watkins and Jordan Robinson.

McCoy, a junior transfer, played a season at Rhode Island before heading to Cowley Community College, where he averaged 14.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

Ferry recruited Robinson from Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem. Robinson shot 52 percent from the field and averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game as a senior.

Watkins, who is recovering from leg surgery this summer, was a highly touted recruit who received scholarship offers from schools including Miami, Villanova and Washington. ESPN named him one of their top five Canadian recruits for his contributions to the 35-3, nationally-ranked St. Benedict’s Prep (Toronto) squad.

Freshman recruits L.G. Gill and Darius Lewis will also add size to the frontcourt. At Benedictine College Prep, Gill did it all, recording 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and winning the 3-point shooting contest at the 804 All-Star Game in Richmond.

Lewis, a true center at nearly seven feet tall, played two seasons at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. His 13 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game made him the No. 50 recruit in the 2013 Florida Hoops 150.

“Darius has really made better strides than I ever thought he would at this time,” Ferry said. “Man, he’s gone leaps and bounds from when we got him in the summer to what he’s able to do now.”

Jeremiah Jones said Ferry “recruited a lot of skill at the forward position.”

“They’re not primarily post players,” Jones said. “They can score on the perimeter as well as inside.”

In the backcourt, Ferry had to find a player to take pressure off of Colter. Last season, he was one of the only players who could handle the ball well, and because of that, was expected to be a primary playmaker.

Ferry found help in Tra’Vaughn White, a 5-foot-10 junior guard who led the nation in scoring last season at Independence Community College. Averaging 25.9 points per game, White “can really score,” Ferry said, but is not selfish.

“For a kid that led the country in scoring, he’s not a hog,” Ferry said. “He’s not a ball hog. He’s not a pig. He really knows how to play. He’s got a great feel for the game.”

Getting the group of new players comfortable playing with each other could have been a difficult task, but Ferry made it easy by inviting the team over for barbeques to his house.

These Dukes are not anything like last year’s team that finished winless in conference play. They are a team with the capacity and talent to compete.