Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
A mass departure of both graduating seniors and transferring underclassmen left the Duquesne men’s basketball program with a disheartening and gloomy vibe.
But on Tuesday head coach Jim Ferry announced the additions of Emile Blackman and Kale Abrahamson— the first two graduate transfers in the history of Duquesne basketball. Both Blackman and Abrahamson will have one year of eligibility remaining to don the Red & Blue.
“I think the guys that were already there have a chip on their shoulder as well as the guys coming in, so I think that will be good to help us go out and win,” Blackman said. “That was the biggest reason for my decision, but also the Atlantic 10 conference. The competition that you see night in and night out also had a lot to do with it.”
Blackman was the leading scorer for the Niagara Purple Eagles in both 2015 and 2016 and averaged 15.8 points per game last season while playing 33.4 minutes. He was originally recruited by Ferry to play at LIU-Brooklyn before Ferry left for Duquesne, so the two have a relationship that extends beyond this transfer process.
“Emile is an explosive athlete that we can play at multiple guard positions,” Ferry said, according to a press release. “He has the ability to score in a lot of different ways and will also help us on the defensive end. When you combine him with our returnees, we become significantly longer as well as more athletic.”
Abrahamson spent two years at Northwestern before playing for the Drake Bulldogs in 2015-16. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 11.1 points and shot 34 percent from behind the arc last season.
“Kale’s maturity, experience and offensive versatility are going to help us immediately,” Ferry said. “He is a very skilled perimeter player who will cause mismatch problems all over the floor.”
The scoring ability and leadership of these two guys along with Nebraska transfer Tarin Smith will be essential to creating a new core for this team to stabilize itself around.
“If you are a leader on the court as well as off the court, I think guys follow suit,” Blackman said. “And with me being a grad-year guy, I think guys will understand that I’ve been around for awhile, I know what I’m talking about and I know what I’m doing, so if I lead by example night in and night out I think that’s one of the best things I could bring.”
The Dukes said goodbye to a trio of talented seniors in 2015-16 in Derrick Colter, Jeremiah Jones and Micah Mason leaving a gaping hole that desperately needed to be filled.
Making matters worse, forward TySean Powell decided to leave the program and L.G. Gill decided to graduate early and become a grad transfer elsewhere.
Duquesne not only said goodbye to these players, but also to the 62.3 points, 21.9 rebounds and 14 assists that these five guys averaged per game a season ago. In other words, the Dukes waved farewell to a staggering 78 percent of their scoring, 55 percent of their rebounding and 75 percent of their assist totals.
“To me, that’s not really something that I look at and think like, ‘Oh gosh, we lost a lot of the scoring’ because I think the way that I would describe my game would just be that I get buckets, so that’s an opportunity if anything,” Blackman said.
Aside from the scoring, Blackman will also be poised to replace the highlight reel dunks that Duquesne fans have become accustomed to seeing over the past few years from Ovie Soko and TySean Powell. Blackman’s slams have been featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Basketball is in his blood as his uncle was long-time NBA great Mark Jackson who currently serves as a broadcast commentator for ESPN and ABC and is fourth all-time for assists in the NBA. Blackman said that their connection has helped him both on and off the basketball court.
“Him and I are two completely different players, like literally nothing about our games are similar, but the level he was at— I just want to get there,” Blackman said. “He was a professional and not only a professional, but a professional at the highest level. Him as a professional shaped me as a player and as a person. He is someone I want to model myself after.”
Blackman knows there is work left to be done, however, as he makes the adjustment into the A-10 and becomes a senior leader for this Duquesne squad.
“I have to become more productive with the ball in my hands other than just scoring,” Blackman said. “Last year, if you look at the numbers, you can see that I was either scoring or turning it over, so I’ve got to figure out how to cut down the turnover numbers.”
There is no doubt that the Dukes will be a much different looking team next season, but these two grad transfers should give Duquesne fans some hope for a brighter future in 2016-17.
“If you’re talking to me I am full of personality,” Blackman said. “There isn’t anybody I don’t want to talk to or anything I don’t want to talk about. I just want to come in and be a familiar, smiling face for everybody to get used to. And I am a winner too, so smiling faces come with wins usually, so hopefully I can bring both.”