Fresh faces boost Dukes’ depth on bench

Julian Routh | News Editor

It will take quite a lot of talent to fill the void left by Ovie Soko, who is now playing basketball in France.

But Soko’s graduation is no reason to panic, as four new scholarship players, two in the backcourt and two in the front, are poised to make a difference in the 2014-15 season.

Jordan Robinson, a 6-foot-8 forward with Soko’s build and versatility, will see his first live action after a full year of sitting out due to eligibility issues with the NCAA.

At the Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, Robinson averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as a senior, leading him to a first team all-conference nod. The freshman is an asset at the free throw line, where he shot 86 percent in prep school.

Coach Jim Ferry said he expects Robinson, a three-star recruit from Toronto, to split time with senior Dominique McCoy in the starting role.

In Duquesne basketball circles, Robinson’s name goes hand-in-hand with TySean Powell’s. Powell, a 6-foot-6 small forward, has been around Dukes before. He played alongside sophomore guard Desmond Ridenour for two seasons at Benedictine High School in Cleveland and attended IMG Academy in Florida, where sophomore center Darius Lewis played.

For the Dukes, Powell will see plenty of minutes, especially after catching Ferry’s eye in practice.

“We chalk rebounds every day in practice and keep an accumulative list throughout the season, and [Powell] has been our leading rebounder as a freshman,” Ferry said. “He has been, at times, one of our best forwards with his athleticism, his quickness and his ability to pass the ball and play off the bounce.”

Junior forward Jeremiah Jones said having players like Robinson and Powell gives Duquesne more depth at the forward position.

“I know [Robinson and Powell] don’t have the experience, but they are talented young kids,” Jones said. “I think they can come in and help us on the inside.”

In the backcourt, three-star recruit Eric James out of Westerville, Ohio will be a key contributor on the wing. As a senior, he led Westerville Central High School to its first ever Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division title, averaging 18.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

From what he’s observed in practice, Ferry said James has a great basketball IQ, but needs to be more consistent.

“James has the ability to do some things the wings we’ve had in the past haven’t been able to do because of his length, shooting and athleticism,” Ferry said.

Duquesne’s last recruit of the class, 6-foot junior guard Jordan Stevens, is a persistent scorer who can relieve juniors Micah Mason and Derrick Colter down the stretch. Stevens, who transferred from Southeastern Community College in Iowa, racked up more than 19 points per game in each of his first two seasons at Southeastern.

Having more talent to choose from at each position is something to be excited about, according to Ferry.

“We have more depth, which will allow us to play faster on offense and play harder on defense,” Ferry said.

Looking to the future, Ferry recruited two guards this summer who will be eligible to play in the 2015-16 season. Sophomore Rene Castro, a highly touted transfer from Butler, will have three seasons of eligibility at Duquesne, and should make an immediate impact as a bigger point guard. Freshman guard Mar’Qwyell Jackson, who transferred to Duquesne after signing with the University of Texas at El Paso, put up more than 26 points per game in high school.

Non-scholarship freshmen Marshall Macheledt and David Haus are eligible to play this year, but are not expected to see many minutes.