Future bright for Duquesne men’s basketball

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

Julian Routh | News Editor

There was a moment in Saturday’s exhibition win over Clarion that said a lot about the type of season the Duquesne men’s basketball team is going to have.

With 14:09 left in the second half, when the Dukes were already miles ahead of the Golden Eagles, Derrick Colter lobbed the ball off of the backboard on the fast break to Ovie Soko, who slammed it down with authority.

“It was fun,” Soko said with a smile on his face. “I feel like that just sums up how we want to play. We want to push it fast and enjoy ourselves all at once. I feel like that’s important – having fun while you’re playing.”

It was not only the Bluff version of “Lob City,” but a passing of the torch of sorts.

With eight new scholarship players on the roster, it was interesting to watch the dynamic between the two returning starters, Colter and Jeremiah Jones, and the fresh faces like Soko. En route to their first 100-point game in nearly two years, the Dukes, old and new, played as one.

“I thought guys were there for each other,” coach Jim Ferry said.“It was pretty unselfish.”
Unselfish they were, recording 19 assists, something they did only three times last year. In those three games, the Dukes outscored their opponents 265-247.

And even more impressive was Derrick Colter, who was responsible for nine of those assists himself. Last season, Colter averaged 5.2 assists per game, indicative of the limited number of options on the offensive end.

Now he has those options, and his unselfishness paved the way for everyone to get involved in the scoring. It was obvious that Jones and Colter were going to put up their normal numbers, but it was less likely that Soko and fellow newcomers Dominique McCoy and Desmond Ridenour were going to score in double digits.

They did, though, and it resulted in quite a team effort.

“Everyone really enjoys playing with each other and I think it shows quite a bit,” Soko said.

It is necessary to acknowledge that yes, it was in an exhibition game, and yes, it was against Clarion, a much smaller and less talented squad.

But a team can learn a lot from the year’s first competitive outing, and Duquesne better have taken note.

First, the equation for effective play this year is simple: if the team spreads the ball around, their chances of winning are significantly higher. There are strengths all over the court. The frontcourt is a lot stronger and more versatile than last year’s, and in the backcourt, Colter is no longer the only playmaker. Ridenour and transfer Tra-Vaughn White are explosive scorers and great ball-handlers.

Second, don’t let the preseason ranking determine the outcome. Not for one second on Saturday did anyone think that this is a team destined for last place in the Atlantic 10. They are young, but strong. Small, but quick. Soko has the tools to be one of the best players in the conference, and White and Colter could be the most exciting backcourt duo in years.

Third, take Soko’s words to heart and have fun. The energetic off-the-backboard slam dunk on Saturday was just the first of many, as the Dukes are built to bring crowds to their feet in the 2013-2014 season. Considering last year’s abomination and the 40-inch verticals some of these players tout, the only way the Dukes have to go this year is up.