Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
On Feb. 22, 2017, before a home contest versus conference foe Fordham, Duquesne retired No. 13 in honor of men’s basketball great Mike James, who scored 1,411 points in 111 games as a Duquesne Duke from 1994-1998. James’ 1,411 point total is good for 10th all-time at Duquesne, and in the guard’s final three years on the Bluff, James led the Dukes in assists and steals. James was named an All-Atlantic 10 Pick as a senior in 1998, and was inducted into the Merle E. Gilliand Duquesne University Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
James snagged a spot on an NBA roster in 2001 when the Miami Heat signed him as a free agent, and he would go on to play in the Association until 2014. The DU alumnus even won a NBA championship ring in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.
Therefore, James was a worthy selection for jersey retirement by Duquesne, which has also retired the numbers of Chuck Cooper (No. 15), Sihugo Green (11), Norm Nixon (10), Dick Ricketts (12) and Willie Somerset (24). However, the end of James’ career in 2014 also marked the end of former Duquesne players in the NBA — and, if you didn’t know any better, you may have thought that the NBA was about to see a lengthy stretch without any former Dukes in the league.
Nevertheless, T.J. McConnell — a Duquesne guard from 2010-2012 before bolting as a transfer for Arizona prior to his junior year — signed as an undrafted free agent with the lowly Philadelphia 76ers in 2015. McConnell remained on the Sixers’ roster throughout his rookie season, eventually earning two votes for a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team following the season.
Still, it felt like it would be a while before any former Duquesne player played meaningful basketball in the NBA.
Three years later, McConnell has solidified himself as a legitimate ball handler behind probable Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, and 2009 DU graduate and EuroLeague star Aaron Jackson has joined the Houston Rockets just in time for a lengthy postseason run.
Oh, and speaking of meaningful basketball, the Sixers topped Miami in five games on April 24, and Houston secured a Game 5 win against Minnesota to advance to the West semis on April 25.
Who would have guessed?