The Duquesne men’s and women’s basketball teams hosted a media day today at the Palumbo Center. Not a whole lot of information that’ll surprise you, but here are a few nuggets and thoughts from the event.
• Suzie McConnell-Serio did a lot for Duquesne, leading the Dukes to five consecutive 20-win seasons and a program-record 24 wins last season, but she never checked that last box -- earning the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament. That’s priority No. 1 for first-year head coach Dan Burt and the 2013-14 team. “Our expectation is the NCAA tournament — period,” Burt said, ending his opening statement.
• Burt knows he’s fortunate to be a first-year coach that’s taking over a solid, winning program instead of a one- or two-win wreck in need of rebuilding. “You’d better believe it,” he said with a laugh. The NCAA tournament dreams aren’t a stretch with this roster. Last week, the Dukes were projected to finish third in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason coaches’ poll.
• Senior forward Wumi Agunbiade, who Burt called “the best player in the conference, was named to the preseason all-conference first team, while senior forward Orsi Szecsi (“maybe the second-best player in the league”) was named to the second team. Burt felt sophomore April Robinson was snubbed by missing out on a preseason award. Agunbiade and Szecsi -- “The WO Show, as they like to be called,” Burt said -- are part of a senior class that is just 21 wins away from becoming the winningest class in program history
• With three new assistant coaches and all eyes on the NCAA tournament, Burt has ramped up weight-room and practice efforts. What does that look like? “We run,” senior guard Raegan Moore said, grinning. “And we run,” Szecsi added in stride.
• Burt singled out Moore as someone who really surprised him this summer by buying in 100 percent. He said she'll be the biggest surprise to folks this fall.
• Don’t expect any drop-off with this team this fall, especially with this four-piece senior class back to add experience and continuity. Burt’s putting a lot of responsibility on them, and there’s no one better equipped to handle that pressure than Agunbiade and Szecsi.
[AFTER THE CLICK: MBB ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS, SCRIMMAGE RESULT]
• Not much news this week, since I just spoke with Jim Ferry a few days ago. No update on the eligibility of Micah Mason or Jordan Robinson. As far as an injury report, Isaiah Watkins is still out, recovering from a leg surgery (above the knee) and re-scope a few weeks ago. The bigger news is that Tra’Vaughn White is in a boot with a high ankle sprain and missed the last week of practice.
• So, depth is non-existent (for now). “A month ago, we had [all the names] up on the board,” Ferry said, “and we said, ‘Geez, where are we going to find minutes for everybody?’ ” … but … “Now, it’s like, ‘Where are we going to find guys to play the minutes?’ ”
• The secret scrimmage vs. Miami (Ohio) on Saturday may or may have happened. You’ll never know. But Ferry was willing to offer a few details, the most telling of which was that Duquesne had just six players. “There was a lot of good, a lot of bad,” Ferry said. “It was hard to tell because we didn’t have enough guys so we weren’t able to play different lineups.” Ovie Soko “was a monster … he had a lot of points and a lot of rebounds -- if I’m allowed to say that.” Dukes reviewed the tape Monday and got back to work. “You get to that point where you’re just tired of playing against each other, so we needed to play somebody else,” Ferry said. “But, again, with only having six guys who could play we didn’t get out of it what we needed to get out of it.” He said the team did get their 80 points with the six players.
• Mason is a threat. We’ll see if he’ll be allowed to play this year, but the Drake transfer has been impressing in practice. Ferry said there are some days that Mason doesn’t miss a single shot. CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein watched practice on Monday and came away with the same thought.
Duquesne's wild card ---- Drake transfer Micah Mason. Dukes still awaiting word on waiver from NCAA. LIGHTS OUT SHOOTER. Drills shots.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
• Ferry said practices involve a lot of teaching, at this point. That’ll pick up as the team continues to jell. He said there are some days it looks like they’re playing with a football out there -- looking at the number of turnovers.
• Ferry wouldn’t settle on a starting five, but he gave three names: Derrick Colter, Jeremiah Jones and Soko. There are a few different ways he could fill the last few spots, bringing in White to go with two small guards (“Catch us if you can!”), one being a prolific scorer. Tough to come away with a strong competition for the starting lineup when folks are injured.
• Asked if anyone has surprised him this fall, Ferry had a few names. “Tra’Vaughn has lived up to what he is. I wasn’t surprised, but I’m happy.” Desmond Ridenour “has had days where he’s been spectacular, but when we had the scrimmage the other day he looked like a freshman again.” Darius Lewis “has really made better strides than I’d thought he would … leaps and bounds better.” Wanted to redshirt Lewis, but the lack of depth might make that a non-option.
Remember the name Darius Lewis. Freshman big man is RAW but has a chance. All of 7-feet and 260 pounds. Could turn into something in time.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
• Here are the rest of Rothstein’s thoughts from practice:
Would expect Ovie Soko to be a borderline All Atlantic 10 player. UAB transfer will have a major impact for Duquesne. Double-double guy.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
Early prediction on Duquesne starting five --- Derrick Colter, Tra'Vaughn White, Jerry Jones, Dominique McKoy, Ovie Soko....— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
(The surprise there is that Ferry had just said Jeremiah Jones is penciled in as a starter.)
Tra'Vaughn White is a shooting guard trapped in a 5-10 frame -- but he gets buckets at will. Volume scorer. Should lead Duquesne in scoring.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
Everything in Duquesne practice being done with an emphasis on pace. Jim Ferry trying to regain the style he used at LIU.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013
Not expecting Duquesne to leave the bottom 3rd of the A 10 this year, but Dukes are good enough to pick some people off. Improved depth.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 28, 2013