Overall Rank: #77
Conference Rank: #6 A-10
2006-07: 10-19, 6-10, 10th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Last offseason Duquesne was dealing with a shooting tragedy. And while it will take more than just a year to get over the events, the Dukes are ready to play some basketball and quality basketball at that. Last year was a transition period while learning the running and pressing style of play employed by Coach Ron Everhart. The Dukes had 11 players average over ten minutes per game, but still Duquesne wore down late in the season. With nine of those players returning, a year of experience in the system and a group of talented newcomers headed to Pittsburgh, wearing down at the end of the year will not be a concern. However, integrating the style of play with the newcomers, it is unlikely Duquesne will run as much this year.
Scott Grote and Almamy Thiero were the only departures from the squad, until Robert Mitchell opted to transfer. Grote, who is transferring to Wright State, ranked fourth on the team with 9.9 points per game. The wing was a decent outside shooter, but was also the perimeter player who would get to the basket the most. Thierro only played in 15 games, but when he did play he was an effective rebounder. Mitchell earned A-10 Rookie of the Year accolades after averaging 16.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a freshman. The 6-6 forward spent most of last season at the power forward spot, but would have likely moved to the starting three spot during the 2007-2008 campaign. Mitchell was the most prolific and consistent shooter from beyond the arc last season and his absence will be felt for a long time.
What the Dukes lacked last season was rebounding. Shawn James, a transfer from Northeastern will certainly try his best to fix that. The 6-10 James averaged 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.5 blocks two years ago with the Huskies. The competition level is up from the America East, but James will make a huge impact on this team on both sides of the floor. Stuard Baldonado and Ricky Jackson have the size and experience to help bolster the rebounding numbers. Baldonado, a transfer from Miami Dade College, missed last season, but is expected to play a big role up front this year. Ricky Jackson had a brief stop over at Cloud County Community College in Kansas where he averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. David Theis and walk-on Brandon Harris will add depth where the Dukes have not had depth in quite some time. The newcomers on the perimeter are led by Kojo Mensah. The transfer from Siena averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Saints during the 2005-2006 campaign. Besides the gaudy numbers, Mensah is a terrific defender and will thrive in the high pressure defensive schemes. Walk-on Lucas Newton will provide emergency depth at the point and Bill Clark is expected to develop into a solid scoring option on the wing. (Ed. Note: Duquesne also added Damian Saunders, a 6-7 forward out of Notre Dame Prep, after this preview went online).
Who to Watch:
Aaron Jackson did a fine job running the point last year, but the combo guard will likely spend most of his time on the wing this season with the addition of Mensah. Jackson is not the most consistent outside shooter around, but he can hit the long ball. After averaging 11.0 points per game last season, Jackson is expected to increase those numbers since he does not have to concentrate on the point guard position. Reggie Jackson, Gary Tucker, Phillip Fayne and Stephen Wood all started at least 11 games on the perimeter last year and bring a wealth of depth, experience and versatility to the perimeter.
Kieron Achara will do a little position changing and will slide down to the power forward spot with the addition of center James. Achara averaged 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds, but it his defensive presence that will have coaches in the A-10 reworking their game plans. Luckily for the Dukes, they had some depth and the absence of Robert Mitchell will not hurt as much as it could have, but it still hurts quite a bit.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kojo Mensah, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Phillip Fayne, Junior, Guard, 5.4 points per game
Aaron Jackson, Junior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Kieron Achara, Senior, Forward, 15.8 points per game
Shawn James, Junior, Center, DNP last season