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Duquesne guard Colter making most of final season |

Duquesne guard Colter making most of final season

The Associated Press
| Friday, February 5, 2016 9:51 p.m
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Derrick Colter drives to the basket past South Carolina State's Ty Solomon during the second half Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, at Palumbo Center.

Derrick Colter returned from winter break sporting a newly inked, matched set of tattoos. The one on his right arm reads, “No Worries.” His left arm proclaims, “Go Get It.”

“Those are my two motivations,” Duquesne’s senior guard said. “I got nothing to worry about. Anything I want, I’ll go get it. And I make sure. Because it’s all in your heart and mind.”

Both have been severely tested since Colter arrived in 2012. He lost a brother and fought off cancer. He graduated in fewer than four years and tattooed his name into Duquesne basketball history.

Colter was a freshman as new coach Jim Ferry was starting a massive rebuilding job. Ferry admits he thought Colter might not play much once the situation improved. Instead, he “wouldn’t let anybody pass him by,” Ferry said.

Starting every game over four seasons, Colter is 48 points shy of Duquesne’s career top 10 and ranks fourth all-time in assists.

As an example of sheer will and what can be achieved, he might be No. 1.

“He’s one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever been around in my life,” Ferry said. “Ever.”

This season, Colter and the Dukes recovered from a choppy stretch in late December and early January when Jeremiah Jones, a solid, veteran swingman, suffered a season-ending knee injury and guard Micah Mason, the other piece of an indispensable backcourt tandem — Colter’s “partner in crime,” Ferry called him — missed a game and subsequently was slowed by sprained ankle.

Winners of three straight, the Dukes are 15-7 (5-4 Atlantic 10) heading into Saturday’s home game against Davidson, well within range of the first winning record in Ferry’s four seasons. Colter, averaging a team-best 18.1 points along with four assists, is the reigning A-10 Player of the Week after helping Duquesne beat La Salle and Saint Louis.

The La Salle game was the first after the team bus was stranded for 22 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike during a snowstorm, and the players had no rhythm, or legs, in the first half. Colter said it felt “like playing in quicksand.”

During the bus ordeal, which drew national attention, Ferry referenced the resolve of Colter and assistant John Rhodes, who also successfully battled cancer, in terms of being able to handle anything.

“You can drop (Colter) in the middle of anywhere, and he’s going to survive,” Ferry said. “Just to watch his growth from a kid to a man, and the mark he’s left on this university and the program and me as a person, he’s really a special human being.”

Colter grew up in Maryland near Washington, the youngest of four brothers. One, Maurice, played in junior college and at Washburn (Kan.).

“They used to punk me on the court, push me around, beat me up,” Colter said. “But it made me stronger. When I play with bigger guys, I’m used to all the contact.”

He starred at Largo High School, but major-college programs had academic concerns and shied away. His size didn’t help. Colter is listed at 5-foot-11, but Ferry laughed at that and said, “DC’s about 5-9.” But, as now, he was strong and tough on and off the court. Ferry recruited Colter while coaching at LIU Brooklyn, then realized he needed him at Duquesne and extended an invitation to join him.

“It was really bad,” Ferry said of first impressions of his new squad. “No one could really dribble the ball.”

Colter went on to score the fourth-most points of any Duquesne freshman and made the A-10 All-Rookie team.

But during that season, Colter’s oldest brother, JJ, who had cerebral palsy, died at age 33. Ferry said Colter returned from the funeral and insisted on playing that night against Robert Morris. Showing up late, he had 16 points and six assists. The Dukes, headed to an 8-22 record, still lost by 22.

In April 2014, after his sophomore season, Colter was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The first of 20 radiation treatments was May 1. By September doctors said he was cancer-free. Early practices were exhausting, but Ferry preached patience, “and after awhile it came back to me,” Colter said.

Meanwhile, Colter dug into his classes, attending summer school each year, and graduated in December with a degree in criminal justice.

“I know Derrick. He’s one of those kids where you’re not beating him,” Rhodes said. “At anything.”

Colter said his experiences “made me a better man.” And “made me stronger every day,” he said. “Every day I wake up and say, ‘Thank you. I’m blessed.’ I say a prayer, thank God every day, and I get on with my day. Happy day. Nothing fazes me now.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

Categories: Duquesne
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