Duquesne men’s basketball preview: Minus Soko, Dukes seek balance
With Ovie Soko back in Europe, Duquesne’s offense will certainly look and sound much different this season than last.
At times last winter, Soko was the Dukes’ offense.
Now that the 6-foot-8 forward from London has graduated, the Dukes want less reliance on one go-to scorer and more on a fast-paced, transition attack coach Jim Ferry prefers but Soko’s workload didn’t always allow.
“It’s going be a little bit different from what you’ve seen,” said Ferry, who starts his third season at Duquesne. “You’re going to start to see how fast and how aggressively we want to play.”
Teammates turned often to Soko, who averaged a team-best 18.4 points with more than a third of his points at the foul line (195 of 551). Now playing professionally in France, Soko was the face and voice of his team.
Without him, the Dukes must share his scoring and leadership responsibilities.
“You come in and watch us practice, you say: ‘Wow, it’s a group that has really bought into each other, it’s a group that really shares the ball,’” Ferry said. “But who is the one leader? I don’t think there’s going to be one leader this year. … It’s going to be more of a team approach.”
Four starters return from last season’s lineup that beat a top-10 team, finished 10th in the conference and lost in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The Dukes are picked to finish 11th this season in the A-10 preseason poll, ahead of only three teams in the 14-team league. No player earned first-, second- or third-team preseason honors.
“We know not many people respect us, but that’s fine,” junior forward Jeremiah Jones said. “We’ve had two losing seasons. We’re going to come in this year and earn our respect.”
Along with Jones (6.3 ppg), the Dukes return junior Micah Mason (10.6 ppg), senior Dominique McKoy (9.7 ppg) and junior Derrick Colter (9.1 ppg) from last season’s starting five. For the first time, every player under scholarship was picked by Ferry.
“To finally have guys who’ve been here for two years, that’s huge,” Ferry said. “We’re starting to build the program right now. We have finally laid a foundation.”
Mason led the nation in 3-point shooting accuracy last season. The junior made 56 percent from the arc (65 of 116), best by a Division I shooter in 22 years. This season, Mason will transition to point guard, freeing up Colter from primary ball-handling duties. The undersized Colter was the team’s top scorer as a freshman at 13.4 points.
Sophomore forward L.G. Gill (6-7, 210) and freshman Jordan Robinson (6-8, 250) join the frontcourt. Robinson, who sat out last season while ineligible, could start over McKoy.
As a freshman, Gill scored 57 of his 105 points in his final nine games, late-season momentum he carried into the offseason.
Transfer Rene Castro (Butler) and Mar’Qywell Jackson (UTEP) are unavailable until next season, but the bench has some depth. Along with sophomores Desmond Ridenour and Darius Lewis are freshmen TySean Powell (6-6, 215) and Eric James (6-5, 205), and junior transfer Jordan Stevens (6-0, 190), a 19-point scorer at Southeastern Community College.
“We were talented last year, but didn’t have as many pieces as we have this year,” McKoy said. “We basically relied on Ovie to do a lot for us.”