Duquesne coach Jim Ferry pleased with influx of talent this season
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For Jim Ferry, the mandate is simple.
Build Duquesne to where it can one day enter Pittsburgh's sporting consciousness alongside the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers.
“If we can get this going it's going to explode,” Ferry said during Tuesday's Atlantic 10 men's basketball media day at the Barclays Center.
“Pittsburgh is a great sports city when they get behind it. It's funny because the Steelers are struggling right now and they're killing the Steelers, but everybody's coming behind the Bucs right now. Hockey's starting, so you have all three teams playing at once.
It's a great city. It's a great sports town.”
But in order to join the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers, the Dukes must win, something they haven't done much in recent years,
Last year, the Dukes were 8-22 overall, including a 1-15 mark in conference play. Duquesne has not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 1977. The Dukes last reached the NIT in 2009, and their last national postseason tournament appearance was the 2011 CBI.
The drought is expected to continue in 2014, as Duquesne is predicted to finish 13th in the league this season in a preseason poll voted on by a panel of conference coaches and journalists.
While the program would welcome a postseason tournament appearance, Ferry said he believes the 2013-14 season will be one in which the foundation is laid for future campaigns.
To that end, only three players return from the 2012-13 squad, sophomore point guard Derrick Colter, sophomore forward Jeremiah Jones and senior forward Jerry Jones.
“We had to rebuild the program,” Ferry said. “We had to start from scratch. Those three guys at least understand what we're trying to do because they have a year of understanding the philosophy — hearing the words and going through the drills.
“So. they absolutely do help. But, basically, the approach has been to start from scratch. This is Year One of us being here with everybody.”
“Everybody” stands for the nine players that make up Ferry's first recruiting class as Duquesne's coach.
Eight will be part of the 2013-14 team, while guard Micah Mason, a transfer from Drake, will be eligible in 2014-15.
As a freshman, Mason led the Missouri Valley Conference in overall three-point shooting percentage (50.6 percent) and in conference games (47.1 percent).
“We are significantly more talented, a little more depth. We can pass, we can dribble, we can shoot,” Ferry said. “We were significantly less talented last year.”
An advocate of up-tempo basketball throughout his coaching career, Ferry vows the Dukes will push the ball this season.
“It's the way I know,” Ferry said. “It's the way I've had success. I'm not going to change that.
“I think if we can hit eighty points a game we can win a lot of games. There are a lot of teams out there that can't score.”
Ferry said he believes Duquesne can win its share of games by scoring 76 to 78 points.
“The challenging part of that is can you build a team that can do that? That's what we're in the process of trying to do right now.”
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.