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Duquesne's depth uncertain with new season on horizon

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Ovie Soko (right) answers a question next to Jeremiah Jones during media day Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Palumbo Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne men's basketball coach Jim Ferry answers a question during media day Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at A.J. Palumbo Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne men's basketball coach Jim Ferry answers a question during media day Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at A.J. Palumbo Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne women's basketball coach Dan Burt answers a question during media day Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at A.J. Palumbo Center.

Along with workouts at Palumbo Center, Duquesne basketball coach Jim Ferry has added some less traditional team activities — like cookouts at his house.

When you've got nine new scholarship players, why not bond over barbecue?

“I think that's the most important part when you're bringing in a lot of new guys,” Ferry said Monday at the Dukes' media day. “Is everybody really getting to know each other?”

Only three scholarship players return from last season's roster that finished 1-15 in the Atlantic 10 (8-22 overall). Sophomore point guard Derrick Colter (13.8 ppg), sophomore forward Jeremiah Jones (7.9) and senior forward Jerry Jones (6.2) are the only holdovers.

Joining them are eight newcomers and senior forward Ovie Soko, who sat out last season after transferring from UAB.

“The biggest thing is really blending together to be an unselfish group,” said Ferry, who starts his second season at Duquesne. “That's something we've probably talked about more than putting the ball in the basket.”

The incoming players address a couple key weaknesses: ball-handling and front-court scoring. But with two newcomers injured (Tra'Vaughn White, Isaiah Watkins) and two others awaiting eligibility (Micah Mason, Jordan Robinson), the Dukes have been somewhat shorthanded. The team used only six players when it scrimmaged.

The Duquesne coaches like this incoming class, so they're eager to see the recruits on the court together.

Watkins, a highly touted 6-7 freshman forward, has been sidelined since summer leg surgery.

The injury, just above the knee, required another surgery this month. White, who led junior college scorers last season, has a high-ankle sprain.

“It's been a little frustrating,” Ferry said. “About a month ago (we're) saying, Where are we going to find minutes for everybody? Now it's like, Where are we going to find guys to play minutes?”

The team hosts Clarion in an exhibition at 1 p.m. Saturday. The season starts Nov. 9 against Abilene Christian at Palumbo Center.

Duquesne has requested an NCAA eligibility waiver for Mason, a Drake transfer who graduated from Highlands. Mason, a sophomore guard, was diagnosed in high school with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. After his freshman season at Drake, the condition led Mason to move closer to home.

“To me, especially seeing all these other kids get these waivers, it looks pretty simple,” Ferry said. “This is a significant illness that he has and it's a significant hardship for him.”

The team also is awaiting an NCAA decision on Robinson, a 6-8 freshman forward from Toronto. Robinson, who attended Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, has not yet been made eligible.

“If we can get everybody healthy and everybody cleared, we'll have some depth this year that we lacked,” Ferry said, “(and) we are significantly more talented.”

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