Happy holidays, Ron Everhart -- put a check mark next to the paramount item on your Duquesne men's basketball team's wish list.
Some time off.
After a grinding month in which it seemed as if the Dukes (9-4) were playing just about every other day, Everhart's team now hits a stretch where, counting the win Tuesday at home against Saint Francis (Pa.), a Dec. 30 trip to Old Dominion and the Atlantic 10 conference opener at home Jan. 6 against Richmond, the Dukes will have only three games in 16 days.
What an escape that is from the past few weeks when Duquesne played 10 games between Nov. 23 and Dec. 19, never having more than three days off between contests.
Everhart's immediate plans were for his team to totally shut it down for a few days. He knew precisely what he was going to do with his time yesterday and today -- and it involved a plot of land in Taylor County, W.Va.
"I am going to my brother-in-law's farm down in West Virginia, and I am going deer hunting for two days and I can't wait," Everhart said Tuesday night. "I am bringing my little boy [son Ronnie] with me ... and it will be the only opportunity I will have all year."
When the two Everharts drive back north from West Virginia -- regardless of whether either one got a deer -- Ron Everhart will look back on the first 13 games of this basketball season as a time in which he has had to squeeze in practice time whenever he could because of how many games his team played in a small window.
To be fair, the scheduling was done by choice -- including playing three games in three days in a tournament in North Carolina -- but it offered some moments that seemed more like an AAU tournament than a structured college basketball program.
"We have had to do some things on the fly," Everhart said. "And I think from a game standpoint, and having to coach guys on the fly, it is tough. We've had to draw up plays on the fly, which we've never had to do ... like in the middle of the Robert Morris game in the second half, and we never had to do that before."
All that said, the Dukes shot to a 5-0 start, have absorbed the loss of one of their top players (guard Melquan Bolding to a wrist injury), won two of three overtime games, went on the road and beat a Big Ten team (Iowa) while they had a Big East team (Pitt) down big in the second half before letting it slip away.
All lessons learned as the season steers into the Old Dominion game, the final one of the non-conference variety.
"It has been an interesting preseason," Everhart said. "There have been a lot of games that we've won that we've walked in the locker room and felt like we've lost. And I don't have any rhyme or reason for why I say that, but I just don't think there have been games that we've played where we've executed real well. But, we found a way to win.
"We are probably where we want to be. I don't know that we like how we got there, but we're there."
Colin Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459.