Like most teams around the country, Duquesne's began basketball practice Friday, which means the Jim Ferry era is officially under way.
While Ferry is excited to get started, he knows there is some rebuilding to be done because the Dukes return only two starters and three players with significant experience.
That's why this month preseason practice is more significant to the Dukes than most other teams as Ferry looks to implement his system and develop a player rotation.
"Even though this is an exciting time for us and the first day of practice is always special because it is a new year, we have to make sure we aren't in a rush in anything we do," Ferry said. "We have to establish the foundation of a program and really make sure we establish what our philosophy is and those things, we as a staff and as a program, hold as important.
"I really feel like we are starting from scratch, and so we have to focus on the one goal we have and that is to get better every day. We can't look down the road past the next practice, we just have to get better, but this thing won't happen overnight."
Ferry said his top priorities are implementing his systems, which are different than those of former coach Ron Everhart, especially on defense.
The Dukes will play a more conservative defense, more man-to-man while focusing more on protecting the rim. Everhart's style of defense focused on steals and transition baskets.
Ferry said it is a big change in philosophy for the returning players and cautions that the transition likely will take some time.
"We have a 'protect' mentality, it focuses on keeping people from getting to the rim, on blocking out and getting rebounds," Ferry said. "Last year, they would extend out to try and get steals a lot, but, when they didn't get them, they gave up layups and offensive rebounds. They were outrebounded by about eight a game because their priorities were elsewhere, whereas we want to be one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.
"So it is much different, and everyone will be starting from square one and since I am new I don't owe anyone anything other than opportunity to compete and the guys who buy into our philosophy quickly will get the upper hand in terms of being in the lineup and whatnot."
Although the Dukes are not going to be an experienced team, Ferry said he will lean on the returning starters, junior guard Sean Johnson (13.5 ppg) and senior forward Andre Marhold (5.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg) because they have extensive game experience.
Johnson should be one of the leading scorers in the Atlantic 10 this year -- especially in Ferry's uptempo offense -- and he is excited because he believes the Dukes will be a much better team than they are predicted to be.
He said Ferry's philosophies have been well received by the veterans, even though they are different than Everhart's, because Ferry has a track record of success.
"These practices will be very important to us because we have to get on board with the new coaches and learn what they want to try to do," Johnson said. "I am trying to get on board with the coaches quickly so I can help the freshmen, but I am definitely going to learn as much as the other guys on some days, even though I've played a lot the last three years.
"But we have a lot of confidence in this coaching staff, I really like [Ferry's] intensity, I like the style he brings and I know we can be a really good team this year."
Duquesne, 16-15 last year and 7-9 in the A-10, will begin its exhibition season Nov. 1 vs. Carnegie Mellon.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @paulzeise.