Duquesne's Jones accepts major defensive role

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Freshman Jeremiah Jones is one of Duquesne's best defenders and often finds himself guarding the opponent's best player, particularly in the second half and down the stretch.

Jones has been so good, so consistent as a defensive stopper that he often has drawn praise from Duquesne coach Jim Ferry for shutting down an opponent in crucial stages of victories.

Jones has quick hands and feet and considerable athleticism, so he is somewhat of a natural defender. But he doesn't believe there is much more to being a great defender than just desire.

"I wouldn't say there is a skill to it or a technique," Jones said. "It is more about having the intensity and working hard and being aggressive -- you have to want to stop the other guy more than he wants to score."

Defense isn't fun to play nor is it glamorous, but it is a critical part of winning games. That's why Jones, a 6-foot-3 guard, takes so much pride in it. He believes that if he does his job and teammates do theirs, the Dukes have an opportunity to win every game.

"Honestly, to be a great defender, you have to be extremely competitive and want to win," Jones said. "And, if you aren't competitive and don't want to win, you shouldn't even be playing basketball. It is about wanting to push yourself.

"I have always been very competitive. I hate to lose and, in this case, I hate when my guy scores; it is like losing. That bothers me, I don't like to give up even a bucket. But, again, it is really just about playing hard."

Ferry has brought a defensive approach to Duquesne's program, and the players are being asked to guard much differently and harder than they were accustomed.

Some games, that defense has been sharp; others, like the Dukes' 82-75 loss Wednesday against Fordham, it has been shaky at best.

Jones said there were too many breakdowns against Fordham, and that largely relates to why he doesn't view himself as a defensive stopper.

"Giving up 82 points is frustrating, but even more so because we lost," Jones said. "It is too much even if you win, but you can handle it a little better than when you lose. But we are still learning as a team and we are still trying to become a great defensive team and we will.

"The atmosphere at practice has been very competitive, and it shows at times when we really go after it on defense. Now, we need to do it all the time.

"But it has to be a team thing -- I am only doing the best I can within the context of our team defense and any success I may have is team success."

Duquesne (7-8, 0-1 Atlantic 10) will play host to Saint Joseph's (8-5, 0-1) tonight at Palumbo Center in their conference home opener. The Hawks were picked to win the conference, but they have not played as well as expected.

Jones said winning home conference games is important, and, in this case, the Dukes will have to play great defense to get it done.

"St. Joe's is very good, they will really challenge us, but it is a big deal for us to win games at home," Jones said.

"We really need to play to our principles and defend and rebound and, if we do that, it allows is to get out in transition, and that really opens things up for us on offense."

NOTE -- Duquesne sophomore guard PJ Torres has asked for his release and will transfer. Torres, who is from New Rochelle, N.Y., averaged 2.8 ppg in 12 games this season.

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com and Twitter @paulzeise.


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