Senior guard Johnson finds himself in a new role for Duquesne

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Sean Johnson has three games left in his college career, and given how bad Duquesne has been this season, it would be easy for him to pack it in and get on with his life.

That's especially true considering Johnson entered the season as the Dukes' most experienced player, as well as one of the leading returning scorers in the Atlantic 10, yet will likely finish his career in a reserve role.

Simply put, Johnson was a player caught in the middle of a coaching change -- a senior who played almost his entire career for the coach who recruited him, Ron Everhart -- who had to step aside to make room for younger players recruited and considered the future by first-year coach Jim Ferry.

Ferry decided to get the younger players experience in early February when it was clear the Dukes were not going anywhere this season. That meant less time -- and less scoring -- for Johnson, who was moved out of the starting lineup to make room for freshman Quevyn Winters.

Johnson, who started the first 22 games and played 25 minutes or more in 16 of those games, has not started since Feb. 6 and has played more than 20 minutes only twice in the past six games.

His scoring average is down from 14.2 points a game to 11.4, and five of the past six games he scored fewer than 10 points -- including a scoreless outing Feb 16 in a loss to Rhode Island.

That's not exactly how a 1,200-point scorer who ranks fourth on Duquesne's list for career games played (120) envisioned the final five weeks of his career, but that is the reality of his season.

But to Johnson's credit, he has not become a malcontent and he does not blame Ferry or the coaching change. He blames himself, he said, because as the team leader it was up to him to help the Dukes win more games.

"Obviously things have not gone the way I wanted them to my senior year," Johnson said. "I really thought we would win a lot of games. We have more talent than our record shows and our team is tough and we still go into every game believing we are going to win.

"But we had some opportunities to win some games earlier in the season, so we just need to keep fighting, get these next three and try to finish on a positive. But I can't change things now and it is my role to help these younger guys get ready and do what I can do to help the team win."

Scouting report

  • Matchup:

    Duquesne (8-19, 1-12 Atlantic 10) vs. La Salle (19-7, 9-4), 2 p.m. today, Tom Gola Arena, Philadelphia.

  • Radio:

    WPGB-FM (104.7).

  • Duquesne:

    Has lost 14 of past 15 games and three in a row. ... Is 2-11 in games played on the road or a neutral court. ... Has started three freshmen in each of the past five games, a trio that has accounted for 55 percent of the offensive production. ... Beat Temple, 84-83, Feb. 14 in most recent trip to Philadelphia.

  • La Salle:

    Fighting for a top-four seed in the conference tournament. ... Leading scorer is G Ramon Galloway (17.2 ppg) and leading rebounder is F Jerrell Wright (6.6 rpg). ... Is 11-2 at home. ... Has won three of the past four against Duquesne. ... Leads series, 37-30, and is 22-10 against Duquesne in Philadelphia.

  • Hidden stat:

    La Salle is winning games by an average of 7 points; Duquesne is losing games by an average of 6.7 points.

Johnson's attitude is a breath of fresh air.

That he has not complained or developed a bad attitude is important to him, because he wants to make sure he is a good role model to the underclassmen and, in particular, the three freshmen starters -- Winters, Derrick Colter and Jeremiah Jones.

"I think that I can teach the younger players the right way to handle things when they don't go your way," Johnson said. "Everyone goes through adversity. It hits us all and it has hit our team, and how you handle it really is important. You have to keep working hard, keep a positive attitude and, for the most part, I have done that.

"I feel like that is my job now -- just help those young guys get better. And again, we still have three games to play and I want to win them all and feel like we can win them all."

That closing stretch for the Dukes (8-19, 1-12) starts today against La Salle (19-7, 9-4) at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia.

Duquesne then faces Charlotte Wednesday at Palumbo Center -- the final home game for Johnson and fellow senior Andre Marhold. The Dukes finish with Richmond March 9.

Johnson, who is from Queens, N.Y., and played at Christ the King High School, said it is important for the Dukes to build some momentum for next season and beyond -- a future he thinks is bright because of the foundation laid this year.

"We have three freshmen starting and playing a lot of minutes and a lot of young guys getting a lot of minutes," said Johnson, who hopes to continue playing overseas after he graduates. "That is only going to make these guys that much better for next year, and I think we have a lot of good young players who are only going to get better, so I expect them to be very good next year."

NOTE -- Duquesne received a verbal commitment from Jordan Robinson, a 6-foot-8 center who plays for Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C., but lives in Toronto. Robinson is rated a three-star recruit by and ESPN recruiting services. He is the No. 4-ranked Canadian recruit in the class of 2013 and is listed as the 20th-best center prospect. He chose the Dukes over offers from Charlotte and Hofstra but also had interest from Minnesota and Xavier.

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Paul Zeise: and Twitter @paulzeise.


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