Dukes, Ferry on trail to future

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The basketball offices at Duquesne resemble a ghost town these days for good reason -- coach Jim Ferry and his staff have been on the road recruiting every day since the season ended March 9.

It is familiar territory for Ferry, who spent every off day he had in this past season traveling to gyms and schools searching for players as he attempts to rebuild the program.

Ferry's 2012 recruiting class, his first at Duquesne, yielded models of the kinds of players he seeks: Derrick Colter, Quevyn Winters and Jeremiah Jones are hard-nosed kids used to winning. By the end of their freshman season they were the Dukes' three best players.

Those three provide a snapshot of the story of the 2012-13 season. The Dukes played hard almost every game but their inexperience often showed at inopportune times and their level of talent was not quite high enough.

The Dukes finished 8-22 overall, 1-15 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, were winless in conference home games and lost 17 of their final 18 games.

Ferry said this wasn't a surprise to him, nor was it a surprise to the rest of the coaches in the Atlantic 10 who picked the Dukes to finish last. That doesn't make losing any easier but it makes his offseason priorities clear -- recruit good players and improve the holdovers.

"We won some games early, but I knew that wouldn't be the case once we got into the Atlantic 10 because the league was so strong," Ferry said. "I think once we got into the league play our talent -- or lack thereof -- was exposed so that's why it is so important for us to be out on the road and hustling as we have to work to increase the talent level within the program.

"But recruiting is only a part of increasing our talent level -- we also have to increase the skill level, the fundamentals of our players. We have to get them better but we are lucky that we had a lot of young guys play a lot of minutes this year so they got good Atlantic 10 experience."

Ferry said he believes he has a good plan to get Duquesne headed in the right direction.

History suggests he has a good reason to believe he can get it turned around. He came to Duquesne from Long Island University-Brooklyn where he built the Blackbirds into a perennial Northeast Conference power.

Ferry guided LIU to the NCAA tournament in his final two seasons there. This season the Blackbirds, coached by former Ferry assistant Jack Perri, became the first NEC team to win the league's automatic NCAA berth three years in a row.

"We built the program [at LIU] to last and to be something that sustains itself, but it took a few years to get the talent level to where it needed to be and that's because you can't go out and grab everything you need in one class," Ferry said. "But at the same time, we feel like we are going to fill some needs this year and get a little better then build on it.

"And while we are interested in the long-term success, you have to have some short-term success as well in order to help with recruiting, so I would definitely take a junior college transfer or two if I thought they could help us win right now. I am not going to take a bunch of them and try to cut corners like that, but if one or two make sense, fit with our talent level and our university's standards and they can help us win, I would do it."

Ferry said the Dukes need "everything" in terms of talent but he believes the most pressing needs are frontcourt players, ballhandlers and some more skilled forwards who can pass and shoot.

He already has addressed the frontcourt, landing two 6-foot-8 Canadians, Jordan Robinson and Isaiah Watkins. Also, 6-foot-8 Ovie Soko, a transfer from UAB, sat out this season and becomes eligible in the fall.

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter: @paulzeise.


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