Jim Ferry's second season at Duquesne tips off tonight

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Duquesne’s new cast will make its debut today when it plays Abilene Christian in the season opener at 2 p.m. at Palumbo Center.

Only three scholarship players have returned from an 8-22 team.

“This is the time of year that every player in any sport looks forward to,” said senior forward Ovie Soko, who sat out last season after transferring from UAB. “The opener is always really great.”

Somehow, Duquesne managed to find an opponent with more new pieces and less experience. The Wildcats, 12-14 last season, have one returning player and 11 newcomers and are entering their first season at the Division-I level since 1973.

Duquesne second-year coach Jim Ferry admitted that it’s difficult to prepare for a team with an entirely revamped roster.

“We just have to play our game,” Ferry said. “We have to get the game to our type of play, our tempo. We’ve got to defend and rebound. We take care of those things at home and, hopefully, we can put ourselves in position to win the game.”

After long summer workouts and an extended practice season, the Dukes are eager to start regular-season play.

“It’s time,” Ferry said. “I think we’re really biting at the bit to get going right now.”

Duquesne scored a 103-88 exhibition victory against Clarion last week and received good news Thursday when sophomore guard Micah Mason, a transfer from Drake, was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, making him immediately eligible to play.

Ferry has used a “catch-us-if-you-can” phrase to describe the Dukes’ quicker, more athletic lineup this season.

“I want to score 200 points a game,” he joked. In truth, the aim is to score 80 points per game, he said, but the primary focus is on defense.

“I want to see us defend with a disposition and a sense of urgency,” Ferry said.

Soko described the team dynamic as “a lot different” from a year ago.

“From a team-bonding standpoint,” Soko said, “I feel like it’s the opposite from where it was a year ago as far as unselfishness and everyone really buying in to the program.”

NOTE — Freshman forwards Isaiah Watkins (knee) and Jordan Robinson (ineligible) will miss the season opener, as will senior forward Jerry Jones, who was suspended last week for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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