Duquesne's Tra'Vaughn White is comfortable in his new role coming off the bench.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tra'Vaughn White's offensive production has never been in question. White, a junior guard, was the nation's top junior-college scorer last season, averaging 25.9 points per game at Independence Community College, and worked his way into Duquesne's starting lineup this fall.
Despite White scoring in double figures in his first three starts, Dukes coach Jim Ferry replaced him with sophomore guard Micah Mason in the starting lineup before the Dukes' meeting Wednesday against Albany.
The problem wasn't White's offense, but his defense. Duquesne had lost consecutive games, allowing 84 points to New Hampshire and 96 to West Virginia, and Mason had proven to be a viable asset on defense and a 50-percent 3-point shooter.
White took the sixth-man duties in stride.
"It was coach's decision to bring me off the bench," White said. "I'm all for it."
"It was more Micah playing really well defensively than anybody else not -- and they play the same position," Ferry said. "I brought Tra' in and told him, and he said, 'OK, no problem.' "
Ferry's plan worked, though probably not nearly the way he had scripted it. The Dukes won, 70-59, and White came off the bench to add 15 points and five assists in 26 minutes.
Mason, who injured his hand and got in early foul trouble, played just 17 minutes and scored three points.
Ferry has preached unity this fall, working with a roster that has nine new pieces, and White's ability to not only accept but flourish in his new role was a crucial step forward.
"Tra' was cheering for Micah, and Micah was cheering for him," Ferry said. "I think you'll see some of that throughout the year, too. We're such a new team, and we have all these new pieces. We'd be changing around a lot more if we didn't have injuries earlier. We're still trying to get ourselves figured out a little bit."
Duquesne, led by White, doubled the Great Danes in points off the bench, 24-12.
White jump-started the Dukes with back-to-back 3-point plays midway through the first half and added another in the second.
"Those were huge," Ferry said.
Mason, a first-year transfer from Drake, hurt his hand in the first half and sat the majority of the first half after picking up two early fouls.
"I asked him at the start of the second half if he's OK, and he said, 'I don't know. I'll try,' " Ferry said. "Then he hit a three, so I said, I guess he's OK."
But another pair of touch fouls sent Mason to the bench and threw White back into action.
"Tra' came in and stepped up," Ferry said. "That's what we thought we were going to have earlier this year, once we have our full team with depth it wasn't going to matter when someone had a bad night, we'd have the ability [to fill in] with the next-man-up mentality."
Ferry hasn't revealed whether Mason will hold starter status, but it seems Duquesne, a team with very limited depth, has a pair of strong options at the two-guard.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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