Duquesne roster takes shape, but still one piece short

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The dusty recruiting trail is a never-ending circuit for college coaches.

A few days after announcing the first three members of Duquesne's 2014 recruiting class, Dukes coach Jim Ferry found himself at North Hills High School this weekend scouting the next crop of high school prospects at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest tournament.

The third-year Duquesne coach took a brief break Saturday night to discuss the Dukes' newest additions, incoming freshmen Eric James and TySean Powell, "who have the ability to help us right away," and guard Rene Castro, a transfer from Butler who will sit out the 2014-15 season due to transfer restrictions.

"We're really excited about these three guys," Ferry said. "[The class] really helps us fill some needs as we keep moving the program forward further."

Duquesne will return four starters in the fall, the lone departure being forward Ovie Soko. A glaring need with this recruiting class, Ferry said, was to add length to a lineup that was "a little short in the Atlantic 10."

The starting five last season topped out with Soko and center Dominique McKoy at 6 feet 8, and three starters were listed at 6-3 or shorter.

Powell, a 6-7 forward, will be part of the equation to replace Soko's production of 18.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season. Powell averaged 16.4 points and 9.3 rebounds as a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"TySean is just a freak with his length," Ferry said. "He's got a 7-4 wingspan or something, and he's a freak athlete, which really helps us with not only length but athleticism in the frontcourt."

And, perhaps a forgotten piece, 6-8 forward Jordan Robinson will debut for the Dukes this fall. He redshirted last season after being ruled a partial academic qualifier by the NCAA.

"Bottom line: Jordan is a freshman again," Ferry said. "He's a big recruit for us that had to sit out this year, but now his body is changed, he's in great shape, he's big, he's physical."

Despite the loss of Soko, the A-10's leading scorer, Ferry expects Duquesne to have more depth, versatility and experience in the frontcourt this fall.

"We have different options we can throw out there," he said. "Part of our lack of depth in the frontcourt was the youth. It was hard playing two freshmen in the frontcourt together, so we tried to stay away from that as much as we could."

At 6-5 and 180 pounds, James is a much-needed boost at wing but will need to put on weight. He averaged 18.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game at Westerville Central High School.

"He's a little weak right now," Ferry said. "But he's athletic, he's quick and he can really shoot. With added strength he's going to be a true Atlantic 10 3-man, and that's what we're really excited about."

Castro isn't an immediate answer, as he will sit this season, but his arrival gives Duquesne its point guard of the future. Ferry and his staff recruited Castro hard in high school, but ultimately lost out to Butler.

Castro never quite fit there, so after playing in just 12 games as a freshman he left the team in mid-February and announced he would transfer. On April 16, he picked Duquesne.

"Once he got his release to transfer, I contact him and told him, 'Hey, listen, everything is still the same. We don't feel any differently about you,' " Ferry recalled.

With the departure of junior guard Tra'Vaughn White earlier this month, Duquesne still has one scholarship free. Ferry said he intends to fill that slot with the "best available" prospect.

The Duquesne staff has courted a number of potential junior-college transfers and is likely to reel in a guard to add depth behind starters Derrick Colter and Micah Mason.

The vision is to add "someone that can maybe play with versatility, can break people down and can score," Ferry said. "We're looking for some scoring. We're looking for the best player for that."

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

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