How we ended up in this mess at center

By Steve DiMiceli

I'm not sure if anyone out there has noticed, but the Dukes have been without a prototypical center to take the role for the last 3 years. While I like Andre Marhold a lot more than most, I think it's pretty clear that he's not ready to log more than 10-15 minutes on most A-10 teams. The Dukes other two options Martins Abele and Mamadou Datt, are not ready to eat substantial amounts of minutes. Really, Ron Everhart has himself stuck between a rock and hard place, but he did not end up in this position overnight.

Ideally, you would like to be starting a junior or a senior at the center position. The Dukes have that right now, but Marhold certainly is not your normal center. He's not exceptionally tall though he does have a terrific wing span. He's not particularly stout either. I think you can be one or the other but a center should at least be one. Andre is unfortunately neither, but his wing span and jumping ability allows him to at least be passable like it did for Damian Saunders. However, he is an inexperienced junior and does not have even close to the skill set to match Saunders. Some say that Marhold is better suited for power forward. I tend to disagree with that as I don't think he brings enough to the table offensively to play the 4. In order for him to be effective there, he would need a offensively minded center to play off of and clearly we have not been able to find that. Either way there is a void.

So if your ideal center is a junior or a senior, they would've had to come from the recruiting class of 2006, 2007 or 2008. Damian Saunders graduated in the normal 4 years as was expected and David Theis was needed too much early in his career to have been a red shirt candidate. Rodrigo Peggau, Mike Williams, Oliver Lewinson, and Shawntez Patterson all arrived in the class of 2007 but each player really profiled as having a very low ceiling. Ron has been accused of being impatient with the last 3 I listed, but I think we've seen from what they've done in their careers after Duquesne that none were A-10 players. Williams is a marginal center in the Southern and Lewinson and Patterson are both playing outside of Division 1. So while turnover has not helped, it really is not the main problem, because none of those players would have been a much better option than what we already have. Class of 2008 produced Andre Marhold who was 6'6'' at the time.

I think the reason we don't have a center today is because Ron put a lot of stock in Peggau's knee healing. After all he was the only one in any of those classes with a moderate to high ceiling. He was the one with a list of other Division 1 offers who had Coach K lurking his junior year before he blew out his knee. Ultimately, the injury bug just bit him badly. Without a healthy knee properly, he wasn't quick enough to play defense nor was he explosive enough to be an effective rebounder or scorer in the post. At the same time his ceiling was high enough that Ron had to stick by him for 3 years. It stands to reason that you're not going to bring in another center in 2008 if you have a potential center in recovery and two others to provide some insurance. Ron took a gamble with Rodrigo and lost and I think that is the biggest reason we are without a center today.

Another reason is that Cheihk Fall, the 6'7'' JUCO defensive end that committed just after the signing period did not qualify. He would have been a very nice bridge to a possible 4 year option.

Over the years, Ron has recruited a number of centers but none of those who would be expected to contribute this year should have been considered the safe variety nor did many of them have much potential to be more than role players. The good news is that history will likely not repeat itself. Datt and Abele both have much higher ceilings than any of Lewinson, Williams and Patterson. As a freshman, Abele was already more productive than Williams in a similar league. Datt seems to have the potential to be a plus defender with some offensive skills. Both are also more likely to reach their ceiling than Peggau since both are healthy. Both will also get the benefit of early playing time that they normally would not have gotten had the void at center not been there. Of course Donovan Jack will join the club next season with high expectation. While there is no such thing as a safe recruit at center, he definitely seems like the safest Ron has brought in so far.