By Steve DiMiceli
I remember reading on one of the message boards that it would take seven to ten years for Ron Everhart to completely turn the program around. I kind of scoffed at this. After all, teams only play 5 guys at a time and generally have enough depth with 3 or 4 bench players. How long should it take to recruit 8 quality guys?
For all the praise that's been bestowed on Everhart, recruiting has been a much more challenging than it seems. I find his recruits who actually make it to campus fit into the following categories with the number of players who fit into that category in parenthesis:
1) Unknowns - Players where only Duquesne was involved in their recruitment (10)
2) Sparsely pursued players - Players with only low Division I offers (8)
3) Moderately recruited players - Players with some BCS interest and some high major offers (5)
4) Highly regarded players who fell in his lap - Talented players committed elsewhere that ended up at Duquesne through extraordinary circumstances (3)
5) TJ McConnell - Likely would've had more interest had he not committed when he was 5'4''(1)
I didn't include players that never turned up or never actually played for the team like Sam Ashalou and Stuard Baldonado. I also didn't include transfers or Robert Mitchell as he was recruited by Ron as the coach of the Northeastern.
Of the players in categories 3-5, only two, Chase Robinson and Rodrigo Peggau, were not A-10 caliber. Of the unknowns, half missed, 4 made it and Phillip Fayne ended up a tweener. Of the players under Ron who scored or are likely to score 1000 points, none were unknowns. Sean Johnson, Bill Clark and BJ Monteiro were sparsely recruited while Damian Saunders, and Eric Evans were moderately recruited or highly regarded. Based on the success record of players here, I believe it's safe to conclude that the more heavily recruited a player is the more likely they are to be successful.
While Ron has done a pretty good job sorting through junk and making the most of what other teams overlooked, more than a third of the players Ron relied on were unknowns. Though this helped get the program back on track, recruiting in the wilderness is not a strategy for sustained success. On the positive side, half of those players came in the first two years when the Dukes had absolutely no recruiting clout. The other five were spread out over the next four classes. This is certainly a step in the right direction. In those same four classes, seven of the nine recruits generated limited interest and all four of the moderately pursued commits joined the program.
So what does all this have to do with it taking seven to ten years to rebuild the program? It seems that after only two years, Ron was able to bridge the gap from bottom feeder to middle of the conference based on the type of players he was recruiting. Everhart's seventh class marks a departure from the rest in the sense that for the first time, each commit is a known, sought after commodity. Every member of the class of 2012 is in the moderately recruited category or in a completely new group, the heavily recruited, that Everhart has not had much success with to this point. Ron no longer has to venture off the beaten path or get lucky to find talented recruits. Every single one of the next class disappointed another coach at a good program by signing with Duquesne I can't be certain that this trend will continue, but I think it's a sign of things to come where Duquesne completes the transition from perennial conference doormat into perennial conference contender.
Difficult to believe, but after only taking Ron two years to go from being horrible to mediocre program, it's taken seven years to fully shed the Dukes tarnished reputation to win recruiting battles with good schools consistently. No matter how much optimism those first couple of years created, progress is not always a straight line. Kudos to those who recognized it. Of course, success is all just on paper at this point. Now, the difficult part. The recruiting boost needs to translate on the court. That may not happen till year ten.