Do the Dukes have their core?

By Steve DiMiceli

You don't hear much about the Dukes in the national chatter anymore. Over the summer, you didn't want to repeat what you heard. Following the Legend's Classic pod, what little talk that's out there has shifted from negative to hopeful. Yesterday, Jon Rothstein of CBS sports tweeted "Two solid building blocks emerging for Duquesne coach Jim Ferry in guards Derrick Colter and Quevyn Winters. Solid foundation for the Dukes." The local writers closest to the program also seem to be seeing the positives. In a blog entry, Paul Zeise lavished Colter, Winters and Jeremiah Jones with praise. It's very early on in their Duquesne careers, but the Dukes core might be coming together.

It's not much of a surprise to me that Colter and Winters look solid early as I compared their strengths and playing styles to Kwamain Mitchell of St Louis and Chris Johnson the Dayton grad respectively. I think both have lived up to those comps in real game situations so far. Colter still turns the ball over too much but he is running the show admirably for a freshman. His defense doesn't live up to Mitchell's to this point, nor has his three point shooting. However, the defense is improving and he's a better shooter than he's shown so far. He's a lively and quick point willing to shoot or pass just like Mitchell. When it comes to scoring, and on ball defense, there really hasn't been a huge drop off from TJ McConnell to Colter. I feel even more strongly about the Johnson comp for Winters now than I did when I first made it. He's got a solid inside outside game and is a strong rebounder. Winters has shown that he has vision and can create though he hasn't executed to this point. He's been more overly aggressive than sloppy. Part of this might be because he thinks he can get away with more against college defenders than he actually can. With experience, I think he'll become a +1 assist:TO guy. Even in the short run, Winters' consistency needs to get better.

Jones seems to be lurking in the shadows behind those two though he's been just as impressive. I didn't have a good comparable for him preseason. He seemed like a massive ball hog who destined to shoot every time he touched the ball in the Pro-Am. He seemed aggressive, but overall, like a loose cannon who might struggle to adjust and thrive and the college game. Of course, they don't play much defense in the summer league thus shielding me from his greatest strength. Jones impressed me tremendously in executing the game plan and shutting down star Youngstown St guard, Kendrick Perry. In my opinion, anything less than 20 points and 30% from the field from him is an accomplishment. He's just that good. After that performance, I finally have a comparable player for Jones, Jordair Jett from St Louis. Now, Jones is not as fast as Jett, but he is taller. If Wednesday was any indication, Jones has the upside of an all league defender and like Jett, he won't have to score a ton to add value when he plays. Both are good ball handlers, but both could finish better. Long run, I actually think Jones could become the better scorer but he needs to become a better passer to truly emulate Jett.

All in all, I thought Colter and Winters would be good since the summer. I thought Jones would get recruited over, but I don't believe that to be the case any longer. Duquesne has a back court that compares to St Louis and a versatile player that looks like a former all league small forward. We've heard this before, but they still need help in the post. Isaiah Watkins is a highly regarded recruit, but he will need to prove himself on the court. Jones early season form might give Jim Ferry the confidence to go out and recruit a second big man or a bigger wing player rather than pursue another combo guard.

Having three members of the cobbled together class of 2013 to build around gives me a lot more hope for the future than just Colter and Winters performing well would have. Jones' play has exceeded my expectation for him and I suspect he could take on a bigger role as the season continues.  Colter and Winters deserve the high marks they've recieved but Jones' contribution should not be overlooked.