Why I like the Class of 2013 on Paper

By Steve DiMiceli

If you follow me on twitter, you'll notice a string of tweets around the time we play St Louis or Richmond or Butler where I praise their coaches for just recruiting good ball players while I lament ours for recruiting risky projects. When you read a description of a Chris Mooney or Brad Stevens recruit, rarely do you see the words vertical, long, bouncy, wiry, or upside in the first paragraph or two. I get the need to recruit athletes. I get the need to take chances given Duquesne's recent history and struggles, but those three schools are recruiting from the same pool of players as the Dukes have been. It's not as if they've gotten where they are by stealing a top 50 prospect or with 4 star prospects. They're finding good ball players overlooked by bigger program.

Thankfully, this is a happy story and not one where I grind my teeth or pull my hair out over the past. I'm loving this class of 2013 so far because I think we're finally focused on guys who can simply play the game now.

I'll start looking at Isaiah Watkins and Jordan Robinson since they are the cornerstones of the class and two who I've see game film on. Watkins role on St Benedict's makes him quite interesting. While it limited his opportunities to score or grab offensive rebounds, Watkins was the 2-3 zone buster for St Benedict's and the offense ran through him. A coach would not put a player in that role if he didn't trust his vision, passing and jump shooting. Watkins had adequate touch around the basket and overall seemed like he had good hands. He was a very good offensive rebounder. On defense, he was generally able to guard anyone on the floor. His footwork and positioning were sound.

What Robinson lacks in head height and length, he makes up for with mass and overall strong fundmental basketball. He has very good hands and a soft touch as a finisher. He plays within himself and knows when to back down a defender and when to kick back to a teammate. He has strong rebounder technique at both ends and can clear out players with the box out even if he cannot get the board himself. He played strong positional defense and denies the post very well. He sets a very good ball screen.

I'll lump the guard recruits in together since I've never seen any of them play. Desmond Ridenour may be the most athletic member of the class, but he sounds if he has some very refined skills as well. The former Dayton commit has been described as a player who can do it all, pass, shoot, drive, and defend. He might be the player I'm most interested to see over the summer because I know the least about him so far. Transfer Micah Mason was one of the best three point shooters in the county though he's not a great athlete . He is described as a solid ball handler with good vision and passing skills. Speaking with some Drake fans, he is likely more than just a catch and shoot type guard who can just flat out play. I entered Travaugh White's JUCO numbers into my offensive efficiency formula. If he is half as efficient as he was at Independence CC, he will still be an above average A-10 PG and the best on our team.  People are concerned about his size, but he was still able to score at better than a 50% clip around the rim in spite of it.

Aside from being solid, fundamentally sound ball players based on description and observations, there is another common theme among the above players, work ethic. I've heard each described as a gym rat. While these players lack traditional size or possess marginal foot speed, they seem to have over come there deficits by killing it in practice.

All in all, this class should bring an influx of tangible talent and skill. On paper, it looks great, but I'll give them a chance to prove themselves on the court before I compare this class to others in the past out of respect to the former players. If these young men want to be compared to the best of the last 20-30 years, they need to earn it. That being said, I do think they have a chance to have a huge impact from day. White looks to like a guy who could play big minutes and become an above average guard immediately. The freshman bigs should share minutes in the post where they'll hopefully fill a huge void with the help of Ovie Soko. Ridenour could compete with Marvin Binney as the back up point guard. If these are the types of players Jim Ferry will regularly bring in, I have to be excited about the future.