Challenges For Recruiting in 2014

By Steve DiMiceli

Duquesne basketball has worked its way into an unusual situation. For only the second time in recent memory, the Dukes cannot offer a lot a playing time for new recruits. Year after year, this was our most clear selling point. "Sure we suck, but at least you'll play early" said Scott Edgar, Darelle Porter, Danny Nee, Ron Everhart his first couple of years and Jim Ferry for the entire month of April. Next year, Ferry won't be able to use that familiar pitch to net recruits and it will make recruiting quite a bit more difficult for the fall.

 Right now, the Dukes have six players set to graduate in the class of 2017 and another two in the class of 2016. As always, our scholarship distribution is bottom heavy and the team will be somewhat inexperienced. Any incoming player for the class of 2018 is staring a more experienced eight man rotation in the face for at least the first two years of their playing career. Asking a player to take it easy for one year is difficult sometimes. Asking them to wait their turn for two or three is even harder.

I know what you're thinking. Some guys will transfer and this is probably true, but I won't assume that here. It's not like Ferry would say to a recruit "you have quite a few guys ahead of you on our depth chart, but don't worry, we're Duquesne so they'll probably leave." I also won't assume that Ferry sees the need to recruit over any of the 2013's. If he would consider recruiting over them the summer following their spring commitment, I hope he'd have had the decency to not recruit them in the first place.

Everhart found himself in a similar pickle when he entered his third year in charge. The Dukes added another huge class in 2008. Only Aaron Jackson and Jason Duty were upperclassmen, and Duty wasn't even on scholarship at the time. Everyone else was a freshman or a sophomore and pretty much every position had depth on paper. This was also the year when recruiting went south for Everhart. He didn't fill his one anticipated opening until February of 2009 when Andre Marhold picked Duquesne over Clemson. On paper, Marhold looked like a good player but the Dukes missed out on a couple of other targets before him.

So what do you do differently if you're Jim Ferry? First, you look at all the ways the program has improved since the fall of 2008 and you sell on it. The athletics facilities are better now. The weight room and practice gyms are for athletes only. The locker rooms are upgraded. The AJ Palumbo Center has been modernized. The team now plays three games a year in an NBA caliber arena as a home away from home. You emphasize where the A-10 is in spite of losing 4 teams.  Even if it's not as good as it was last year, it's better than it was 5 years ago and remains the best mid major league in the country. You talk about Duquesne as a Tier I University and Pittsburgh's livability. Everhart didn't have any of this to fall back on to sell his class of 2009. Next, you recruit players who have ties to Pittsburgh or Duquesne. Ferry's doing that with Hampton twins Ryan and Collin Luther. A lot of schools can offer them, Ryan in particular, early playing time but not a lot can offer it in their parents' back yard, at dad's alma mater and on his uncle, Brian Shanahan's, former team. Lincoln Park's Ryan Skovranko has an offer too.  Finally, you identify players who are under the radar and willing to wait a little longer for the chance to just play in a good conference as your Plan B. You also emphsize the development of the players you already have and keep your own house in order. Hopefully, Ferry has his core for early success in place already. The key is to help the current players reach their ceiling while limiting transfers and  adding players who can complement for now and help with the reload in a few years.

And of course, you hope you get lucky and just find someone who wants to play here.

Unfortunately, Ferry doesn't have much history here to recruit on. He has a nice track record of developing players at LIU, but his current staff can't boast the same at Duquesne yet. They simply haven't been around long enough. He has his back to back NCAA appearances as a talking point but he only has 8 wins at Duquesne to show next year's recruits. Five winning seasons in the last six years and an NIT appearance for the Dukes is certainly an improvement for us fans, but it probably won't be too exciting to an 18 year old kid with offers to Dayton, South Carolina and Seton Hall.  Of course, it's still better than recruiting on 13 wins in two years. 

This isn't to suggest that no one is going to be able to find playing time. I suspect big, skilled guys  could inherit some of the minutes Ovie Soko and Jerry Jones will yield after they graduate. When you look at Duquesne's early 2014 targets, they are almost all in the 6'5'' - 6'8'' range with ball skills. A true point guard might be able to play a good amount by his sophomore year.  At the moment though, it does not appear that the Dukes have any short or long term needs assuming the current group develops into A-10 caliber players.  Of course, things don't always work out, and the coaching staff will have to reassess what's working after the season. I normally wouldn't suggest this but holding one of the scholarships to spring might give Ferry a better idea of how it ought to the be used. If there still are no trouble spots, we're in an even more unique position where we take the best player with mutual interest and some patience. That probably hasn't happened in 40 years!

Lack of immediate playing time isn't a death sentence even if I'm not expecting the Dukes to be in the running for 4-5 top 150 players like they were last year. Ferry has more to recruit on in 2013 than Everhart did in 2008. Some of that is thanks to Everhart. The success or failure of the program over the next couple of years won't be based around who Ferry recruits in the fall of 2013, but rather who he retains in the spring of 2014. Stability is the key. Keeping and developing the talent we already have is superior to trying to go out and acquire an immediate external boost. Building from within is what winning programs do. Of course, bringing in talent is still necessary and I hope Ferry gets a couple of guys who can excel in the A-10 in his next class even if the emphasis is on the current players. Besides, if you focus on the guys you already have and they're successful, the coaching staff can tell that to interested recruits all about it the next time they find themselves with little immediate playing time to offer.