There are a multitude of reasons to get down to the A.J. Palumbo Center and see the 2015-16 Duquesne men’s basketball team. The first of those being, they’re good.
Coach Jim Ferry has his team off to its best start (10-2) in 36 years. The last time the Dukes were this good, Americans were driving their 4,000-pound, simulated-wood-paneled station wagons to go see Kramer vs. Kramer in theaters. Back then you could order Quaaludes from your friend from a phone booth. Also a reason to go: Game tickets are cheap and parking is relatively easy compared to other sporting events in town. If that is not enough, Duquesne has the second best three-point shooter in NCAA history.
Go ahead, read that sentence again; let it sink in.
Micah Mason once hit 73 consecutive threes in practice as a high school student at Natrona Heights. At a tryout for Ferry, he knocked down 50 of 51 from the same distance. You can probably find pro-level players who can’t connect on layups with that kind of accuracy. It’s the stuff that playground legends are made of, except in this case Mason is doing it for a Division I college basketball program.
- Photo by Heather Mull
- Mike Wysocki
Including a stop at Drake University and his time with the Dukes, Mason has hit more than 49 percent of his three-point attempts. He has already broken T.J. McConnell’s record of 346 treys and still has the rest of the season to go. And in case you’re wondering if that’s good, McConnell, a local kid who began his career at Duquesne before transferring to Arizona, currently resides in the NBA. Well, sort of, he plays for the Philadelphia 76ers who have a 3-33 record, but it still technically counts. If seeing Micah Mason drill shots from Uptown is not enough reason to see a game, he is not even the best player on the team. For now, that title goes to Derrick Colter.
Senior D.C. is only the third player in school history to lead the team in points and assists in multiple years. It hasn’t been easy either. In the last few years, Colter has dealt with the death of his brother, J.J., and has battled cancer himself (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). Colter has responded to adversity by starting every single game of his career. He even dropped 16 against Robert Morris the day his brother passed away. His life is already an inspirational movie, and he’s only 21 years old. Colter and Mason form one of the best backcourts that Duke’s die-hard fans have ever seen.
But it hasn’t all been puppy dogs and cotton candy for the Dukes this year. Senior captain Jeremiah Jones injured his ACL and is lost for the season. It happened in a recent victory over RMU. Jones had started 84 consecutive games before the injury. Stepping in will be 6’5” sophomore Eric James. James put up 21 points in the city game against Pitt, one of only two losses so far this year. James will play next to 6’11” center Darius Lewis, a junior from Lexington, Ky., who specializes in blocking shots and cleaning the boards. L.G. Gill, a junior forward, rounds out the starting five. Gill is 6’8” and can shoot threes as well; 60 percent of his field-goal attempts come from beyond the arc. C’mon a 6’8”guy who shoots three-pointers — how many reasons do you need to see a game?
The Dukes get very little recognition in a city where basketball is slightly less popular than pro wrestling or corn hole. And people who do like basketball usually go see the more glamorous Pitt Panthers.
But finally the loyalty of all the old men who show up for games in their red-and-blue team jackets is finally paying off. On Jan. 13, the Dukes welcome the St. Louis Billikens, followed by St. Bonaventure on Jan. 16. The LaSalle Explorers come to the Palumbo on Jan. 26. So get on the bandwagon — it’s quality college basketball with no frills. Duquesne was picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic 10 this year … stupid experts. I mean, there are 14 teams in that division, so what do they know about numbers anyway?