Duquesne Men’s Basketball: Duke Are A Long Way From Relevance


“It’s been awhile since I could hold my head up high.” Yes, that is the opening line to the Staind song “It’s Been awhile”.

It also describes what  Duquesne men’s basketball fans feel. Friday’s 76-62 thumping to Pitt in the annual City Game marked the 14th straight loss in the series. Duquesne’s woes not only lie with their crosstown rival, but in the program as whole.

This wasn’t always the case on the Bluff.  The Dukes were once the hottest basketball ticket in town.  From the early 1940’s through the late 1970’s, Duquesne made 5 trips to the NCAA as well as 14 trips to the NIT.

In 1955, the Dukes enjoyed the greatest season in their history. Led by future number one overall picks Dick Ricketts and Sihugo Green, the Dukes won the NIT tournament after defeating current Atlantic 10 foe Dayton in the finals.

However, the last 20 years have not been so kind for fans of this once great program.  Duquesne has only made three appearances postseason play.  That includes two appearances in the College Basketball Invitational and only one NIT appearance, which was in 2009.  That 2009 saw the Dukes make an improbable run to the A-10 tourney finals where they fell to Temple.

Who is to blame for this once successful program falling by the wayside? Fingers can be pointed at many, but a run of bad decisions and uncontrollable situations have doomed the Dukes.

In 2006, five members of the team were shot on campus by three individuals after a school dance.  The shooting would rock a program that was already coming off an abysmal 3-24 season.  2006 was also the first season of Ron Everhart.

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Though criticized throughout this tenure, Everhart help guide the Dukes to their best stretch in since their glory days, going 99-89.  Everhart was fired, however, after local phenom guard T.J. McConnell decided to transfer out of the program after two seasons. McConnell transferred to Arizona and Everhart ended up as an assistant to Bob Huggins at West Virginia.

Though the Dukes found their replacement for Everhart in Jim Ferry, it took some time to find a standout guard at the level of McConnell.

Last season, they found their guy.  After one season at Drake, guard and local standout Micah Mason transferred into the program.  Mason was able to play right away since his transfer was for a medical reason.

In his first season on the bluff, Mason would lead the nation in three point percentage. Despite Mason’s hot shooting, the Dukes limped to a 13-17.  Outside of Mason, the only bright spot on the Dukes season was a stunning victory on the road against #10 Saint Louis.

Though the Pitt defeat is a bump in the road, the Dukes are trending in the right direction.  Mason’s ability from beyond the arch has been complemented nicely by a balance scoring attack.  Four Dukes including Mason are averaging over 10 points per game.  Junior Jordan Stevens leads the Dukes in points per game with 16.2 while coming off the bench.

Even with the improvements on offense, dark clouds are on the horizon as conference play begins on January 3rd.  The Dukes will travel to Dayton, who is coming off an incredible NCAA tournament run last season.

The real question here is when will the Dukes return to glory? They will never have the chance to be the hottest basketball ticket in town with Pitt having a strangle hold on that title.  But for my money’s worth, Duquesne must continue to mix local talent with players from throughout the country.

Though the WPIAL is in no sense of the word a basketball pipeline, there is still plenty of Division one talent.  Pitt currently has four local players on their roster that contribute.

If Duquesne wants to end their near 40 year absence from the NCAA tournament, they have to win the local recruiting battles.  But if the battles can’t be won, the irrelevance of this once great program will continue.