PITTSBURGH - Third-year head coach Ron Everhart's Duquesne men's basketball team begins preparation for the 2008-09 season with the team's first practice Friday at 5:00 p.m. The workout - which is closed to the public - will be the first for a DU team that is among the youngest in the nation with 11 underclassmen including eight scholarship freshmen.
"I've never gone into a season with a roster this young," said Everhart on the eve of the first practice. "I may be a little more demanding in practice, but at the same time I have to be patient. That is one message I've tried to send very strongly throughout the preseason. If guys are willing to work and sacrifice, then we'll be patient with the learning curve."
Everhart and his staff have been conducting individual workouts and limited team instructional sessions since the start of classes. The preseason workouts have given him a glimpse at his young squad.
"I've been really excited about the way certain guys have picked up what we want to do," said Everhart. "Oliver [Lewinson] and B.J. [Monteiro] in particular have both shown a pretty high basketball I.Q. The game is so much faster and more physical than what our younger guys are used to, we are going to have to give them a good idea of how hard they are going to have to work."
Everhart was also quick to praise his six returnees from last year's 17-13 team.
"Every returnee has been instrumental in the preseason," said Everhart. "Aaron [Jackson] and Jason [Duty] are in the gym every day doing extra work. They've been great role models for our guys. As hard as Billy [Clark] and Damian [Saunders] play, they've been great role models. David Theis, Lucas Newton and Jimmy Sherwood have worked extremely hard and they've been great. Our newcomers have been able to see that whether or not a guy played a lot last year is irrelevant. They are coming to work every day because they want to win a job. Its been very competitive and that's something that is real important from a coaching perspective. Our freshmen have picked up on that and they are really starting to ramp up their intensity level."
The Dukes open their exhibition season against St. Vincent on Saturday, Nov. 1. The 5:00 p.m. game will be preceded by a women's game against Team Essence. The regular season opener is at home against High Point on Nov. 14.
"We have a really good group of kids," said Everhart. "They've been taking things seriously and working hard. They genuinely like each other. I really like where we are mentally right now," he continued. "I think we have guys willing to make sacrifices for their teammates. We have guys who are willing to make the extra pass. We have guys who want to have a good basketball team - that's important to them - and its nice to see. I'm anxious to get started."
DUQUESNE OFFSEASON QUICK NOTES
Guard Aaron Jackson was named MVP of the 2008 Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro Am Summer League. The league featured players from area Division I schools including Pitt (Sam Young, Levance Fields and DeJuan Blair), Robert Morris (Tony Lee and Jeremy Chappell) and West Virginia (Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff) among others. Jackson led his team to a 5-0 record and the league title. In addition, DU freshmen Melquan Bolding and Shawntez Patterson were named to the seven-player All-Rookie Team.
Forward Damian Saunders underwent successful surgery in early May to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle. He was cleared to participate in individual workouts on October 2.
Duquesne, which has led the Atlantic 10 in scoring in each of the past two seasons, has already posted three of the school's top 10 scoring games under Ron Everhart. In fact, over the past two seasons, the Dukes have posted the nation's sixth-highest scoring average:
- Head coach Ron Everhart signed a three-year contract extension on June 25 that secures him as the Dukes coach through 2013-14.
- Duquesne will be one of the youngest teams in the nation in 2008-09, with eight scholarship freshmen and four sophomores on the 15-man roster. Three-year starter Aaron Jackson - DU's lone senior - is also the team's only scholarship upperclassman. Fellow Atlantic 10 member Saint Louis is the only other NCAA Division I school with eight scholarship freshmen. No school has more scholarship underclassmen than Duquesne's 11.
MOST SCHOLARSHIP FRESHMEN
7 Central Florida
MOST SCHOLARSHIP UNDERCLASSMEN
NATION'S TOP SCORING TEAMS
Ron Everhart Era (2006-07 & 2007-08)
1. VMI 96.45
2. North Carolina 87.17
3. Cal State Fullerton 81.94
4. Tennessee 81.37
5. Texas State 80.55
6. DUQUESNE 80.36
7. Notre Dame 80.00
8. Davidson 79.54
9. Massachusetts 79.49
10. Kansas 79.47
Duquesne added two new assistant coaches in Steve Hall and Scott Rigot (Ri-ZJOH). Hall comes to DU from Detroit Northwestern High School where he coached incoming freshmen Eric Evans and Shawntez Patterson to a Public League title last season. Hall, who played collegiately at Virginia Tech (the same alma mater as head coach Ron Everhart), guided Detroit Rogers to state championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005 prior to moving on to Northwestern. Rigot, a Pittsburgh native, brings 20 years of coaching experience to the Duquesne bench, most recently as an assistant to Tubby Smith at Kentucky from 2003-07. Rigot has also worked as an assistant at Hawaii, UAB and South Carolina. Hall and Rigot replace Greg Gary and Kim Lewis. Gary accepted the head coach position at Centenary and hired Lewis, a Louisiana native, as an assistant. Lewis later left Centenary to take an assistant's job at his alma mater, Tulane.
Duquesne received a commitment from 7-0, 270-pound Kentucky transfer Morakinyo Williams in mid-June. Williams, who was signed by Tubby Smith, played in five games last season for Billy Gillispie at UK. Williams, who was a Top 100 recruit out of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia, will sit out the 2008-09 season and have three years of eligibility beginning in 2009-10. The Solihull, England native played for the Great Britain U20 team which competed in the European Division B Championships in Targu Mures, Romania this summer.
Sophomore G/F Stephen Wood, who played in three games last season, transferred to Southern New Hampshire. In addition, Brandon Harris, a freshman walk on who redshirted last season, transferred to Centenary.
Six-three guard Phillip Fayne, who played in 48 of a possible 59 games in two years, was forced to forego his senior season after being diagnosed with Still's Disease in early July. He will remain on scholarship as a medical exemption.
The Dukes will face five teams that advanced to post-season play last year in non-conference action. DU will host NCAA participant West Virginia and face NCAA tourney teams Duke and Pittsburgh on the road. In addition Duquesne will make the cross-town trip to play Robert Morris (NIT) and host Old Dominion (CBI). Four of the five schools won more than 25 games last year.