For those who might be new to my Duquesne writing, following every season, I do a player by player run down for all of the returning players. For those who are familiar with my Duquesne writing, I plan to do it a little differently this year in that I will create one post per position group as opposed to one per player. Wednesday, I looked at the post players. Yesterday, I looked at the wings. Today, I ?ll break down the guards.
Micah Mason (Junior)
Pittsburgh loves a home town story and Mason might be the best one playing that you haven’t heard about yet. The Highlands graduate has two full seasons under his belt at Duquesne since transferring from Drake thanks to his bodies’ inability to process wheat. If you know the story already, you’ll know that he was the best three point shooter in the country and the most efficient offensive player in the 2013-14 season. Problem was, he was the third wheel in the Dukes offense and able to be selective. This year, the coaching staff wanted him to become the focal point, but their Mason at the point experiment blew up. He and the team struggled early. Eventually, he settled into more of a combo role and flourished down the stretch showing flashes of an all conference future the Dukes need from him.
What He Did Well
Micah had a down year shooting the three ball and only hit 44.7% from deep. That’s third all time for Micah Mason in college basketball, but second all time for the Duquesne program. Mason at eighty percent efficiency still ended up being one of the most efficient players in America. It sounds strange to say as a positive, but he took risks and failed. He was willing to shoot more and was stone cold at times while drilling threes when guarded. We saw his ability to create his own shot and finish increase. Mason drove the hoop more and the step back three that looked uncomfortable at times early in the season, looked much better. In his final six games of 2015, he had six unassisted three pointers. He made four in the first twenty five games. On defense, he started reading screens better and generally kept the play in front of him. By the end of the season, he was probably the team’s strongest and most consistent defender in the 2-3 zone.
What needs to improve
Everybody needs to get better on defense but if Mason keeps doing what he did down the stretch, the Dukes will be in great shape.
Mason’s similar player list on Stat Sheet is loaded with potential breakout juniors and current all conference players. He and Melvin Johnson have a realistic chance of going from the “others receiving a vote or two” category to first team all conference selections. Don’t agree with me? Look at what Mason did during the final eight games of season and compare him to some of the current first teamers. He belongs in that group and will have 32 games to prove it.
Derrick Colter (Junior)
Another great story in 2014-15, Derrick Colter beat cancer and then his doubters. Hidden in a bad season for the team, Colter put the pieces together in the opposite direction of Mason. Colter started his Duquesne career as a high volume player and began to make the transition to more of a supportive role last year, struggling in the process. This year, he put the pieces together and got hot shooting the three in non-conference play. Not to be completely outdone by Mason, he managed the fifth best non-Mason three point shooting season in school history. He also finished the season as the school’s 31st all time scorer.
What He Did Well
Colter adapted to whatever role he was asked to play this season. Three players — Mason, Colter and Dominique McKoy — came into the campaign asked to make position changes. Only Colter flourished in his new role. He was lights out from distance early in the season and his pull up jumper from the free throw line is almost automatic at this point. Colter also flashed better interior passing that defenders will need to respect moving forward. Like Mason, he did a better job of getting off screens on defense and, with few exceptions, the two in the 2-3 zone was where they needed to be.
Areas to Improve
Everybody needs to get better on defense but if Colter gets off the start he had last season, the Dukes will be in great shape. Colter doesn’t need to shoot 40% from three again next year, but it would be helpful for him to stay more consistent over the entire season. In an offensive system that revolves around getting to the free throw line, it would be great if Colter can get there more. In the end, fans and coaches alike should be happy if Colter simply manages to repeat his junior year campaign.
Colter had an excellent season, but it will be difficult for him to expand on it next year. If he can play facilitator and manage to score the 13.5 points a game he did this year with slightly worse shooting percentages and more free throw attempts, the Dukes could have a two-headed attack at guard that pushes them into the top 50 in offensive efficiency.
Jordan Stevens (Junior)
Stevens is a quick and dynamic player who’s absolutely loaded with skill. Problem is, he never really adjusted to being the lower volume player the Dukes needed him to be. While he flashed excellent play making skills to set up himself and his teammates, he also lost his edge and possibly his confidence.
Stevens’ tenure was riddled with benchings, suspensions and ultimately, a indefinite suspension. The last word from Coach Jim Ferry was that he was still a part of the team, but he hasn’t been seen on the bench since the second George Washington game. He’s an outstanding player with great potential but it’s unknown whether or not he’ll play another game as a Duke. My money’s on ‘no’.
Desmond Ridenour (Sophomore)
The season had to be frustrating for Ridenour. I pegged him as a breakout candidate before the season and he never really got a chance to get going with the coaching staff favoring Jordan Stevens early and simply riding Colter, Mason and Jeremiah Jones late.
What He Did Well
Ridenour always provided an injection of energy into the lineup when he entered the game. His three point shooting in a small sample took a leap forward and when he was on the floor, he was always the Dukes most aggressive defender and offensive player.
Areas to Improve
Ridenour struggled badly in two areas; free throw shooting and turnovers. He only took eighteen free throws but he only made eight of them. Possessions ended with a turnover on over 27% of the ones he finished. To put that in context, Mason’s turnover percentage 14%, Colter’s was 16% and Darius Lewis managed 26.6%.
Ridenour previously looked like he could potentially break out and become a excellent secondary option off the bench before finally ascending to the starting line up as a senior. It now looks as if he’ll be a role player at best. A lot of times when we unveil that scenario, a transfer is assumed. However, Ridenour might be served to stay put. He’s past the point in his career where he could rebound in the junior college ranks and his resume to this point wouldn’t speak well to many Division I programs. He could easily go D-II just to play, but maybe it’s time to start thinking beyond basketball. Is he going to get a better degree at some middle of nowhere liberal arts college in Ohio even if he does get to feature on the basketball team? If there is interest from the coaching staff for the return of Ridenour, he should consider sticking around. Of course, I made terrible life decisions when I was twenty, so I won’t think that badly of him if he elects to leave.
Rene Castro (Sophomore)
Castro has Duquesne fans dreaming. The point guard that got away to Butler found his way back after Brad Stevens’ unexpected departure for the NBA and seeing limited action under his replacement. With the Bulldogs leaving for the Big East, he was able to come to his second choice even though they played in the same conference when he was recruited. He lit the Pittsburgh Pro-Am on fire, catching the attention of just about every spectator. While it’s difficult to tell what the Dukes have based on summer league, he appears to be an offensive triple threat that can shoot, pass and drive the basket.
The Dukes three best players for next season might all play the same position. Castro’s been out of game action for a year and it’ll be difficult for him to force his way past either Colter or Mason for a starting position immediately. The coaching staff will likely have the opportunity to take it slow and there isn’t any reason not to.