Ron Everhart recently announced the 2011-12 recruiting class for the Duquesne Dukes men's basketball team. The class features four freshmen who will all have a chance to contribute immediately to a team that has numerous question marks following the departure of experienced players such as Bill Clark and Damian Saunders. Everhart says he likes the versatility that this class brings to the team.
"This class possesses a lot of versatility," said Everhart, who will be entering his sixth season at DU. "They all have the ability to play the way we've been playing - uptempo, but they can also play at a more traditional pace. All four players add new dimensions to the roster."
Two of the players (Danny Herrera and P.J. Torres) have signed National Letters of Intent, while two international players (Mamadou Datt and Kadeem Pantophlet) have reached financial aid agreements and will be enrolling shortly.
Here is a breakdown of the new faces that will be wearing the red and blue for the first time for the 2011-2012 season.
P.J. Torres (6-foot-4 / 200 pounds / New Rochelle, NY). Torres is an athletic swingman who is, in many ways, a typical Everhart recruit. He has a good shot and will be a welcome addition to the Dukes offense after averaging 22 points and eight assists per game during his senior season. Scouts admire his offensive ability and his calm demeanor on the court. That is something the Dukes desperately need after watching many close games not go their way because of poor decision-making down the stretch.
While the offense is a plus, many have pointed out that his ball handling needs work, as he relies on his jump shot to score rather than driving to the basket. His defense could also use some improvement as well.
Flaws aside, he should be a serviceable player on offense, though he will still play behind the likes of B.J. Monteiro and Sean Johnson to begin the year. He will have to play small forward most likely due to the Dukes being so undersized, which will be a challenge for Torres, since he profiles as more of a shooting guard.
Danny Herrera (6-foot-4 / 215 pounds / Miami, FL). You guessed it, another swingman to accompany the already-deep lineup of combo guards. Herrera, a native of Venezuela, averaged 19 points and five rebounds per game for Doral Academy in Miami, Florida. He was a nominee for the McDonalds All-American team. A bright student (4.1 GPA) he turned down offers from Princeton and Dartmouth to come to the Bluff.
He has good athleticism for his size and is capable of an inside-outside play on offense. The challenge, like Torres, will be adjusting to playing more of a forward role on this team.
Mamadou Datt (6-foot-8 / 210 pounds / Dakar, Senegal). The new big man on the Bluff will be Mamadou Datt. Though he had never picked up a basketball until he was 10, and only began playing competitively two years before coming to the U.S., he has put up good numbers at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, California. After averaging 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks per game his senior season, he will provide the Dukes with size they desperately need.
He chose the Dukes over West Coast mid-majors and Cleveland State. There isn't a whole lot of information on him anywhere, as the team's highlight video was made private after recruiting for him got serious. This is without question the surprise of the class.
It's also worth mentioning that former players from Stoneridge Prep have been involved in rules violations at schools such as USC and Pepperdine. The Dukes are taking a risk here, but given their need for a center, it's one they have to take.
Kadeem Pantophlet (6-foot-6 / 205 pounds / Tiel, Netherlands). The second international player in the class, Kadeem Pantophlet is a 20-year-old three-point specialist who most recently played in the post-graduate program at the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands. He averaged over 20 points and about nine rebounds per game. From watching his highlight tape, he is a very athletic player, with a sweet shot from the outside that reminds me of Bill Clark.
Pantophlet is very experienced, having played for the Netherlands' 2009 U20 European Championship team. and the 2010 Dutch U20 National Champions.
The Dukes were a team that lived and died by the three when forced to play a half-court game, so having another deep threat never hurts. The key adjustment for Pantophlet, like the other recruits of his size that come to Duquesne, is having to play both guard and forward. It remains to be seen if he will be able to hold up in the paint.
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The Dukes will also have some new faces because of late enrollments and transfers. Derrick Martin sat out last season after a late commitment, and Radford big man Martins Abele announced he is transferring to Duquesne.
Derrick Martin (6-foot-9 / 210 pounds / Montgomery, AL). After a late enrollment, Martin sat out last season ready to embark on his Freshman campaign in 2011-2012. The slender forward will be expected to carry most of the load in the center position, as he is the tallest active player on the roster. Unlike most big men, he can get up the floor rather quickly, which is a plus in Ron Everhart's system. From what I saw in Greentree, though, he needs to work on finishing around the hoop. His long wingspan made him a top shot blocker in prep school. He is the most intriguing newcomer to the team, since he has a full year of practice under his belt, and will most likely have the most immediate impact.
Martins Abele (7-foot-1 / 290 pounds / Radford University). Last week, word broke that Latvian center Martins Abele was transferring to Duquesne. He averaged 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in an abbreviated season that was cut short due to injury. Radford is a complete mess right now. Coming off a 5-24 season, coupled with an NCAA investigation of recently-fired head coach Brad Greenberg, made it easy for Abele to leave the Highlanders. There is an outside shot that he could play in 2011-2012 thanks to the violations at Radford, but more likely than not, he will see his first action with the Dukes in 2012-2013.
Everhart has tried this before with Mike Williams and Oliver Lewinson, but so far in his tenure, giant players have not been able to find success at Duquesne. But all teams need a giant to get rebounds and just stay even with other team's big men. All too often in the past, players like Damian Saunders were getting beat and into foul trouble by players much larger than them. This signing, if nothing else, should hopefully take some pressure off the other players when having to play defense on towering centers.
Although it came late, the announced class at Duquesne for this season caps off a wild recruiting season. Some players who gave verbals, such as A.J. West, did not enroll. With the roster finally set, the Dukes appear ready to begin what will be a very interesting season that should test both the players and Ron Everhart's coaching staff.