Feb 19, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duquesne Dukes guard Jeremiah Jones (23) is fouled by Butler Bulldogs forward Roosevelt Jones (21) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremiah Jones: Duquesne's Key to 2013-14 and Beyond

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This is what happens when a blogger procrastinates. I put off a piece and then put it off even more until someone blows up my concept with a tweet or in this case a series of tweets. This came from Matt Trabold early Friday morning:

In general, I agree with Trabold’s two conclusions about how the Dukes could exceed exceptions. While I would describe the Duke’s interior as more unproven than thin, I agree that Robinson or Lewis will need to step up. I’ll go more into my thoughts on the role LG Gill could play this coming season in a separate post, but he could move to the four if Ferry needs him in a pinch. I also agree that what the Joneses do will dictate how much the Dukes improve this year. I’ll take him one step further and I’ll say that the Dukes will go as far as Jeremiah takes them.

I look around the Atlantic 10 and I hear quite a few names of rising sophomores bandied about. Colter almost always gets mentioned After his season last year, how could you not include him? You never see Jeremiah, but I couldn’t tell you why. His 7.7 points per game sits in the same ball park as other more highly regarded second year swings and he was more efficient than Mandell Thomas of Fordham and just behind George Washington’s Patricio Garino. Those efficiency number don’t even include his outstanding defense.

Soko, White and Colter could finish among the leaders in the conference at their positions, but they won’t make the Dukes a winner by themselves. The Dukes know what they have in Colter, but I have a difficult time imagining them getting much more from him. After all, he became only the third player since they began keeping track of assists in the 70’s to record 400 points and 150 helpers in a season, and he accomplished that as a freshman.  Soko will provide leadership, a scoring boost and rebounding, but he has just one year of eligibility remaining. White will provide an alternative ball handler and scoring option. An improved Jeremiah makes the Dukes very difficult to match up with. If opposing coaches only need to focus on Soko, White and Colter, most teams can pick their poison with the dual point guards and a good defensive post player can slow Soko down. The swingman will have space to work with and he will need to make opponents pay attention to him. If he’s dangerous, Jeremiah can open the floor back up for the Duke’s other weapons while picking up his own stats. If Jeremiah provides the Dukes with a fourth player who scores in double figures, he would give them a huge boost. There aren’t many teams in the league with four solid weapons.

So should Jeremiah get better in 2013-14? I think he already has. While you should take summer league statistics with a grain of salt, the free throw line is the same distance from the hoop at Greentree and the AJ Palumbo Center. Jeremiah shot 62% from the line last season, but led the Pro-Am converting almost 90%. He got there frequently in a league where refs allow the players some leeway to play physically. We also saw a dramatic improvement in terms of his play making. Last summer, he averaged .5 assists at Greentree, but this year, he tied for fifth in the league with 3.2 helpers per game. Not only has he become a better passer and free throw shooter, his handle looks improved and he created better shots for himself. He still needs to improve his finishing but I thought in general, he looked like a much better player.

We know Jeremiah will provide defensive skill and improved scoring, but I think he will develop into a team leader after Soko leaves. He seems to have a ton of team pride and a high standard for excellence. He impressed a lot of alumni including myself when he called for a decrease in Duquesne students wearing Pitt gear around campus. As a young high school graduate, he showed maturity beyond his years passing on excellent college offers to take a prep year to mature physically. He lives in the gym. I like Jeremiah as a a player, and what I’ve seen from him as a person. His intangibles make him an important part of the team moving forward.

Maybe some pundits overlook Jeremiah. I hope opposing coaches do too. I expect big things from the improved sophomore swing and I think he could surprise now and into the future. He might have more upside than the more popular but departed Quevyn Winters. I don’t know if he has all league talent but he has all league work ethic and pride based on everything I’ve read from him. At the same time, he doesn’t seem like he needs the spotlight on him. He can do the dirty work that makes the team better and  frees the stars to play like stars. Pundits might continue to overlook him, but if he has a good year, the Dukes should improve quite a bit.

 

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