The Dukes have a hairy situation in the post, but it’s not he same kind of hairy that we’re used to. Over the past two seasons, the options down low looked grim because the team only had one serviceable, undersized interior player but two positions to man. Even though his length allowed him to play bigger, Andre Marhold stood only 6’6” in terms of head height. Marhold more than held his own defensively, but never developed into an effective offensive player. This year, the Dukes have four serviceable options all 6’7” or taller and a fifth player that tall who profiles more as a wing. Before the issue was who will play. Now, the issue is who won’t.
I can assume safely that Ovie Soko will anchor the interior. The 6’8” English forward starred in the PBC Pro-Am the last two summers where he flashed guard skills and the will to score the Dukes have lacked in the post the last two seasons. While opponents certainly can contain Soko, he’ll provide Duquesne with a complete presence down low. He profiles as a huge upgrade for Duquesne, and he has the potential to turn into one of the better big men in the league. He has struggled with consistency in the past, but if he can turn the corner as a fifth year senior, he has enough skill to jump into the D-League or one of the better European leagues immediately after his college career.
What other big on the roster will complement Soko best? This question remains unanswered because neither JUCO transfer Dominique McKoy or highly regarded freshman Isaiah Watkins gave us a preview at the summer league. McKoy had to finish some classes to qualify and Isaiah Watkins sat out recovering from minor surgery.
When he committed last fall, I expected Watkins to come in and contribute immediately. I thought the same when I saw some raw game film last spring. However, I think he plays too similar a game to Soko to play off him. He has an inside outside game and while his ball handling lags behind Soko’s, he has the foundations for a complete offensive game as an interior player. At the moment, he doesn’t bring much to the table that Ovie Soko lacks.
McKoy profiles as a more typical interior player. Last year in junior college, McKoy took only six three pointers and unlike Soko, he lives on the interior. I’ve spoken to a couple of Rhode Island people about him since his signing and in general, they think he could become a decent A-10 player. He just needed some time to grow. I think McKoy could have benefited from a red shirt his freshman year, but Jim Baron fielded a thin team where some veterans failed to step up while others got hurt or kicked off the team. Baron called for all hands on deck to try to save his job and ultimately, it cost McKoy a year to develop. McKoy had a strong sophomore year in the tough Jayhawk Conference where he averaged a double – double and finished second in the conference in rebounding. He outperformed top 50 JUCO bigs, Alex Davis and Keshaun Hamilton, in the same league by a fairly wide margin.
Robinson also looks more equipped to stay at home in the post. While his scoring totals were lower than just about everyone at the summer league, he took advantage of the opportunities he had and finished among the most efficient shooters in the league. Robinson possesses very good hands and a soft touch on his shot. While he doesn’t create much for himself right now, but he doesn’t force plays either. He can use his wide body to create space for himself or teammates to grab rebounds and I think he could come in handy when setting screens in the Jim Ferry offense. I’ve called him my impact freshman for a while, but I can attribute that more to familiarity than anything. I’ve seen him play against D-1 competition and he acquitted himself well enough that I believe he could keep defenses honest if Ferry would need him. Ideally, he would benefit from a redshirt to work on his footwork and to get even stronger. However, I think he’ll be fine without one.
6’11” Darius Lewis had a rough start to his summer, but has the potential to develop into a Gary McGhee type center. No one will confuse him for the most dangerous offensive weapon on the team, but if Lewis can grab rebounds and outlet to the guards quickly, he could become valuable player. I hope the Duquesne fans will recognize his contributions more than the Pitt fans did with McGhee.
LG Gill rounds out the post options. Personally, I see him as more of a wing but he has the ball skills and the size to play inside or out in the Ferry system. Gill set such a high bar for his shooting early in the Pro-Am that later when he missed 3 of 8 shots, it felt like he was having an off night. While he can finish, other aspects of Gill’s game are raw and I’m not convinced that he can defend well enough to play big minutes right now. He also will need to learn to play the post as he currently looks like a guy who just woke up one morning at 6’7”. Like Robinson, Gill would benefit long run from a redshirt, but again, it’s more of a luxury than a necessity.
Soko will be the man, but who compliments is still up in the air. Watkins feels more like a replacement than a partner. McKoy became a very good rebounder in Kansas, but Robinson really opens up the floor with his size. Personally, I see him as the best complement, but his readiness to step into the role remains unclear. We’ll know more as we get closer to the season, but I’ll give you my thoughts on who will start at the five in my final post in the series on Monday.