Tavares Oliver Jr 6-0 Freshman Guard Mott College
*Austin Sherrell 6-7 Senior Guard Kentucky State University
*Dmonta Harris 6-5 Junior Guard Mid Western State University
*Innocent Nwoko 6-11 Sophomore Center Central Michigan University
*Jerry Ben 6-10 Sophomore Forward Franklin & Marshall University
*Eric Williams Jr 6-6 Sophomore Guard Duquense University
*AJ Crawford III Sophomore Guard Henry Ford College
*Ashton Sherrell 6-7 Freshman Forward Lake Superior State University
*Tavares Oliver Jr 6-0 Freshman Guard Mott College
Last season, Eric Williams Jr was one of the best freshman in the country and is looking forward to taking his game to a new level this season.
By Scott Elliott
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – When describing his game, Eric Williams Jr. keeps it relatively simple.
Any conversation about his style of play or what he needs to be on the court generally produces the same line, “I just go out there and do what I have to do.”
For the Duquesne Dukes, what does that mean?
“Rebounding, passing, scoring, helping the team out,” he claimed. “Doing the dirty work.”
Williams Jr. did all that and more in his first year on The Bluff. He led the Dukes in rebounding (8.8) and double-doubles (11), ranked second in scoring (14.3) and set several Duquesne freshman records—points in a game (34), rebounds in a game (16), and total three-pointers made (67). For a program starving for success, he has all the makings of a superstar that can help restore the Duquesne glory days.
Williams Jr. is confident and fearless—he scored the go-ahead basket in wins over George Mason and Saint Louis. His left-handed stroke is silky smooth—he knocked down a Duquesne record nine threes against George Mason. And he’s one well-timed pass away from sending fans leaping out of their seats—his high-flying dunks always seemed to up the ante from his previous slam.
Head coach Keith Dambrot said on several occasions Williams Jr. was one of the best freshmen he’s ever coached, but the now-sophomore downplays it all.
“I just got out there, play, and try to not think about it, honestly,” Williams Jr. said.
Most 6-foot-5 swingmen are not considered high-volume rebounders but Williams Jr. is the exception. Despite being consistently matched up against bigger opponents, the New Haven, Michigan, native displayed a precocious feel for tracking the ball off misses. He logged 14 games with 10 or more rebounds, and his 280 total rebounds were the second-most all time for a Dukes rookie player.
He spent all summer on campus, taking classes in June and July and working to add muscle in hopes of stabilizing his body.
“I came into Duquesne at 175 and I’m up to 205,” Williams Jr. said. “My weight is noticeably a lot better. The small things like getting pushed around and stuff, it doesn’t happen as much as it did last year. I’m still pretty skinny, honestly, but just stronger.”
Expectations for the 2018-19 Duquesne season will start with Williams Jr. He was the youngest player on the Atlantic-10 All-Rookie team and was tabbed a preseason second-team selection at the conference’s media day two weeks ago.
“It means a lot, but its just preseason,” Williams said. “I can’t let it get to me. I have to keep working like I did last year and come out and do what I have to do. It’s an honor, though, to be on that list, to be recognized.”
The Dukes will have 11 new faces this year—four transfers and seven freshmen—but Williams Jr. said the team is further along in year two under Dambrot than compared to last fall.
“We need to work on a few more things, but I think we’re almost there, honestly,” he said. “It’s up to us, the players, we’ve got to perform.”
Juniors Mike Lewis III and Kellon Taylor and Williams Jr. are the only returners so expect the Michigan product to be more vocal on the court this year.
“I think altogether our group collectively needs to be leaders and doing the right things,” Williams Jr. said. “If everybody does the right things, I think it will all play out. But I do need to be more vocal, which I have been.”
Duquesne improved by six wins under Dambrot last year but it could have easily been more. Williams Jr. lamented his frustration with the team’s close calls. The Dukes twice fell on last-second shots and lost another game in overtime. Second half double-digits leads at VCU and Rhode Island were squandered.
“Every possession counts,” Williams Jr. said of the biggest takeaway from his freshman season. “We lost a lot of close games. Even though we didn’t have all the pieces we wanted, we still could have won those games. There are no excuses.”
Duquesne announced last week plans for a comprehensive renovation of the A.J. Palumbo Center. Set to break ground in March, the modernized and re-imagined facility will be named UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in honor of Duquesne legend and NBA trailblazer Chuck Cooper. The announcement reaffirms the administration’s commitment to turning Duquesne hoops back into a winner. Williams Jr. is excited, but like describing his game, he keeps it fairly simple.
“I just go day by day and focus on what we need to focus on,” Williams Jr. said. “We can’t get distracted. It’s nice we’re getting a whole new facility, but we’ve got to win.”
Matt Beachler, Innocent Nwoko and newcomers Michael Kemp and Melo Burrell are our sophomores this season.
New Haven Basketball Alum 6-11 Center Innocent Nwoko gearing up for his sophomore season at Central Michigan University. Fire up Chips!!
BROOKLYN, NY – Duquesne sophomore swingman Eric Williams Jr. was named preseason second team All-Atlantic 10 in the annual poll of conference coaches and media released today. The the announcement was made as part of the league's annual media day at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Williams Jr. is the first Duke since Damian Saunders (2010-11) to earn preseason second team all-conference honors. The Port Huron, Mich. native averaged a team-high 14.3 points and a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game in earning a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team last season.
Williams Jr. is one of four sophomores on the preseason first or second teams joining Davidson's Kellan Grady (first team), Richmond's Grant Golden (first team) and Saint Louis' Jordan Goodwin (second team).
Duquesne, which returns two starters from last year's 16-16 team, was picked to finish 11th in the preseason team poll.
Saint Louis, Saint Joseph's, Davidson, George Mason and Rhode Island were picked to finish in the top five spots. Saint Louis, which finished in a four-way tie for fifth last season, received 15 of a possible 26 first place votes. Saint Joe's (4), Davidson (6) and George Mason (1) also received first place votes.
Dayton was picked sixth followed by VCU, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure, Richmond and DU. There was just a 49-point gap separating No. 7 VCU and No. 11 Duquesne.
All 14 teams will advance to the 2019 Atlantic 10 Championship March 13-17 at Barclays Center, with the top four finishers receiving byes to the quarterfinal.
The Dukes, in their second season under head coach Keith Dambrot, welcome 12 newcomers - including five Division I transfers - to the 2018-19 roster. The 12 newcomers are the second-most among NCAA D-I schools.
DU opens the regular season at home against William & Mary on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5:00 p.m.
Season, group and individual game tickets are now on sale by calling 412-232-DUKE (3853) or by visiting the men's basketball tickets page at GoDuquesne.com.
2018-19 ATLANTIC 10 PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
(as selected by conference coaches and media - first place votes in parentheses)
Team (1st place votes)Points2018 Finish
1. Saint Louis (15)348t-5th
2. Saint Joseph's (4)3244th
3. Davidson (6)3143rd
4. George Mason (1)287t-5th
5. Rhode Island2211st
9. St. Bonaventure1672nd
12. La Salle85t-10th
13. George Washington73t-10th
BY JOEL REVO
Welcome to A10 Talk’s Preseason Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2018-19 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season, as voted on by our staff of writers. Today, we feature #15 Eric Williams Jr. of Duquesne.
What He’s Done
Eric Williams Jr. has always been an underdog. At the start of his freshman season in high school, he stood only 5’7. He had zero division one offers, even though he was good enough to receive 1st team all-state and Class B player of the year and Macomb County Player of the Year in Michigan until he signed with Duquesne.
No one is doubting Williams Jr. this season after his phenomenal freshman campaign that landed him on the A-10 All-Rookie team. He averaged 33.7 minutes and 14.3 points per game, and was also a force on the glass, averaging 8.8 rebounds per game. His best game came against George Mason, where he scored 34 points on 9-15 shooting from deep, collected 11 rebounds, and led the Dukes to a double overtime win. After a 6-2 start to the conference season though, Duquesne’s momentum halted, and the team managed only one more win the rest of the season. Eric has shown that he can do a little bit of everything.
Along with his ability to crash the boards, he can dish
By: Jason Jordan, USA Today High School Sports | October 6, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Romeo Weems can’t relate to his peers who, in addition to putting forth supreme effort this weekend at USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp, have to rack their brains over which college they’ll ultimately pick.
Weems got the latter out of the way in May when he committed to DePaul and said times like these make him happy that his concentration can remain laser-focused on the hardwood.
“It just feels great to have that out of the way,” said Weems, a forward at New Haven (Mich.) High School. “I just couldn’t imagine still having to go through that right now. I have other things I am working on.”
Weems is fresh off of surgery to repair bone chips in his shooting elbow.
Unbeknown to most, he played his entire high school season plus the spring and summer with the injury and only came off physical therapy a week ago.
“I feel the difference big time already,” Weems said. “The thing with me is getting my wind up so that’s what I’m doing here. More than anything it just feels good that I don’t feel pain every time that I shoot. That was the worst.”
Given the full scope of Weems’ health challenges, it makes his production over the last year that much more impressive.
He collected 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 4.8 steals and two blocks a game for New Haven last season, including a near quintuple-double – 21 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 steals and seven blocks – in a regional title game.
There were rumblings that Weems could reopen his recruitment after a productive summer running with The Family (Mich.) on the Nike EYBL, where he averaged 15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, two steals and two blocks a game.
However, Weems was quick to shut down any thought of him backing out on the Blue Demons.
“I’m 100 percent going to DePaul,” Weems said matter-of-factly. “No teams are still recruiting me and I don’t really care if they are or not because I’ve got my school. I feel at home there, I’ve got a great relationship with the coaches and it’s close to home so my parents can come. Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY
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