Upperclassman leaders play important role for Denver Hoops

Photo courtesy of DU Athletics

Senior Josiah Dunn and redshirt junior Duke Douglas are making their final on-court appearance at Magness Arena Wednesday night.

Though they haven’t received major minutes on the court this season, both Douglas and  Dunn are classic ‘glue guys’ who hold the team together by example – hard work, accountability, and cooperation. Both are widely respected for their experience and work ethic both on and off the court at DU. LetsGoDU caught up with head coach Rodney Billups and assistant coach Dan Ficke to get their thoughts on these two upperclassmen.

Duke Douglas

Redshirt junior Douglas is the classic 6’4″ tweener who has had to work hard for every minute he’s earned on the floor. He’s averaging nearly 10 minutes per game this season and provides instant energy off the bench. Billups says of Douglas, “When I got the job, he bought in immediately to how we play and operate. His athleticism on our team is second to none. He is personable, likable and fun to be around. It’s sad that he is not going to be around anymore but there is a lot of pride in him and what he has done this year.”

Coach Dan Ficke has worked with Douglas for two years. Ficke calls Douglas “even a better person than player. He represents what we want here as a student at the University of Denver. He gives it all he has – whether he is on the playing floor or not. He gives 110% at practice. He is a leader behind the scenes. He helps us prepare like he is going to be a starter.” On the personal side, Ficke says, “Duke is a smooth guy, likes jazz music (he’s from New Orleans) and has a deep, reassuring voice. He’s like an older brother to a lot of the guys. He’s a quiet leader who leads by example. He can put his arm around guys and tell them everything is going to be alright or give encouragement.”

Off the court, Billups also advised that Douglas’ humor and skills in social situations will hold him in good stead as well. Says Billups, “He is likable and fun to be around. While he is easy going and calm on the outside, he is also a joker with his teammates.”

Josiah Dunn

Josiah Dunn is a walk-on player for the Pioneers.

According to coach Ficke, the life of a walk-on is tough. They practice and travel with the squad so they must sacrifice personal time for basketball and academics, oftentimes without on-court glory. Out of 26 games played this year, Dunn has only gotten into 4 games for a total of 5 minutes and scored 4 points. He scored all of his points in a win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with two buckets. His teammates celebrated each one like it was a game-winner.

Dunn plays an integral role as a member of the “All-Stars”, the name given by the coaches to the DU scout team. He runs the other team’s offense and defense. According to Ficke, “He’s been a vital member of that. He brings it every day. He is also involved in the DU community and does great in the classroom, too. Josiah is a vegan beginning this year and a lead by example guy (for the rest of the team) with his diet. He is light hearted and likes to joke with the guys on the team. He adds excitement and energy.”

Billups admires Dunn’s willingness to do “whatever it takes” to get better in the classroom or on the court and his ability to seek and accept coaching. “He sets the example for the team – he is always on time, practices hard, and puts up extra shots in practice – whatever is needed. He always wants to get better so he asks questions about how he can improve his play on the floor.” But it doesn’t stop there according to Billups who cited Dunn’s team-leading dressing style and clean cut hair style that makes him one of the sharpest Denver Pioneers.

While Douglas and Dunn (sounds like a great law firm) may not be regular contributors on the floor, both coaches cited these two seniors as important contributors to this season’s success.

“Unbelievable guys,” Billups said about both players.

Douglas and Dunn put on their uniforms for the final time at Magness Arena Wednesday night at 7:00 pm MT against Omaha.