This time last year, Emile Blackman was wrapping up his second season with Niagara. Just a few weeks later, he announced that he would spend his final season of eligibility at Duquesne. Already familiar with several members of the coaching staff, it didn’t take long for him to recognize Duquesne was the right spot for him.
“When I first decided I was transferring from Niagara I got a phone call from Coach [Rich] Glesmann, who was the head assistant here. They recruited me out of high school when they were at LIU Brooklyn before they got the job here. Four years later it came around full circle, so when they gave me a call I didn’t really even give anybody else a chance because it was a familiar relationship already. I took my visit here, and didn’t even get back on the plane before I decided I was coming.”
Blackman stepped into a leadership role immediately at Duquesne. The program brought him in for help on the offensive side of the ball after the Dukes lost over 70 percent of their scoring from the 2015-16 season. The young Duquesne team came into the season with very little experience on the court, and Blackman recognized that the young team would make plenty of mistakes. Rather than getting upset, Blackman hoped to use those mistakes as lessons for his younger teammates.
“Coming into it I understood it was going to be a huge learning curve just because we had so many young guys,” Blackman said. “We had all underclassmen in the starting lineup except for myself, but I wouldn’t say I was ever frustrated. I think it was more of me helping guys to learn quicker and be better. I think these guys learned a lot from me this year, and I think they’ll do a lot better in the future.
The biggest bright spot for Duquesne on another disappointing season was the annual City Game against crosstown rival Pitt. Behind a 21 point performance from Blackman, the Dukes defeated the Panthers 64-55, their first win over Pitt since 2000. Blackman had played in big rivalry games with Niagara, as they would take on Canisius every year in “The Battle of the Bridge” but he noted that the atmosphere in PPG Paints Arena for the City Game couldn’t be matched by any other game he’s played in. While Duquesne students wasted no time after the final buzzer to storm the court and celebrate, Blackman needed an extra minute to take it all in.
“It was crazy,” Blackman said. “If you go back and look at all the videos of when everybody stormed the court, I went and sat back down on the bench just because it didn’t feel real. We knew the history of the game going into it. We knew that traditionally Pitt blew us out every time and I think we all embraced that and played well enough to pull it out.”
Unfortunately for Blackman and the Dukes, the way the team played in the City Game was unable to carry over and led to more success. The team was bullied by other A-10 opponents, and even lost eight consecutive conference games at one point. It’s easy for a team to get discouraged by such a long stretch of losses, but Blackman and his team were able to stay remain focussed and finally ended their skid with a dominant 30 point victory over UMass.
“I think if we were older, it would’ve been hard. But I think because the guys were so young, at that point we were playing like we had nothing to lose. We went on an eight game losing streak, but I think we played well in a lot of those games. We just needed better execution coming down the stretch. I think guys realizing that we were close enough, that kept morale pretty high.”
Blackman finished the season averaging 12.5 points per game, the second highest on the team. His best individual performance of his short time with Duquesne came during his last game at the A.J. Palumbo Center. With his family in the crowd, the graduate transfer scored a season-high 26 points, and shot 8-14 from the field.
Even though he only played one season under recently fired head coach Jim Ferry, Blackman thinks very highly of Ferry.
“Coach Ferry is a great coach. I don’t think he was dealt the best hand in this decision, but it is what it is. It’s a business. College basketball is a business, and it gets people prepared for professional basketball, which is definitely a business,” Blackman said. “With him being a great coach, I think he’ll have opportunities elsewhere. Since I don’t have anymore games it really doesn’t effect me too much, but I kind of feel bad for the other guys because he had a great relationship with all us.”
Emile Blackman isn’t entirely sure what the future holds for him, but he intends on continuing his basketball career at a professional level after he finishes up his time at Duquesne.
“I’ve never seen myself as a somebody who can just sit behind a desk or do something not basketball related,” Blackman said. “I think I’m going to try to play basketball as long as I can and see where that takes me.”
You can keep up with Emile and his career on Twitter @Milli_Black.