May 11 / Rob

JMU Alum CJ Sapong Is the Top Scorer in MLS

sapongAfter the Capitals and Wizards losses last night, we’re a little bit down on sports this morning. But thankfully, there’s a JMU related story to lift our spirits. Former JMU soccer player CJ Sapong is off to the best start of his career with 7 goals through 9 games. That’s good enough to have him tied for the league lead with Erick Torres, and one more than two guys you might have heard of in David Villa and Jozy Altidore.

Sapong’s great start is all the more remarkable considering he wasn’t even starting earlier in the season. He took advantage of his opportunities and played his way into the starting 11 though. Now he’s just two goals shy of his career high for the regular season. In his mind, there’s no way he can’t score in double digits. That would be quite an accomplishment for a player who’s had his share of ups and downs. He’s experienced the highs of winning Rookie of the Year and an MLS Cup in Kansas City, to the lows of being loaned out to a USL club. Along the way he also did this, which was much cooler before Solo became Solo.  We’re glad to see CJ is doing all of JMU proud. We’ll be pulling for him (but not Philadephia, we have some standards) all season long.

May 7 / Rob

JMU Lacrosse Wins CAA & Earns NCAA Matchup With Louisville

The JMU Women’s Lacrosse entered the CAA Tournament this past weekend as the number one seed. They proved they deserved it and steamrolled Elon today by the score of 15-7 to win the CAA Championship. It was the Dukes 10th CAA title in program history. After battling Delaware to a 11-10 overtime victory in the semifinals, JMU took much of the suspense out of this one early. The Dukes rushed out a 6-0 lead and pretty much never looked back. Elon actually outshot JMU by a 22-20 margin. As the coach speak cliche goes though, “ground balls win lacrosse games” and JMU managed to scoop up 19 compared to 14 for the Phoenix. JMU also benefited from great defense and solid goaltending all game. Haley Warden netted a hat trick and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Leah Monticello, Emily Poelma, and Caroline Sdanowich also received All Tournament honors.

The victory moved JMU to 13-6 on the year and locked up the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Dukes will face the Louisville Cardinals in round one. Louisville earned an at-large bid after losing in the first round of the ACC Tournament to UVA. The Cardinals finished 11-7 for the season and were ranked 18th in the Coaches Poll and 19th in the Inside Lacrosse Poll. JMU was right on their heels at 19th and 20th respectively. The Cardinals coach, Kellie Young, is no stranger to the JMU program. She coached the Dukes from 2002-2006 prior to current coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe taking the position. Young guided JMU to three NCAA bids during her time. This is the 4th straight tournament for Louisville and the 3rd straight for the JMU.

The game will take place on Friday in University Park, PA. A win would earn the Dukes a rematch against #4 Penn State. JMU fell to the Nittany Lions 12-9 on the road back in March. Elon and Towson both got at-large bids, bringing the total to 3 teams from the CAA. Winning the league proves JMU is no joke. The Dukes also played a great out of conference schedule, so the ladies won’t be afraid of any team in the tourney. The Dukes could be set up to make a run.

May 4 / Rob

Dukes Pick Up Another UVA Transfer

wordFor the second time this offseason, a player announced that he’s transferring from UVA to JMU. Yesterday it was linebacker Landan Word. Last week wide receiver David Eldridge decided to leave the Cavs for the Dukes. Both players should add depth to a talented JMU squad.

Transfers from P5 programs always excited fans. More so when they’re from P5 programs (technically speaking, UVA is still a P5 program). Historically, FBS to FCS transfers have a mixed track record of success. At least on paper though, Ward looks like he could be a real difference maker. And Eldridge could be a versatile weapon in Donnie Kirkpatrick’s offense.

Word played in 11 games as a true freshman last season, starting twice. He had a legit chance to be a 3 year starter for the Hoos. As a 3 star player coming out of high school and his father, Barry Wood, was a former ACC Player of the Year for UVA who went on to play 7 years in the NFL. He looks like a great replacement for Gage Steele and an outstanding addition to the JMU defense. He has 3 more years of eligibility.

Eldridge is a 6’1″ 185 pound receiver who was mostly used a deep threat at UVA. He also played in 11 games last year, making 8 catches for 2 TDs. He also saw limited action in 2015, so he’ll come to Harrisonburg with 2 more years of eligibility. He expressed some frustration that the Cavs primarily used him as a deep threat and has stated that he’d like to be more involved in other ways. He’s a great addition to a JMU receiving corps that includes two other FBS transfers. Terrance Alls transferred into JMU from Duke last year and Ish Hyman joined the Dukes after originally playing at Kansas.

Apr 30 / Todd

Dukes Heading to the NFL

It’s been a bittersweet weekend for a bunch of Dukes considered NFL Prospects. It was not all that surprising, or disappointing, that no Dukes players were selected in the actual draft and as players and their agents have learned over the years, it’s often better to be signed as an Undrafted Free Agent than a late round pick. The UFA’s are often selected by teams specifically looking to fill needs while the late-round picks may have been selected as a “best player available” to a team with a logjam ahead of them at their position.

On the sweet side of the ledger, OL Mitchell Kirsch signed with the Chicago Bears, a squad in rebuilding mode that already has former Duke Daniel Brown who contributed a good deal late last season at TE. The Bears also invited special teams standout Rashard Davis to their rookie mini-camp. Because the schedule’s for teams’ rookie camps vary, Davis was actually able to also accept an invite to the New York Jets camp so he’ll have two shots to make an impression.

reynolds high 5CB Taylor Reynolds, one of the players with the best JMU backstories in program history (bailed on a QB shot at his hometown school and hated rival Delaware, was switched to CB almost immediately in classic Mickey fashion his freshman year and suffered some unnecessary slings and arrows from fans during his learning curve early in his career before turning into an absolute stud his last couple seasons and earning this opportunity), will be taking his talents to the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons after signing a free agent deal this weekend too.

On the bitter side however, somehow RB Khalid Abdullah has not yet gotten a call from a pro team. And this despite a number of less-talented backs (our completely unbiased opinion of course) including guys like New Hampshire’s Dalton Crosson getting chances. We’re still hoping Khalid will find a home at some point though! And we’d love to see Gage Steele find an opportunity too.

In other news, Softball is flat-out rolling right now but we’re hoping we’ll cover them in more detail later this week before the postseason begins with the CAA tourney. And the Duke Club found a new man to lead that critically important element of JMU Athletics that we’re very excited about but will cover in more detail this summer (hopefully after a program-defining run from Softball takes us deep into June!).

Apr 27 / Rob

Reader Poll: Will Any JMU Dukes Get Drafted?

KhalidThe 2017 NFL Draft kicks off tonight. It’s arguably the most over-hyped event of the sports calendar, but it’s a long time until JMU football kicks off so we’re talking about it. I haven’t been paying much attention, but I assume the big story focuses on whether Cleveland’s new front office will still take input from a homeless guy. That’s all well and good, but what we care about here is the Dukes. And we’d like to know if you think any Dukes will here their name called during the draft. We’re thinking that this won’t be the year, but several guys should land undrafted free agent slots. And call us crazy, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of those guys ended up making a roster. Khalid Abdullah, Taylor Reynolds, Mitch Kirsch, and Gage Steele all have plenty of talent. Will they end up playing on Sundays? Vote in our poll and then let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Apr 23 / Rob

Cambry Arnold Does Her Best Ken Griffey Jr. Imitation

Cambry Arnold is very talented. The versatile player is batting .388 and leads all JMU freshman with 12 multi-hit games this year. She is not however, very tall. At a listed height of 5’1″ you might not think she was much of a source of many defensive highlights in the outfield. You’d be wrong though. Today she climbed the wall for a snow cone catch to rob UNCW of an extra base hit. The play helped JMU secure a series sweep over the Seahawks. Megan good earned a win and a save from the circle and slugged a ridiculous 2.000 in the series. The Dukes moved to 39-6 overall.

Apr 23 / Rob

VA Tech is Really Desperate for a Win Over JMU

vt-snickersThis photo comes from Virginia Tech’s spring football game. We present it completely out of context and without comment.

Go Dukes!

Apr 20 / Rob

Vote for JMU Basketball Alums to Play in The Basketball Tournament

A.J. Davis PosterThe Basketball Tournament (TBT) is an annual 5 on 5 single elimination tourney that anyone over 18 can play in. The field will be made up of 64 teams competing for the winner-takes-all $2 million prize. ESPN will be broadcasting the games from the round of 16 on. This is the fourth year and it really is a fun event. But it’s not just for regular weekend warriors. Past tournaments have featured guys like Mike Bibby, Matt Bonner, and others with NBA experience. Most teams feature former college players and overseas professionals. It’s legit hoops.

Why is this important? Because former JMU Basketball manager Joe Kuykendall and former JMU Basketball Video Coordinator Kevin Allbright have put together a team. Of course it’s a team of former JMU ballers. It’s called the “The Founding Fathers.” So far, Ron Curry, AJ Davis, Devontae Morgan, Kyle Swanston, and James Millen have signed on. Other past Dukes greats are in negotiations to join as well.

Here’s the important part. Regular fans get to decide who plays in the TBT. The bracket will follow the same sort of four, sixteen team region format of another tourney you might be familiar with. And 9 teams in each region will get “bids” based on the results of an online vote. Seven other teams will be given at large bids, provided the reach a minimum number of votes and fulfill some other eligibility requirements. The final slot in each region will go to a team that plays its way in via a TBT Jamboree.

It’s an online vote people. That’s pretty much a JMU speciality at this point. So vote, vote vote! It’s a fun tourney and it’d be great to see some Dukes cut down the nets on ESPN and capture the $2 million prize. Oh yeah, one more thing. The fans who vote can get a cut of that prize. That’s right. Your vote could get some Dukes into TBT and net you some cash. The top 100 fans of the winning team will each take home between $1,000 and $20,000. That’s not a bad return for just voting. And rootin’.

Apr 18 / Rob

Everett Withers Didn’t Like His Players Last Year

First off, let us say that we sincerely appreciate the contributions Everett Withers made while serving as the head coach of JMU football. He injected some much needed enthusiasm into the program at a time it was needed. But the man seems to have never encountered a bad situation that wasn’t someone else’s fault. Now he implies that the players he inherited at Texas State weren’t good people. Surely that’s the reason the team struggled so badly on the field, right coach?
Look, we’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he just had a mixed up way of saying that he thought the new recruits were a better fit for his vision. That’s not it though. It really was just a dumb statement by a guy who doesn’t really see the big picture. JMU is so much better off with Mike Houston.

Apr 16 / Rob

Lou Rowe Put Together a Good Recruiting Class You Guys

The 2016-2017 JMU basketball season was a disappointment. With one of the most experienced rosters in the CAA, JMU struggled mightily out of conference and then finished 8th in the CAA. However, they won a game in the CAA tournament for the first time in years. Perhaps more importantly, they showed no signs of quitting all season even after it was clear they were out of the running. That’s no small thing in our humble opinion.

To be honest, we were as shocked as anyone when JMU hired Lou Rowe. We loved watching him play and consider him one of our all time favorite Dukes. He lacked any head coaching experience and this past year showed that he’s got room to improve on the Xs and Os side of things. However, like we mentioned, his players never quit and they sure seemed to buy into what he was selling. Unfortunately, those things weren’t consistently true during former coach Matt Brady’s time at the helm.

Rowe’s in game coaching will improve with more game reps. In today’s college basketball game, talent trumps pretty much everything anyway. If Rowe can recruit well and build a positive culture for JMU basketball, the Dukes could finally be a year in and year out contender in the CAA. Fortunately, Rowe seems to be doing both those things. His first full recruiting class has us particularly excited.

Darius Banks is the latest signee for the Dukes. He’s a 6’5″ shooting guard out of St. Petersburg, Florida. He was rated as a 3 star recruit by ESPN and Scout and is ranked the 34th best recruit at his position in the country. Banks signed last week and joined four other recruits who signed in the Fall. Along with Banks, Zach Jacobs, Greg Jones, Matt Lewis, and Dwight Wilson make a very intriguing 5 man class.

Jacobs was the Richmond All-Metro Player of the Year after averaging 21 points and 9 boards as a 6’8″ forward for Trinity Episcopal. Jones joined Jacobs on the Richmond All-Metro First Team. He’s a 6’6″ forward who can bang down low and hit from outside. He averaged 18 and 9 and shot 36% from long range for John Marshall. Matt Lewis is another Virginia recruit. He landed on the Washington Post’s All-Met Third Team. The fact that he played for O’Connell High School is gross (Go PVI!). But we can overlook that now that he’s a Duke. Playing at O’Connell means he played in the WCAC, arguably the top high school hoops league in the country. That’s huge. Lewis played against ACC, Big 10, and Big East recruits all year and managed to score in double figures while running the point. He’s a good get and hopefully he’s a sign that JMU will finally open up a WCAC/DMV recruiting pipeline. And finally Dwight Wilson is another Florida recruit. Listed at 6’8″ and 245 lbs, he averaged 16 points and a ridiculous 17 boards a game as a junior. Those rebounding numbers have us drooling.

JMU took some lumps this past season. That was obvious. But ask anyone who ever played with Rowe or knows him well, and they’ll go on and on about how he’s the perfect guy for JMU. They’ll swear he’s got a clear vision of what he wants the JMU basketball program to be. And that he’s got an undeniable ability to recognize talent and sell recruits on that vision. This recruiting class has us thinking they might be right.