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Up Close with Duquesne's Derrick Colter

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Duquesne senior point guard Derrick Colter is putting the finishing touches on his remarkable career. Colter, who has started every game in his Duquesne career, entered his senior season 33rd on the Dukes’ all-time scoring list with 1,086 points.

Off the court, Colter had to deal with the death of his older brother JJ during his freshman season and survived a battle with cancer the following year. The unquestioned leader of the Dukes, Colter sat down with PSR's Tony DeFazio before the season got under way last month.

Tony: Is there anything different about your approach to your senior season?
Derrick: Just approaching it how any other season would be - just go out, play hard, help my team win and do whatever it takes.

TD: Coach Ferry has said that the strength of the team is the guards – Micah Mason, Rene Castro and you. What do the three of you bring to the team?
DC: Everybody knows Micah's the best shooter in the land. I'm not even joking. When we're at practice and we're going at it, he'll only miss like one or two shots out of the whole day. He can really shoot. He's not only a shooter, but off the dribble he can shoot and throw good passes, too, so he's hard to stop.

Rene, he's got that old school game. He has a lot of control with his handles and he knows how to use the backboard. He can use his body real well. He has great vision and he can see the floor really good.

For me, I'm really fast and explosive and can get to the hole. I can shoot outside shots too but I love to drive and kick to my teammates.

So all of us have different games, and when we play together you might take one of us away but then the other two will be open. It's hard to guard.

TD: Micah, Jeremiah Jones and you are the seniors, but you’ve kind of established yourself as the leader. Are you embracing that role?
DC: Got to. They all trust in me and believe in me, so I've got to give everything I can to them. Plus it's my last year so I'm not letting anything hold me back.

I just come in every day and lead by example. Come in early and get your shots up, stay after practice and get your shots. Help the other guys get their shots, work out with the freshmen and sophomores.

I love it. I'd rather be in the gym than be anywhere else.

TD: You’re graduating this December, in three and a half years. How did that happen?
DC: Staying here in the summer, staying ahead of classes, making sure I pass every class. Just stay ahead. I wasn't planning it, but it just happened. I was here in the summer working out and I just felt like, "Why not take classes and stay focused?" After a while I started building up and I was ahead of credits and this year they said I could graduate early. I was like, "OK, I'll do that then."

TD: You originally committed to play for Jim Ferry at Long Island University in Brooklyn. Why did you follow him when to Pittsburgh?
DC: It was all about trust, man. I really trusted him and his staff and they supported me a lot. When I was in high school they were coming to all my games, and coming to see my family and stuff, so they showed loyalty and I repaid the favor by showing him the same. I stuck with him.

TD: Given everything you’ve been through, is there anything happen to you on a basketball court that can affect you?
DC: Nothing can phase me. I had everything already happen to me. I don't have any worries right now.

TD: I guess you re-discovered that trust when you went through some difficult times with your brother passing away and then again in your fight against cancer.
DC: They helped me a lot. They supported me with whatever I needed. If I needed a place to stay or anything, they helped me out with that. They were always communicating with me, calling, texting, just seeing how I was doing. They showed a lot of love. I had a second family here. It felt great.

TD: How much did those two years change you?
DC: It changed my life a lot. I can't take anything for granted now. Every day I wake up I give thanks to God. You don't know how quickly you can lose something. I mean, I thought I wasn't going to be able to play ball no more. But I fought through it and I can still play the game I've always loved.

Seeing my brother go through whatever he went through made me a stronger person because if he can fight through all that why can't I? I just can't say anything more about that.

TD: What was the reaction like from teammates when they heard you had cancer?
DC: Coach took us all down to the locker room and he told them that I had cancer, and the look on some people's faces… Several people just had this look like, "Oh snap!" But then after that, they were just like, "Man I got your back, I support you 100, Derrick, whatever you need I'll help you out."

As I got better and started to play again, they were like, "Whoa he can do that? He's supposed to be in bed somewhere sleeping, he's supposed to be tired and now he's running past me? He's amazing." They showed a lot of love for me. Some of them said they couldn't have done it.

TD: Did you think about basketball while you were recovering?
DC: Basketball is my quiet space. I come here to clear my mind. If I'd have lost this game, I'd still have love for it but it ain't fun if I ain't playing it. Now, some days, I just come here and sit in the seats and look around, and it clears my mind.

TD: Is that battle still with you? Is it still there in some way?Duquesne Derrick Colter
DC: It's in the back of my head every day. Not a bad thing – it’s motivation. Some people can't do this – have cancer one year, and then come back and play ball at a high level. That's hard to do. But you gotta find a way.

I'm not scared of anything. I’ve been through it. I saw death. I saw cancer. I can take anything now.

TD: What are your goals right now?
DC: All about winning. I want to leave here a winner. I want to get Duquesne an A-10 championship and want to play in the NCAA Tournament. But most of all I want everybody at Duquesne to remember my name. See how hard I worked and whatever I've been through. Just remember my name.

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