PITTSBURGH — Freshmen in college basketball are notoriously inconsistent.
Duquesne’s 6-foot-8 forward Tydus Verhoeven has been no exception to that rule. Verhoeven, a California native, has struggled offensively all season. He has a 46.2 field goal percentage, but he’s averaging just three points per game.
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But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been contributing. Unusually for a player his height, Verhoeven has already emerged as a shot-blocking specialist. His 2.1 blocks per game average leads the Atlantic-10 conference and 11th in the country amongst first-year players.
Verhoeven knew that things might not always be pretty as he adjusted from high school ball to Division I, but he also knew that his ability to block and alter shots would be a foundation for him to build upon.
“Coming into the season, coach (Keith Dambrot) would say, ‘You’re very advanced defensively for a freshman,'” Verhoeven said. “That’s something that I knew I was going to hang my hat on, because offensively, it’s been game-to-game, whatever the case may be, but defensively, I felt like I could impact every game.”
The ability to constantly help his team, even if his offensive game is struggling, has helped Verhoeven get through the adjustment mentally.
“That’s huge,” Verhoeven said. “You’re still helping the team the right way. You can have a game where you didn’t score, but if you had five rebounds and three or four blocks, you know you can contribute on the defensive end. Plus, it’s not just blocking shots, but altering shots on that side of the floor is huge, too.”
The physical adjustment has been more difficult. Not only is Verhoeven playing against older, stronger players, he’s also playing inside a lot more than the has in the past while also moving up a level.
“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “In high school, I wasn’t playing down low as much as I am now. It’s an adjustment, as you can tell by the foul totals. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment knowing where to be physical and where not to be. So, it’s a little bit different there, learning the tricks of the A-10.”
When it comes to making the adjustment, Verhoeven got a crash course at the beginning of Duquesne’s season. While Kellon Taylor was still with the football team and Chas Brown was out with a foot injury, Verhoeven and Jordan Robinson had to hold the fort in the paint for the Dukes. That meant a lot of guaranteed playing time, which helped Verhoeven make his adjustment.
“Getting that playing time, that’s huge,” he said. “Whenever you can play like that as a freshmen coming right out of the season and get minutes. That helps you down the line. Me and Eric were playing a lot, 30-plus minutes every night and being heavily depended on to provide stuff. That’s really helped us down the line, just from an experience standpoint.”
It also helped Dambrot and the Duquesne coaching staff get a feel for Verhoeven’s game and how he fits into Duquesne’s rotation. Dambrot thinks that Verhoeven can be a lot more than just a shot-blocking specialist.
“When Tydus really thinks he’s as good as he is, he’ll take another jump. That’s our job, to make sure that we’re hard on him, but we also have to nurture him to make sure he understands how much talent he has.”
If Verhoeven can improve on offense like Dambrot believes, the Dukes could have another potential impact player for the future.