PITTSBURGH — On the same day Keith Dambrot took the Duquesne men’s basketball coaching job, one tweet from Tavian Dunn-Martin caught the eye of many fans.
He was following Dambrot to Pittsburgh.
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“The coaching staff and the bond we made my first year brought me to Duquesne,” Dunn-Martin said. “The things we did the first year, they became my family, so it was a good choice for me to come over here Coach D has been hard on me since the first day I got to Akron. I like how he pushes me and tries to make me better every day.”
When a player moves with his or her coach, generally speaking it is considered one of the highest compliments that can be given.
“When we had Tavian he played 10 minutes a game for us in Akron but he played behind senior guards,” said Dambrot. “We knew he was a good player.”
Offensively, Dunn-Martin has a quick shot and has been unafraid to showcase his range. Additionally he is the only Atlantic 10 player yet to commit a turnover and has amassed six assists, consistently feeding his teammates in an effort to secure higher-percentage shots.
It is the defensive side of the ball that Dunn-Martin has made the biggest strides.
In the second half of Monday’s win against UIC, Dunn-Martin got in position to drawing a charge but was called for a blocking foul in the paint.
While the Duquesne fans protested a borderline call, Dunn-Martin ran right to the sideline with a burst of speed as the foul signaled a media timeout, a sign of maturity and willingness to move on to the next play.
It is Dunn-Martin’s explosive speed and understand what Dambrot expects that have helped him find success and also turn that area into a strength.
“I’ve been playing better defense and he has made me more of a defensive player, because I was more of an offensive player at Akron, getting my teammates involved and playing the game the way I know,” Dunn-Martin said. “Any little mistake, he would fix it right away.”
Dunn-Martin understands that on the court, Dambrot has high expectations, and is quick to call a player out if he feels maximum effort is not being given.
In previous practices, players have done push-ups for back talking or even playing without urgency, but Dambrot is willing to call out players in practice or sit them down in a game not only because it sends a message to the team but he feels it makes the team better.
Dunn-Martin says that those words cannot be taken to heart but rather they have made him a better player. His outlook is one which shows he is committed to this Duquesne team and its overall success.
“I am going to stick through it all and see how everything turns out,” he said.
A home away from home
With the Palumbo Center being used for volleyball, Dambrot had to be creative and come up with a venue for its game against Radford, though the game, which will be played at the 1,800-seat LeBron James Arena in Akron, Ohio, comes with a twist.
“It’s strange because I’m going to stay at the hotel and not at my house, so that’s a little weird after all of the years I’ve lived there,” Dambrot said.
The team arrived in Akron Thursday night and is expected visit James’s I Promise school today. Duquesne is also expected to make a donation to the school, with the contest against Radford tipping off at noon.
Duquesne is considered one of two LeBron James programs–with Ohio State the other–that have exclusive rights to gear, which Dambrot has stated in the past has helped with recruiting.
While a recent anonymous survey of Atlantic 10 coaches placed Duquesne last for its tradition, Dambrot stated that being linked with who he feels in the best NBA player goes a long way.
As far as the game, Dambrot felt Duquesne could draw well because a lot of friends live in the area.
It also will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Frankie Hughes who is from Cleveland and Sincere Carry who is about half an hour away.
Additionally Dunn-Martin and Mike Hughes both previously played under Dambrot at Akron and Marcus Weathers played for Miami (Ohio) before transferring. Dylan Swingle is also from Cillicothe and Austin Rotroff, Wauseon both of which also are located in Ohio.
“It’s going to be real fun, a lot of people said they were going to come,” said Dunn-Martin. “It is just excitement and will bring back a lot of memories from Akron.”
Tickets to Saturday’s game are free and first come, first served. Dambrot, of course, is hoping for a full gym.
“We’ll see if I have 1,800 friends or enemies,” he said.