PITTSBURGH — It has been a challenging year for Duquesne freshman forward Gavin Bizeau but recent performances against George Washington and Saint Louis have the six-foot-11 Indiana native feeling confident once again.
“You don’t know how big that first basket is,” he said. “It’s really tough trying to come in, especially being a shooter and that’s the role I’ve been given, one which gets me on the floor. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re not getting a lot of those opportunities, you’re not warm, it’s tough to be in rhythm but once you get one, my confidence is through the roof right now. I feel like I am playing better. I feel like I can come in and make a big difference for us.”
Bizeau most recently tallied seven points in eight minutes including making a corner three-point basket which cut Duquesne’s deficit to one at halftime.
“I’ve always played kind of wiry, like a guard, I’ve never been that back to the basket big,” said Bizeau. “I was kind of a leg grower. I was playing more of a guard position and then I grow that I still have those kind of skills and think that way. I believe that can help me just because especially down the road when I get my handle really crisp, I feel that I can be a match-up nightmare for anybody. I can really help contribute to the team if nothing I am stretching the floor and not letting a help defender be as close to the basket because they have to worry about me knocking down the three.”
Now Bizeau will see both an increased role and playing time with Austin Rotroff tearing his ACL, a season-ending injury.
Rotroff is Bizeau’s roommate and the injury has created several different emotions.
“It’s something I’ve waited for, having this role, this opportunity,” Bizeau said. “It sucks what happened to Austin, he’s my roommate and one of my best friends. I’m the one that takes care of him at night when he needs something, he’s calling my name. I’m ready to be called up and getting these good minutes in games.”
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot has always kept his belief in Bizeau but at the same time has made him earn every opportunity.
“For every negative thing that occurs, something positive happens for somebody else and an opportunity opens for them,” the second-year Duquesne coach said. “We’ll see if I am a decent prognosticator or not. I thought Bizeau could play, I’ve said it all along I’ve had trouble getting him in the game. He has some things he has to work on.”
Bizeau came into Duquesne the highest regarded player among the newcomers based on being ranked one of the 12 highest-ranked center from Indiana.
In his opinion, Bizeau came in and had a good summer but things did not work out when he had as he has yet to receive a double-digit minutes total and even with the past two performances, has shot 20% from the field on the season.
Something which has comforted him is his understanding that each freshman has the ability to contribute to a point that each is both good and able to take over a game.
The easiest thing for Bizeau to do is be upset over his lack of playing time, but he has done the exact opposite while maintaining belief in himself.
“Really I’ve just been trying to keep a level head, coming into every day,” he said. “For me, eventually it’s all kind of body and development. I know I’m going to end up being a top player, it’s just time. I understand it will take time to develop and do the things I want to do. It’s frustrating some days when you want to jump into that role and be a big guy, but I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of accepting that it’s going to come and come naturally.”
Currently, Duquesne enters Saturday on a four-game winning streak, which ties its longest of the season and Bizeau knows that winning puts any issues of playing time to the side.
He states that having teammates trust and believe in you is the base of basketball which gives a team confidence while also allowing for there to be fun.
“The one thing for us is that we’ve been lucky to win a lot of our games and when we’re winning that’s when you see teams don’t have those ego problems where everyone is trying to get those minutes,” Bizeau said. “I feel confident that we will continue to get these wins or be in that drought where people start to break and get selfish and get separated from the team.”
Results such as Wednesday’s win against Saint Louis allowed Dambrot to express joy for a freshman who has had to stay positive.
“We need him and I’m glad for him because his attitude has been great,” said Dambrot. “He’s not happy and he hasn’t let his head get in the way when he has an opportunity to play well. A lot of kids aren’t like that, they want instant gratification. I give him a lot of credit, he’s hung in there and now he’s starting to play pretty good.”
With his increased role and Duquesne’s overall success as a team, Bizeau has a very optimistic view of his team and how the rest of the 2018-19 season.
“I think we’ve shown we really can compete with everybody,” Bizeau said. “We’ve played some of those high majors and they had a good chance to win those games, it just didn’t work out our way. Getting these A-10 wins and being at the top of the league is waking everyone else up. We’ve always known that we’re going to end up being a top contender and a really tough team to beat in this league. I think we’ve known it all along but winning these games now and getting this confidence for the rest of league play is going to show people that we’re here.”