Despite some off-season player defections, the future of Duquesne men’s basketball is bright. In fact, the upcoming 2019-20 season could be the best and most complete Dukes team in many years.
Keith Dambrot’s team will bring back Sincere Carry, Tavian Dunn-Martin, Marcus Weathers, Michael Hughes, Frankie Hughes, Lamar Norman Jr., Amari Kelly, Austin Rotroff and will add freshman Maceo Austin, redshirt freshman James Ellis and graduate transfer center Baylee Steele.
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The early predictions are calling for Duquesne to finish in the top six of the Atlantic 10 so they’ll be entering the season with expectations to win.
Pittsburgh Sports Now caught up with Dambrot while on his way to Georgia for an AAU Tournament to get his impressions on what he’s seen from his players during their off-season and summer workouts.
FAST-BREAK INTERVIEW WITH DUQUESNE’S KEITH DAMBROT:
PSN: Biggest things you’ve seen this summer and early impressions that you’ve made?
Dambrot: “We’re more mature, our culture is better, we’re better teammates and doing all the right things to go from being a 19 win team to a better team than that. All the little things that you need to do.”
You’ve talked before about the culture and needing to be better teammates has to improve, explain why that is so important.
“You can only go so far playing as individuals. Eventually, when you have to play at a championship level, you just don’t have IT. Any great program needs championship quality kids in order to win. If you don’t play well together or if you’re selfish, if you don’t respect each other, you’re just not going to win. You can win to a certain extent but you’re never going to win at the highest level.”
Although it’s way early to make definitive judgements on players, have you seen a couple of players that have caught you and your staffs eye?
“Baylee Steele has played four years of college basketball, he sat out a year so it’s three years. He’s a mature guy that really knows what he wants and his work ethic is top of the line. I think that translates into a lot of good things in a variety of ways because he works so hard that helps our culture. I think Maceo for a young kid has done the same thing. He works really hard at everything. He’s very mature for a young guy. He’s a special kid and is going to be a special player. Overall, all the new kids we brought in have done a really good job of working at it hard. which helps. We then have the two ACL kids that are working hard to comeback (Amari Kelly and Austin Rotroff). Plus, all our older guys are just hungry to have more success. They want to win more and I think feel the pressure of more competition which I think is good too.”
**Rotroff is progressing well and could return in November.
Have you seen a returning player that has the chance to make a noticeable step this coming season?
“I think they’re all going to be better. I think obviously Tavain, Frankie Hughes and Mike Hughes will all be better. The ACL kids are interesting because they haven’t been able to play but they’ve been able to put on strength and muscle which is what they needed anyway. So, in some ways I view that situation as a blessing in disguise. Sin Carry has made a jump, he’s just healthier and is trying to attack his weaknesses and is putting a lot of time in. I think all those guys will be better and the longer they’re in your program the better they get.”
Can you give an update on redshirt center James Ellis (6’11”, 230) from Westinghouse High School, who sat out last season?
Dambrot: “He’s got a boatload of ability. I mean, he’s got a ton of ability, for him it’s a matter of getting into better shape, learning what we do and then having the discipline to keep working at the game and having a consistent work ethic on a daily basis. He’s got as much ability as anybody we have, it’s just a matter of being able to put it all together. There’s a lot of guys like that, that never get out of themselves what they should get but I think he’s going to be OK. It’s just going to take time.”