PITTSBURGH — In a fairly empty gym on Thursday morning, Duquesne basketball was in the middle of a tiresome preseason practice.
For the Dukes’ freshman guard Maceo Austin, it was only his second week on the college basketball scene.
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It sure didn’t look that way when watching him go through a Dukes practice. On Thursday, most of the team was visibly worn out. Head coach Keith Dambrot was pushing them to their limits to get them prepared for the start of the season.
About three-fourths of the way through practice, Dambrot had the team work on some offensive sets in the half-court setting.
Throughout practice, Austin showed his smooth offensive game with his occasional pull up jumpers and and deep spot-up threes. Then, he really showed off his versatility and freakish athleticism.
Austin was in the far corner when the ball swung all the way around the arc to him. He caught it, jabbed left, and exploded to the rim. Then, four defenders swarmed the paint to stop Austin. Most guys would then just kick it to the open shooter that was spotting up on the other side of the court.
But not Austin.
Instead, he used his athleticism to throw down a ferocious dunk, on all four of the defenders. His teammates erupted and Austin just cracked a smile.
This wasn’t a play that many freshmen in college basketball are able to make, by any means. But Austin knows that he is going to have some pressure on him this year to handle a bigger role than most freshman are accustomed too.
“(My role) is going to be different every game,” Austin said. “Some games I’ll have to make a difference on defense and some games I’ll have to score.”
Mostly, he just wants to win.
He did a lot of winning at Kennedy Catholic High School, which is about an hour north of Duquesne in Hermitage, Pa. Austin helped the Eagles win four-straight PIAA state championships. He scored 1,971 points (second-most in school history) in his time at Kennedy.
All that scoring meant Austin was ranked by ESPN as the No. 48 shooting guard in the country from the class of 2019. Even though he choose to stay close to home, Austin said that when he made the decision to come to Duquesne that was not the deciding factor.
“It helped, don’t get me wrong,” Austin said. “That was just a plus in coming here.”
Austin said that he has friends and family that come visit him just about every weekend. In fact, his sister just recently moved to the city. When the season starts, Austin expects a lot of his friends and family members at a number of his games this season.
With Austin just getting a taste of college basketball, he can already see improvements to his game.
“Since I’ve been here, my shot has felt a lot better,” the 6-foot-5 guard said. “I’d say I’m more of a slasher right now (as he referenced his dunk in practice).”
With his willingness to learn and his unselfish play, Austin knows what he wants to accomplish in his first collegiate season.
“We want to win,” Austin said. “Coach Dambrot’s known for winning and our goal is to win enough games to make it to the NCAA tournament.”
Duquesne is coming off of a 19-13 season with a 10-8 record in the Atlantic-10 conference. In Dambrot’s third season at the helm, the Dukes are eager to make some noise. Austin is a key piece in doing just that.