PITTSBURGH — As a post player, Baylee Steele is never afraid to swat any shot, but a block which came two years ago has come full circle as he completes his playing career at Duquesne.
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot is not shy to state that he wanted Steele to don a Dukes uniform as the six-foot-11 Iowan was set to transfer from Eastern Michigan, but instead the center was blocked from doing so.
With the process extending longer than desired, Steele did not want an appeals process to extend into the school year, and he decided to attend Utah Valley.
A year later when Steele went the graduate transfer route, Duquesne was on his shortlist. This time, Dambrot and Steele reconnected and the result was Duquesne gaining its fourth-ever graduate transfer.
“I knew that he wanted to have me play from him when I got my release from Eastern Michigan two years ago,” Steele said. “That ended up not working out. I went to Utah Valley and I learned a lot about basketball and developed my game. I really think this is perfect timing because I came here way more developed and way more mature. I know the game a lot more, so having him and the whole coaching staff has really helped me, especially knowing that they have seen me and know what I can do as a player for the last three years. It was a reciprocated effort. I am excited to be with Coach D finally.”
— UVU Men’s Basketball (@UVUmbb) February 15, 2019
GROWING A LOVE FOR BASKETBALL
As Steele’s passion for sports grew with age, one thing was clear to him as he started exploring basketball.
“I sucked at it,” he recalled.
Perhaps the biggest attractor towards basketball came when Steele was in eighth grade and his parents separated. No longer was basketball just a game.
“What I really found in basketball was that it allowed me to focus,” said Steele. “It gave me something to do rather than worry about everything that was going on in my personal life. It allows me to take my mind off of everything and allowed me to have fun and be myself. It gave me something to look forward to.”
Now basketball was a therapy and anytime an issue no matter how big or small arose, there always is something there to comfort him.
“When you step on the basketball court and all of your problems go away,” Steele said. “Even if I get stressed out over little things like class, I just go to the gym and get up some shots. It really was what was meant for me. The game, it saved me really is how I like to look at it.”
Given his size you would think Steele was attracted to basketball as his primary sport, but in reality, baseball was the true first love.
Steele was accomplished in baseball, but as other players progressed, he was not quite at that level. In 10th grade, Steele started on the JV basketball team and saw that he was having fun. Even though he was not good at basketball, him having fun was enough to quit baseball that summer and focus entirely on basketball.
A main goal was to play a college sport and basketball has provided that opportunity.
Steele initially went to basketball because he saw himself as tall, something which served an advantage. As he remarked, he grew out of baseball and grew into basketball.
“Something just clicked. I started loving the grind, loved working hard, going to the gym and putting in all of the effort,” said Steele. “Ever since I was 15, I just went harder each year.”
A ROLE CLEARLY DEFINED
As an upperclassmen, Steele is expected to be a leader on this team. He has played in 68 NCAA games, 57 of which he started. This is crucial on a Duquesne team that will be young in experience, but far from it in hunger and desire.
“All of us are getting in the gym like crazy,” Steele said. “This team is one of the hardest-working teams I have ever been a part of. There’s guys here who get shots up over an hour before practice, after practice and late night in the gym. It’s a good thing to see.”
With both Amari Kelly and Austin Rotroff injured and unavailable for Duquesne’s season-opening contest against Princeton, Steele will be a big body that the team needs. Dambrot even stated that without Steele, Duquesne would be “in deep doo-doo”.
“He’s really helped us, he is going to be a good player for us,” said Dambrot.
In practices, Steele has crashed hard on the glass, extends the court with his three-point shooting ability and shows a certain toughness on both ends of the floor.
All of this comes from one simple goal.
“I haven’t won a ring in my college days, so this would mean the most to me,” Steele said. “I want more than anything to make it to the NCAA Tournament. I’m here to do anything we have to do and the team feels the same way. We’re all determined to get the championship we all want and deserve. We’ve all put in the work, it’s time to go get it now. The season is coming up quickly and we’re all ready.”