PITTSBURGH – For the second-straight year, Duquesne will play a game in head coach Keith Dambrot’s hometown, as they face off against Radford in Akron on Saturday afternoon.
Not only does the trip provide Dambrot and his squad a chance to improve on their dream start to the season, but it also presents them with an opportunity to give back to the city and honor his former player and friend LeBron James. As they did last season, the Dukes will again visit James’ I Promise School, a gesture of Dambrot’s continued close relationship with the NBA star.
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“The trip to Akron really is a tribute to my favorite player,” Dambrot said. “Just for the great things that he’s done for that city, and for that educational masterpiece he put together in Akron. So, my thing is, he’s done so much for people that anytime I can do a little something for him and his school, I’m going to try to do it.”
Dambrot coached James for three seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school, and is passionate about giving back to the city of Akron and its favorite son.
“I also love the city, and I love LeBron,” he said. “I felt like its appropriate that we do something for LeBron, that’s why we went back at it.”
Battling Radford in Akron last season, the Dukes were able to secure a 69-64 victory. While they’re looking forward to visiting the school and interacting with the community once again, the team is focused on earning consecutive victories over the Highlanders.
“It was a really good experience the first time we went down there,” junior forward Marcus Weathers said. “We also got the win as well. This year we expect to take it as a business trip, go down there and try to keep this eight-game winning streak going.”
While the Dukes are sacrificing a home game for a second-straight season to play in the Rubber City, they are no strangers to playing in unfamiliar gyms with their future UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse still in the early stages of its construction. Dambrot feels the adversity they have dealt with has only helped them thus far.
“I just think it helps your mentality period, that nothing bothers you,” he said. “I think the more situations you’re in like that the better you’re going to be.”
Still, Dambrot admits that it has been an adjustment for his team, but he has been happy with how they have handled a difficult situation. Thankfully, the Dukes’ third-year head coach is finding the humor in a strange scenario.
“We’re the stinkiest team in America, because we really don’t have showers,” he joked.
Weathers believes that their success overcoming the lack of a true home court speaks volumes about the team’s mindset and commitment.
“We have a really tough, gritty young team,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who are just willing to win, and win by any means necessary.”
That grit and toughness has helped the Dukes thus far, and it should continue to Saturday as they prepare to play in their fifth arena in just nine games, looking to start 9-0 for the first time since 1968-69.