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Keith Dambrot Building for the Future with ‘High Level’ Recruiting Class



Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot complete his recruiting Class of 2020 on Tuesday with the signing of three-star forward Andre Harris.

Harris gives the Dukes three three-star players in their six-man class, one that Dambrot was able to use to expand the skill level and versatility of the Duquesne lineup, which will return five starters and lost just two players in its top nine in minutes played.

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“More than anything what we tried to do with the class was, we tried to improve our shooting, we worked on our toughness, our versatility, being able to handle the ball, play more position-less basketball, and then obviously, we felt like signing Andre Harris gives us the guy we could play through in the future,” Dambrot said.

Harris, who chose Duquesne over high-majors Georgetown, St. John’s, TCU and Washington State, represents the highlight of the class. Duquesne assistants Carl and Charles Thomas became aware of the Saginaw, Michigan native early on in his recruitment.

“We really recruited him at an early time timeframe. If you look at him now, he’s lost a lot of weight,” Dambrot said. “He’s very fit. If you’d have seen him a year or two ago, you wouldn’t have believed it’s the same kid, really. I think people were a little concerned. I think the reason we got him is people didn’t realize how good he was because they couldn’t get over his body early on. 

“But he’s a really good, skilled basketball player. I think, a little bit in between sizes. People weren’t sure, really what he was. I felt like, when I watched him play, and he played with a bunch of high majors in AAU,  I felt like he was probably one of the most undervalued guys I’ve ever recruited. … He’s probably one of the best passers I’ve ever had and, similar to LeBron in that sense.”

Outside of Harris, the biggest impacts in the class will come in the backcourt, where three-star guard Tyson Acuff and sharpshooters Jett Roesing (First Love Christian Academy, Washington, Pa.) and Mike Bekelja will crowd a rotation that returns most of its strengths.

“With Bekelja and Jett Roesing, you’ve improved your shooting, and your work ethics is really good,” Dambrot said. “Then Tyson Acuff, he might have had the best year out of all of them. So he’s a guy that can play multiple positions. He played at a good public school league in Detroit.

“We feel like we’ve improved our shooting number one, our IQ is going to improve, our toughness and work ethic. I think those guys are all hard-working, blue-collar guys, and I think it’s gonna put pressure on everybody because we got a lot of guys back there. I think that’s a good thing you know. It holds everybody accountable and, you have to compete every single day.”

In between Harris and the guards, wings Chad Baker and Toby Okani provide length and versatility to a Duquesne lineup that did not have a perimeter player taller than 6-foot-5.

The large class represents something of a new normal in college basketball. Nearly half of Duquesne’s 13 scholarship players will be freshman next season. Three players have already entered the transfer portal, and two more departures will be necessary to get below the limit before the season.

“We’ve had a little bit more turnover than I like, but that’s kind of the nature of the business now,” Dambrot said. “I feel like most mid majors now are junior colleges, for the most part. With the new rule coming in, it’s going to be even worse. But we’re still building it on our four-year guys. That’s kind of how I like to do it. That’s kind of what we’re getting back to.”

Dambrot said that recruiting on the back of Duquesne’s 21-win season helped secure the high-end talent at the top of the class. 

“I think first and foremost we’ve won enough games now where we can hold our own,” he said. “Obviously, we have a good school, a good academic institution. We have a really good place to live, good city. What people used to use on us was ‘they never win.’ We haven’t won any championships yet, but we’ve certainly become competitive. So nobody can really say, ‘they’re the doormat’ anymore, so that allows us to get in the door with even better players every single year.”

Now the next challenge for Dambrot will be to figure out how he’s going to integrate the class into the returning parts of the roster.

“I’ll be surprised if some of don’t play a lot,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know which ones. But I’d be surprised if two, three, four of them don’t play a lot.

“I feel like it’s it’s a high-level class for us. … You’re pretty much set up for the next four years if you go six for six.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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