LEBANON, PA — Duquesne Women’s Basketball Coach Dan Burt was the first admit he is not the biggest fan of defense, but when it came towards improving his program, it was hard to ignore.
“It is something we’ve needed to emphasize more, which we have this season,” he said. “We just put in a new defense today and I love the simplicity of it. That will be a key for us. This is not a year where you want to have a playbook of 100 offensive plays and 12 defenses. Simplicity is going to win itself out, and it helps so that we don’t have to think as much. (Coach) Cherie (Lea) has done a great job this year for us with that and we improved last year. I think with our length, especially at guard you can play them at the top of our defense which limits ball reversals.”
This message has clearly been received by Duquesne graduate student center Laia Sole who looks forward to increasing her defensive presence.
“We did create a big emphasis when it comes to defense,” she said. “Some of the things we lacked were on the defensive end, so we focused on the principles and made sure the girls know how Coach Cherie likes things in the games and in practices. It is a great time for us.”
Just how improved is Duquesne’s defense going to be this season? PSN’s Zachary Weiss had a one-on-one interview with assistant coach Cherie Lea, who enters her second season overseeing the team’s defense and sixth overall on The Bluff, and provided her own thoughts.
Assessing this year, Burt admits that in his 23 years coaching the the D-I level, this hands down has been his most challenging as the coaching staff’s days can be 18 hours if not more.
These remarks come before the season even tips off.
Burt has lost count of how many times his team has drafted a non-conference schedule only to scrap it. Just this past Wednesday, Duquesne lost a game, gained another and then lost that one because the team could not find officials.
Duquesne went from processing COVID-19 ending its season, to briefly enjoying a break from the game to having a deeper appreciation for basketball and each other’s company. The team was spread all across the world meaning when everyone did return to campus, practice had to be conducted in different phases. Now the lone difference of true significance is wearing a mask at all times save for practices.
Burt is aiming to play five or six non-conference games and is willing to play in January if needed.
As is non-conference scouting reports will be a difficult task with so much change, so Duquesne will look to simplify and worry more about itself.
One way Duquesne will take care of business is reducing its own bubble as the season draws closer. This may include not having male practice players and eliminating personnel such as the team’s SID and strength-and-conditioning coordinator for road trips.
“We’re trying to get to a bare-bones minimum because we want to stay COVID free,” Burt said. “You don’t want to lose any time and be put in a 14-day quarantine. It’s really important to limit your bubble as much as possible and we’ll have to make some tough decisions.”
To date, no one in the team’s bubble has tested positive for COVID-19.
. Burt stated that the previous plan was to redshirt freshmen Lindsey Linard, Meg McConnell and Tess Myers but with the NCAA giving everyone a free year, all three will see the court, giving Duquesne 16 players.
“I have a very difficult job this season because I have to manage minutes, egos and hope,” said Burt. “In a time of uncertainty, you have to be very steady. I told our team this season will be a roller coaster, there will be lows and some thrills. The common denominator is we have to be even keeled because of those highs and lows.”
. Addressing the elephant in the room, Duquesne will not play Pitt. The City Game would have been posted by the Dukes. Burt first referred to his remarks on Twitter stating his team will face any opponent, anytime and anywhere but then when asked about trying to schedule local teams, he opened up more stating games will be cancelled and teams with full slates may have openings.
“Scheduling local should be a lot easier,” he said. “We would love to be able to schedule all of the local teams, it would be great to be able to play Pitt and Penn State, Robert Morris, Youngstown State, West Virginia and Cleveland State. Maybe as we get deeper in this crazy season we’ll be able to do that, but as of right now, that’s not going to happen.”
. Burt named Atlantic 10 First Team Selection Libby Bazelak, Second Team Selection Laia Sole and Amanda Kalin as his team’s “big three”. He stated Bazelak will be healthy, Sole has improved on the trail three and defender and cited Kalin as a complete player and currently in his opinion, the team’s best. Here is an interview PSN’s Zachary Weiss did with Kalin.
. Burt believes from top on down this is his most talented team. It is a team that returns Anie-Pier Samson from injury and projects to have Halle Bovell back in February as she aims to return from a knee injury Burt stated was “the worst he’s seen”. Additionally look for Ny Langley, whose style Burt compares to Deva’Nyar Workman to figure into the mix, in addition to finding minutes for Snezhe Serafimoska who is unafraid to pick-and-pop to find a deep shot. Add Amaya Hamilton’s ability to play any position, Kiersten Elliott’s improvement and Precious Johnson’s tenacity in the post which when added together can support Burt’s thoughts.
“This feels like a special year,” he said. “We have to keep this simple and fun because when you really look at things, this year could be a disaster for a lot of people as they try to build a program. We’re not trying to build a program with Duquesne Women’s Basketball, we are a program but we don’t want a one-year blip to affect our program long term.”
— Duquesne Women's Basketball (@DuqWBB) November 16, 2020