MCCANDLESS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a lot of sayings in his time with the team but two of his most frequent involved playing for the name on the front of the jersey not back and his other could also perfectly describe the Duquesne men’s basketball team.
So what, now what?
It is now very much known that Duquesne is without the services of Maceo Austin, for an unknown period of time and guards Sincere Carry and Lamar Norman Jr, who both have indicated they will transfer from the university.
Despite that, Duquesne found a way defeating Fordham 48-45 Saturday afternoon.
“Had we not played great defense we don’t win the game tonight, simple as that,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said in his shortest-ever opening statement.
Indeed with Duquesne losing 121 total starts between the trio it first place Tavian Dunn-Martin in the starting lineup earlier in the week and Saturday added Chad Baker and Toby Okani to the starting lineup.
The honor is ironic in a sense for Baker whose name was not in the official book for the team’s second game at George Washington which resulted in an administrative technical foul. Duquesne not only put his name in official scorer Brian Klisavage’s official book Saturday, but it was one of the first five listed.
“I said all along that if Chad can play with discipline and bring it every day he’s a talented guy,” said Dambrot. “He can shoot the ball, handle the ball, makes the right play, long defensively, just a little undisciplined but has a lot of ability. You add Toby alongside him who is one of the best athletes in this league, then you become harder to score on.”
Duquesne knew about the plan for the starting lineup for two days and practiced as such, though Dunn-Martin was not completely unfamiliar with the new faces comprising the Dukes’ five.
“I feel like earlier in the year and the beginning we played together on the red team in practice, so we have chemistry from that and it transferred over to the court,” he said.
As for Dunn-Martin, he slid over to fill closer to what Carry’s role was as a ballhandler while also providing a leadership role. Dunn-Martin will have to elevate his game defensively taking on guards that are quite accomplished across the Atlantic 10.
Ryan Murphy appears to be ready to have more of that gunslinger mentality that Dunn-Martin had where he can take shots from all over the court but also facilitate as a passer if a better opportunity arises.
“I have to be more of a leader and make sure everyone is in their spots,” said Dunn-Martin. “It’s my job to keep that composure the whole game and make sure everyone has the same attitude.”
Commitment is a very big intangible but it is one which has defined Duquesne this season. When it is committed to each other, good things have happened but when the team lacked commitment results were uneven where on at least one end of the court the team looked sluggish, even lost at times.
Saturday against Fordham with the three starters out, Duquesne played for each other and took an important step forward.
“I feel like we have high hopes for ourselves still and we still have the same energy,” Dunn-Martin said. “The atmosphere is the same and we still have a winning attitude.”
Dambrot spoke about commitment earlier in the week to his team, reading something his son sent him on the topic.
“Commitment may be a lost art now a days,” said Dambrot. “When you have both feet in and resolve, when things go poorly you still do well, you still fight and you don’t look for the next best opportunity because you are happy with what you have.
These thoughts on Dambrot were not just on the team he also opted to self-evaluate.
“That’s part of the education process for a coach, teaching commitment what it means, what it does for you and why it’s important,” he said. “I got punched in the mouth and had to battle all the way back. If I didn’t have resolve or commitment I couldn’t have done that. I think that’s a lesson we have to continually teach young people.”
DO EXPECTATIONS CHANGE?
Dambrot admits that all season long Duquesne has been behind and now being further honest, the team is likely further behind because of now needing to play those who have not received as much playing time.
In hindsight, it appears Dambrot’s decision to have his freshmen see the court was correct as now there is a jump and now there is something to work with.
Learning in January can be a rough deal though as now Duquesne has to raise its game when really it is playing from behind.
Still it will be on Duquesne to sell out and fully invest in each other if it wants to reach its goals by season’s end, whenever that may be.
Handicapping his own team, Dambrot believes most people have counted Duquesne out, if they had not already but now what’s changed is he has to coach.
“I have to make the freshmen ready to play sooner than later,” he said. “Even my expectation before this was lower early because I didn’t think we were ready to play good basketball. Now I still have to win games but not play at as good of a level as you’re used to, but that’s coaching. My expectation levels do not change, I don’t give a damn if we have eight freshmen and no seniors.”