On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Sports Now was on the sideline for Duquesne basketball practice, getting an inside look at the Dukes.
Throughout the week, PSN will be releasing feature stories on Duquesne players, video interviews with select players at practice, photos and videos of the team working out, and more.
To start off the week, here are some first impressions from practice.
Tyson Acuff Leading the Way
The first word that came to Dambrot’s mind when asked about what type of player Acuff is: leader.
Acuff runs up and down the court effortlessly, and won the last round of sprints by a wide margin to close out practice. Shot the ball alright. Will have an increased role this year on the wing.
Young Guards Will Play
In his coaching career, Dambrot has never been afraid to play freshman guards. Whether it was Sincere Carry at Duquesne, or many different guys at Akron, Dambrot made it clear that he is not afraid to start young guards. This year, he is not afraid to do it again.
Jackie Johnson and Primo Spears, two freshman guards for the Dukes, will both play significant roles this year. With a shallow guard room this year, Dambrot is comfortable with these young guys and confident that they will adjust to the speed of the game with time.
Johnson is very strong, quick, and determined. Spears is a bit more loose and smooth and plays more of a combo guard position. Both showed solid shooting form and both were pushed hard by the staff to lead the team.
Feature story on Johnson coming later this week on PSN.
Toby Okani Finding Himself
Okani has the look of a star small forward. He has the confidence, the swagger to him of a high-level scorer when he is out there.
For Okani, finding his true role on this team will be a key storyline throughout the year. Will he be the leading scorer? Will he want the ball more?
He has the physical tools and athleticism to score a lot. He threw down alley-oops in the scrimmage. He is very athletic with a smooth delivery on his jump-shot. Okani looks the part, for sure, but with more playing time than last year, he will need to carve out his role and give Dambrot what he needs from the three spot.
Look Out for RJ Gunn
Gunn, a Division II transfer, has all of the tools to compete in the Atlantic 10. As explosive as just about anyone on the team, Gunn showed off his physicality, dunking ability, and solid shooting from all over the court.
He was Jackie Johnson’s pick for the player on the team that people are sleeping on the most. Look out for Gunn.
Dambrot Preaching Togetherness
Throughout practice, Dambrot was motivating his team to not be selfish, to not act spoiled, and to not act entitled. The team picked each other up throughout practice and showed solid chemistry the whole way.
Kevin Easley is Loving it Here
Easley is visibly happy to be at Duquesne. He loves that Dambrot pushes him. He loves that Dambrot believes in him.
Easley wants to be great. He said that all he needs to get back to the level he played at when at Chattanooga is a coach that believes in him. Explosive, strong forward that was also a great leader while competing hard.
Austin Rotroff in a Boot, Leon Ayers III Sick
Rotroff did not practice due to an apparent leg/foot injury. Ayers was out on Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. Dambrot told PSN that Ayers would not be out long-term and should return to practice soon.