Kevin Easley, Duquesne’s newest forward, has finally found a coach who believes in him.
“A coach has got to believe in me, which Dambrot does,” Easley told Pittsburgh Sports Now after practice Tuesday. “That’s it. That’s literally it. If I have a coach who believes in me, I think we’ll have a really good season, same as the team. We will win.”
Easley transferred into Duquesne this offseason, making this his third different college of his career. After a dominant start at Chattanooga in which he led the team in scoring, rebounding, and minutes as a freshman, yes, as a freshman, Easley transferred to TCU, where things did not go as well.
He sat out his first year at TCU due to transfer rules. Then, this past year, he appeared in all 26 games for the Horned Frogs. However, he was nowhere near leading the team in anything.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds at TCU, just two years after averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for Chattanooga in his stellar, SoCon-freshman-of-the-year season. Now, after a short time with Duquesne, he can already tell that head coach Keith Dambrot believes, and he is ready to go with his new group of teammates.
“[We have been] just really coming in and working hard every day,” Easley said about how the preseason has been going. “We’ve got a good team, we’ve got a lot of great coaches on the staff, so we’ve got to just trust them and build every day. They’ve got us picked ninth, tenth, eleventh, so nobody is expecting us. We all got to have chips on our shoulders.”
Easley is not the loudest guy on the floor. Kind of quiet, actually, during drills and gameplay. That is, until a time to lead comes along.
In practice on Tuesday, Easley’s teammates each had to make a free throw at the end of practice. If someone misses? Sprints.
After one of his teammates missed and some others got on him for making the team run, Easley was up next. He quietly knocked down his free throw, walked over to the teammates involved in the prior sequence, gave them high fives, and told them to keep their heads up and help each other.
“We’re good, we’re good,” he said, bringing his team together.
Another instance, when freshman Andy Barba made a mistake in a defensive drill and the coaches got on him for it, Easley and his other teammates locked in on the next possession from the sidelines, seeing if Barba would improve this time around.
Barba did his job perfectly the second time around, learning from his mistake and improving his craft. Seeing Barba lock up his man on the next possession, his teammates, led by Easley, got loud. Clapping it up, screaming “Yeah, Barba,” and giving the youngster high fives after the play, Easley and his teammates had now picked him up and given him confidence.
But Easley brings much more than just leadership to the court. More of a four than a three, Easley has the ability to face up to the basket while also being able to post up and work. He creates shots inside and out, and is a consistent three-point threat.
Having now been at two different schools in his career, he has played different roles on each team, and is looking to carve out a big role for the Dukes this year.
“The defense,” Easley said about the biggest difference in culture at Duquesne.” You’ve got to play defense in college basketball now. We do that every day consistently and we’ve gotten a lot better at it. We’ve got to keep building forward, and I think we’re going to turn a lot of heads this year.”
Easley and the Dukes will open the year against Rider on Nov. 9.