After watching all three local teams in pre-season practice, Pittsburgh Sports Now continues The Complete Preview of Pittsburgh Basketball with part two, previewing the Duquesne Dukes.
Head Coach: Keith Dambrot
Dambrot enters his fifth season leading the Dukes to 65-47 record in his prior four seasons with the program.
Last Year’s Record: 9-9 (7-7 in Atlantic 10)
Andy Allison joins the staff as the Director of Player Personnel and Development
Gavin Block left the staff to become an Assistant Coach at Northern State University.
Ashton Gibbs left the staff to become the Head Coach of the prep team at The Phelps School.
Last Year’s Losses
Tavian Dunn-Martin – Florida Gulf Coast
Dunn-Martin came from Akron to Duquesne with Keith Dambrot a few years back, and provided some fantastic play for the Dukes over his career. In May, he signed with Florida Gulf Coast, paving a new path for his basketball future.
Maceo Austin – Not participating in 2021-22
Austin has had a difficult career with the Dukes, and decided to leave the team in September. While he is still enrolled at Duquesne, he will not be participating in basketball this year.
Marcus Weathers – Southern Methodist University
The two-time all Atlantic 10 honoree gave the Dukes all he had over the past few seasons, and decided to team up with his brother Michael Weathers at SMU this offseason.
Ryan Murphy – Graduated, retired from basketball
After a college career that took him to five different schools, including Pitt and Duquesne, Murphy has decided to call it a career and has started a job in another industry, he told PSN.
Mike Hughes – Basketball Club Vienna
This offseason, Hughes signed a contract overseas with Basketball Club Vienna, a team that competes in the Austrian Basketball Superliga.
Andre Harris – Unknown
Harris played one season for the Dukes, averaging just under four points per game. The forward entered the transfer portal in May, deciding to take his talents elsewhere, and is not listed on any other rosters at the moment. His high school coach is unsure of Harris’ current career plans.
Jett Roesing – Rider
Roesing left Duquesne and decided to transfer to Rider to play for coach Kevin Baggett. Duquesne will open the season against Rider on Nov. 9.
Chad Baker – San Diego State
Baker started 13 of 15 games as a freshman for Duquesne, but both the Dukes and Baker thought it was best he move on from the program. He transferred to San Diego State
Amari Kelly – UNC Wilmington
Kelly spent three seasons with the Dukes, redshirting one after an injury during his freshman campaign. The forward transferred to UNC-Wilmington this offseason.
Leading Scorers Returning
Okani averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 18 games last season, while shooting 43% from the field along with 31% from three-point range.
Acuff came off the bench in all 18 games last year, averaging 3.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per contest. He shot 37% from the field as well as 29% from three-point land.
Kevin Easley – Transfer from TCU
Easley comes into Duquesne ready for a fresh start after playing one season at Chattanooga and one at TCU. The 2018-19 Southern Conference Rookie of the Year, Easley averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in his lone campaign in Chattanooga. The 6-foot-7 forward then took his talents to TCU, where he redshirted one season and then played a minor role this past year, averaging just 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. From watching the Dukes at practice and at their preseason scrimmage, Easley is probably the most talented player on the Dukes team, and will play a large role this year under Dambrot with the ball in his hands often.
Tre Williams – Transfer from Indiana State
Williams, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound power forward/center, comes into Duquesne after two seasons with Indiana State in which he shot an impressive 54% from the field and averaged 8 points and 5.1 rebounds in his career. This past season, Williams earned MVC All-Defense honors after leading the conference in blocked shots with 37. He will certainly see lots of playing time as this Dukes squad is pretty thin on the inside and could use a solid paint presence.
RJ Gunn – Graduate Transfer from Lenoir-Rhyne (D2)
Gunn is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound division two transfer who looks ready to make the jump to division one. In his last junior and senior seasons at Lenoir-Rhyne, Gunn averaged 19.9 points and 16.6 points, respectively. Gunn is a matchup nightmare, as his 230-pound frame allows him to take the ball inside while also being a consistent three-point shooter. As a senior, Gunn shot 39% from three, along with seven games with three or more three-pointers made. While he is still going to make a big impact this season for the Dukes, fans will have to wait a few games as Gunn is still out with a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for the season-opening scrimmage as well.
Leon Ayers III – Transfer from Mercer
Ayers is a very interesting addition for the Dukes, as the 6-foot-5 guard has made plenty of noise at each level he has played at so far. Starting his career at Henry Ford College (JuCo), Ayers scored 1,196 points in just two seasons prior to playing for Mercer. In this most recent season with Mercer, he averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 rebounds for an 18-11 Mercer squad competing in the SoCon. In the conference tournament, Ayers came off the bench and averaged 15.8 points per game, good enough to earn him All-Tournament Team Honors. Ayers will undoubtedly get his chance with the Dukes, and will hope to have the ball in his hands as he is at his best when he is trying to score.
Jackie Johnson III – Prep recruit from Hargrave Military Academy
A 5-foot-11 freshman, Johnson is an absolute workhorse and will be one of the contenders to start game one at point guard for Duquesne. He took a prep year in 2020-21 playing for Hargrave Military Academy, where he averaged 27 points per game along with six assists and four three-pointers. In Duquesne’s season-opening scrimmage, Johnson wowed the crowd with several deep threes and looks to do the same in the season opener against Rider.
Primo Spears – Prep recruit from Mt. Zion Prep
Spears, another prep school product, is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound matchup nightmare at the one and two guard positions. With a smooth handle, point guard traits, and frightening explosiveness, Spears has put himself in the conversation of who is going to start at point guard for Duquesne. Whether he plays the one or the two, expect Spears to provide scoring and some highlight plays for the Dukes this year.
Andy Barba – High School recruit from International Sports Academy
A very solid three-point shooter, Barba is another freshman for the Dukes who will look to come off the bench and carve out a role in his young career. He is a 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward who averaged 14 points per game at International Sports Academy in the 2019-20 season. Barba is recovering from a back surgery last spring, but seems to be up to 100% and ready to make his push for playing time this year.
Davis Larson – Graduate Assistant put on scholarship
Larson, who came to Duquesne as a graduate assistant after a decorated career playing for Hillsdale College (DII), was recently put on scholarship by Dambrot. A 6-foot-5 small forward, Larson is expected to play legitimate minutes for this team and will show off his exceptional three-point stroke (43.3% in three years at Hillsdale) as well as explosive athleticism when on the floor.
Luke Patten – High School recruit from IMG Academy/Butler
Another 6-foot-5 forward, Patten is a local product out of Butler, Pennsylvania, who played last season down at IMG Academy. As a junior at Butler, he helped lead his team to the WPIAL title game. Patten is not expected to play a large role on this Duquesne team this year, but with the right development could work his way into minutes near the end of games.
What’s the Story?
Keith Dambrot has had his hands full this offseason trying to completely rebuild his program, but with nine additions to combat the players who left, he is excited to take the floor with this year’s squad.
Starting with the guards, Duquesne brought in two enticing freshman who seem to be the frontrunners for the starting point guard position. While Johnson seems to be more of a one, Spears can also run the point and is a very versatile guard who can stretch it out and play the two as well. Both are excellent shooters and will jump right into the division one level of play from the start. Tyson Acuff can also handle the point and will look to light up the score sheet this season as he did in high school, where he averaged 27 points as a senior.
The Dukes have plenty of options at the wing, starting with the 6-foot-8 Okani. Then comes Leon Ayers, the talented transfer from Mercer, as well as Acuff, Mike Bekelja, and Davis Larson, all who will see time at the two-three spot. At the three/four position, Duquesne has two very versatile options in Kevin Easley and RJ Gunn. Both are powerful inside scorers with the ability to step out and shoot the three with confidence and should prove to be matchup nightmares for other A10 defenders.
Down low, the Dukes will look to Indiana State transfer Tre Williams to hold down the paint and continue to block shots and defend as he has excelled at throughout his entire career. Mounir Hima, while still raw, may also see some minutes down low to provide defense and an inside presence at 6-foot-11. Once Austin Rotroff returns from injury, he will also play at the five. However, until then, it will be up to Williams and Hima to handle opposing fives.