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Duquesne Basketball

Inside the Dukes: Dambrot Understanding Patience

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Leave it to a mentor to always provide sound advice to help any situation, especially one where the Duquesne Men’s Basketball Team has experienced quite the roster overhaul.

This is where Ben Braun consistently was in Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot’s ear, seemingly nonstop for the last month.

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Dambrot served under Braun at Eastern Michigan and it is clear there is still a strong bond between the two men.

Braun was unafraid to drop the advice on how to handle this season’s Duquesne Dukes.

“(He’s been) making sure I coach these guys a little differently than you have your other guys in the past,” Dambrot said. “We’re so new and not inexperienced, but inexperienced in our situation. I have to be a little more patient. One of my themes with this group is we have a chance to improve more than any team in the country because we are so new. That’s what we’re trying to concentrate on, and that’s what happened in the game.”

Patience has not been the easiest thing for Dambrot who in year one had to set a new, higher standard for his team to achieve.

Year two saw more turnover as several new additions came and year three saw the team become a tough out on a nightly basis, where no longer was Duquesne viewed at as any easy win.

In his heart of hearts, Dambrot probably views last season as a step back. COVID withstanding, he was clearly unhappy with the team’s culture and after a loss in the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals, instead of players returning, he allowed them to leave.

Dambrot went after those in the transfer portal that he felt could retool this Duquesne team and given the significantly higher number of departures, combined with more of a wide-open A-10, the opportunity is there to compete.

Still, Tuesday night’s 73-61 season-opening victory over Rider at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse there were certainly ebbs and flows, but the ebbs came at opportune times.

“We played well enough to win and it’s not really much different than I had anticipated,” said Dambrot. “We’re going to have our issues until we go another couple weeks and get all our guys back.”

Duquesne’s frontcourt has taken its share of hits as it currently is without the services of R.J. Gunn and Austin Rotroff among others.

Mounir Hima saw the court for two minutes and Dambrot has applauded his efforts, while admitting at the same time that he is not quite ready.

For the time being, Davis Lawson is being used as a post until bodies fully recover, which Dambrot akins to a high-school type of situation.

Tre Williams stated that he worked on his stamina over the summer and that was immediately put to the test as he played nearly 38 minutes, which is far from ideal for a first game.

Even so, Williams started to get the ball in the second half and shots started falling, including multiple three-point attempts, a new wrinkle to his game. His efforts, opened up the court for his teammates.

Always honest, Dambrot, a member of Akron’s baseball team, stepped into the batter’s box and was not shy to connect when discussing the current situation and providing more of a longer-term view.

“I don’t think we’re very good right now but we don’t have to be very good right now, we just have to win. We just have to survive and advance,” he said.

DEFENSE A WORK IN PROGRESS

It is a surprise to no one that Dambrot views defense as essential towards his team finding success, but the defense certainly was inconsistent throughout the evening.

Rider shot 48.1% in the first half and Duquesne just never appeared comfortable in the opening 20 minutes.

There was more of an aggressive side that clicked in the second half as Rider committed eight turnovers and took five three-point shots, making one, compared to the 11 it took in the first half.

Dambrot asked for the team to pick up full court and Duquesne started to connect. Once the team stopped trying to win one-on-one battles and find the basketball, positive results began to happen.

“We just had to go back to the basics,” Williams said. “We preach in practice about the little, small things that we have to do to be in the right spots. You just help, recover and go back to the small things.”

Defensively, Dambrot felt the team played better when it mattered, but it is hard to fully judge until bodies return, though he did say the perimeter is an area that can be improved.

STUDENT SECTION A SUCCESS

Of the 2,276 fans in attendance, a healthy amount came from the student section which all wore white shirts, waved white towels and made their presence felt.

Unprompted, Dambrot brought the students up saying they helped the team win.

Though multiple individuals in Duquesne’s athletic department were crucial in these efforts, Dambrot also singled out Rotroff, Andy Barba and Toby Okani for their ability to get fans to attend.

“They were on campus all week,” Dambrot said. “This is the type of school that the players have to integrate on campus and be part of the campus in order for people to come to the games. Our guys have been to soccer games, volleyball games, football games but they’re a good bunch of guys. They care. I was impressed with our student body and the fans helped us win. That was a big deal.”

Now, Dambrot views the challenge as continuing to win so that these students not only return, but they bring others as well.

“We can do better than that, but we have to earn it,” said Dambrot.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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