The Duquesne Dukes (3-1) open up what could be an important stretch of games for this 2022-23 season.
Starting tonight against North Florida, the Dukes will play their next nine games at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. The question is will they be able to feast on some home cooking?
Duquesne basketball on Pittsburgh Sports Now is sponsored by The Summit Academy: setting young men on the path to a better future.
Although we’re only in the infancy of the season, this upcoming stretch is important for one big reason: confidence.
As anyone who follows the Duquesne program is well aware of, this last two seasons have been challenging to say the very least. Last season, Duquesne won a total of 6 games the entire season and the year before that, the total wasn’t much better as they finished with 9 in the COVID-shortened season.
Thus far, this team that Keith Dambrot has put together has looked very sharp as they’ve won 3 of their first 4 games, including Saturday’s 85-80 win over a good Colgate team.
This 2022-23 roster is filled with many new faces and as Dambrot told PSN this morning, as his team gets ready for tonight’s matchup, getting the early taste of success is very important.
“I think when you come off a year like we did last year, it’s very important to have early success,” said Dambrot. “I don’t know if emotionally we would’ve been able to take a slow start. I think that would’ve been difficult.”
“It’s been a really good group of kids to coach so far, but we’ll see when we get hit in the mouth, when we hit adversity, or someone doesn’t get what they want,” he continued. “We’ll see what happens because we all know that people will act different when things don’t go well. But I will say that we’re facing some early season adversity right now. We’re down to three big men right now and we’ve got injuries, but we have to have the next man up philosophy and that’s worked well for us so far.”
One of the reasons things have gone well to this point is the production and leadership Dambrot has received from members of his backcourt, namely transfers Dae-Dae Grant, Tevin Brewer, Jimmy Clark III and Kareem Rozier.
Rozier is a freshman guard from Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s, just outside of Detroit, Michigan. In 4 games, Rozier is averaging 4.3 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 13.8 minutes per game. But what Rozier means to this team goes well beyond statistics as Dambrot threw him a pretty large compliment.
“He’s the best leader I’ve ever had, as a freshman I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dambrot. “Kareem Rozer is a phenomenal leader. All the older guys kind of look at him and laugh but they follow him.”
“I’ve never seen anyone come to compete with such enthusiasm on a day-to-day basis. He’s not afraid to get outside of his skin to motivate people. He’s the youngest kid on our team, I’m not even sure if he’s 18-years old yet. Actually, he’ll turn 18 on Friday. That’s kind of what we saw when we recruited him. That’s what makes this game so strange is that they’re so many intangibles involved. But Kareem has been doing this for most of his life.”
The biggest reason though for the 3-1 record is the on-court performance Duquesne has gotten from their 3 transfer guards: Grant, Brewer and Clark. Grant is averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 52.6% from the field and 63.6% from 3-point range. Brewer, who is still getting into game-shape after returning from surgery, is averaging 7.3 points, 4.0 assists and 2 rebounds, while Clark has been really good on both sides of the ball, averaging 9.3 points, 35 rebounds and 2.3 assists and shooting 48.5 from the field.
“Jimmy has been really good for us. He’s kind of the glue defensively,” said Dambrot. “He’s a freak athletically, he plays really hard defensively. I think though that the pieces we’ve brought in have fit together. We’ve still got a lot of work to do because we’re no where where we want to do. But we have Tevin, who’s a pass-first point guard, who can also score. Then you have Dae-Dae who can stand out there and hit shots consistently. Then you have Jimmy, who’s going to be able to guard the other team’s best player every night.”
“When you have that type of mixture, you’re going to have a good chance to win.”
The Dukes will be looking to put win No. 4 in the win column as they host North Florida (1-2). Tip-off from the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse will be at 7 PM.