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Duquesne Basketball

Michalowski: Capel, Dambrot Have Pittsburgh’s Teams Fun Again After Finding Success in Portal



Jeff Capel Keith Dambrot Pitt Duquesne basketball

Last year was not a fun year of hoops for anyone in Pittsburgh.

Pitt went 11-21 and won just six of its 20 conference games in the ACC. Duquesne had its worst year since 2005, going 6-24 and just 1-16 in conference play. Robert Morris went 8-24 and just 5-16 in conference play.

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Combined, Pittsburgh’s three D1 schools went 25-69, an abysmal 27% win percentage.

But now, things have changed. Duquesne sits at 7-1 and has won six straight. Most recently, the Dukes took down Ball State on an incredible game-winning buzzer beater from Jimmy Clark III. Pitt sits at 6-3 and has won five straight, including its first two road games of the year. Both teams are fun again.

While the staffs are mostly the same from last season other than a few minor changes, the names on the court look much different. All five of Duquesne’s starters are transfers. Four of Pitt’s five starters are transfers. Jeff Capel and Keith Dambrot, after tough seasons last year, won the offseason and are now having success early this season because of it.

Let’s start with the Dukes.

Dambrot and co. went out after an uncharacteristic awful season last year and completely flipped the roster upside down. Ten new players joined the team: two JuCo players, three D1 transfers, and five freshman.

Bigs Austin Rotroff and Tre Williams stuck around. Alongside those two, Miami (OH) transfer Dae Dae Grant has been spectacular. A star. Grant is competing right up there for the top player in the city across both programs, and is one of the top 50 scorers in the country. He is averaging 19 points per game at the moment while shooting a stellar 55% from three-point range, good for SIXTH in the entire country. Again, a star.

In the back court with Grant, Clark and Tevin Brewer are both scoring more than eight points per game each. Big Joe Reece was an inside threat while he was healthy, and once back in the lineup should continue to give the Dukes another look inside. In four starts, he posted averages of six points and almost four boards per contest. With versatile JuCo man Quincy McGriff on the wing and freshman David Dixon earning minutes down low, the Dukes have a variety of different talents and have found early-season success meshing together.

Now, to the Panthers. Capel attacked the portal right away this offseason, adding Pittsburgh native Nelly Cummings (8.7 points, 4.3 assists/gm) to run the point alongside veteran guard Jamarius Burton. Those two have been nails so far, providing stability, leadership, and smart guard play on both sides of the ball for the Panthers’ back court.

Then came Blake Hinson, 6-foot-7 sharp-shooting wing who has been nothing short of a star for the Panthers so far. Hinson, fresh out of the portal, is currently leading the team with 16.9 points per game, and has had games with 27, 22, 21, and 19 points already. The Florida native has hit at least three three-pointers in four games for Pitt already, and brings a competitive, electrifying energy to the Panthers each game. A bonafide star, Hinson is producing at an All-ACC level to start the year.

Lastly came Greg Elliott, a wing who also came from the portal by way of Marquette. Elliott is shooting 34% from deep, and has provided the Panthers with a consistent outside threat as well as infectious energy and leadership.

The Panthers are a fun-to-watch team. They shoot lots of threes. They have multiple guys that can score over 20 and take over a game. They’ve brought energy in every game since their tough start. They’ve won on the road early on. And last year’s leading scorer hasn’t even gotten going yet.

Looking ahead, Pitt (6-3) travels to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt and pick up its third-straight road win. Duquesne (7-1) hosts Marshall on Thursday, Dec. 8 in its next matchup. The Dukes will tip off at 7 p.m. from the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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