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Weiss: Duquesne Earned Attention with Strong Start to Season, But There’s Much Left to Prove



Following a 10-3 non-conference slate it is safe to say that the Duquesne men’s basketball team has accomplished everything and frankly nothing at the same time.

The 13 games really were designed to build confidence within this program, strengthen the connection this team has and do so largely at home, though having four games in 10 days, including one in Akron certainly was taxing.

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In truth there are a lot of questions this team has to answer.

For starters, it will have to head on the road a lot more and the only true road game Duquesne has had was against Kentucky, where the offense just could not put the ball in the basket at a consistent rate.

Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot has a team that is hungry to travel, challenge itself and hunt positive results, but it will have to do so with this connection.

At times that connection was tested during the non-conference season as Duquesne battled injury, inconsistent playing time and position changes.

Duquesne lost consecutive games against Marshall and New Mexico State, the latter of which during the opponent was dealing with headlines surrounding a player, Mike Peake shooting and killing one of his assistant coaches.

Despite that distraction, Duquesne got in its own way, displaying inconsistent body language and a general frustration both at the situation and at times feedback from coaches.

On the road, such issues and drop offs will not be able to occur in an Atlantic 10 Conference which has proven to be wide open this season.

Preseason favorites Dayton and Saint Louis each have five losses this season as both have battled injuries and inconsistencies.

Both Fordham and Massachusetts have impressed, while Duquesne has also turned heads.

By all means Duquesne’s potential is there as Dae Dae Grant has been able to hunt his shots and also be a leader from a passing standpoint, something which was missing from a season ago.

Tre Clark has found his way offensively, building confidence throughout the non-conference campaign and his defensive gambles have not been costly, to where he can contribute more minutes.

Joe Reece has battled injuries, but when on the court he has been a force that makes decisions on a high level, while also displaying range.

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Tre Williams has resumed his starting role from last season and at the start was able to play less minutes because of the post depth. With players such as Reece, R.J. Gunn and Halil Barre injured and Austin Rotroff on a minutes count, his rate went up, but as the unit gets healthier, he may be able to take a bigger jump with less time on the court.

Tevin Brewer has battled health throughout the season and his status is not fully known, but he has knocked down several crucial shots and his passing ability provides instant credibility to this team.

Quincy McGriff has had to play both point guard and post depending on the team’s health and has been able to find success at both. He brings credibility from the three-point line and according to Dambrot is nowhere near his true potential yet. When he makes mistakes, there is a clear understanding of how to improve.

Rotroff has finally been able to put a healthy set of games together and is able to fill lanes, grab offensive rebounds at a high rate and knows what to do when the ball is in his hands. He also has shown increased capabilities as a leader.

David Dixon has a lot of learning to do, but credit Dambrot for not doing what he did with Mo Hima. Dixon has been on the court every game, starting five and is being allowed to process and make mistakes on the court. Dixon is showing increased confidence where he has added a midrange game and has shown a lot of promise.

Kareem Rozier is the clear leader of this team and does so with a 27:6 assist-turnover ratio. Rozier plays selflessly and consistently encourages teammates, which in turn allows for Dambrot to place complete trust in him. Though he is dealing with a foot injury, his presence is one opposing teams often overlook until it is too late.

Matus Hronsky continues to learn and improve in practice and has shown more of a willingness to drive the basketball. He is a very capable shooter when trusting his shot within the flow of the offense.

Fans finally got to see Gunn contribute early this non-conference slate before another foot injury has kept him off the court. He adds range and experience to the frontcourt and when he returns, will be worked into the rotation.

Halil Barre is back from his injury as well and he is working on figuring out timing in real-time situations. He did a lot right in the team’s last game against Winthrop, but his fouls restricted his minutes.

Dambrot still has to answer how large his rotation will be and to keep anyone who does not make it on the court happy. It is not an easy juggle, especially with injured players returning and a lot of minutes counts decreasing in an effort to find a winning rotation that can bring Duquesne to the goals it strives to reach.

The non-conference schedule has been far from easy, but the time the team has spent between Winthrop and Wednesday’s A-10 opener at Dayton are crucial. How Dambrot and frankly the on-court product answer these and many other questions will determine how far this team can go.

For now though, it is clear that the gleam Dambrot has in his eyes has returned. He believes the pieces are in place to have a successful season and that excitement has built among the fans as well.

Can everything work out? Only time will tell.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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