Dukes coach Keith Dambrot: Nobody ‘respects Duquesne yet’ |

Dukes coach Keith Dambrot: Nobody ‘respects Duquesne yet’

Jerry DiPaola
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Duquesne’s Sincere Carry falls after colliding with Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler during Duquesne’s loss to Penn State 73-67 at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 19, 2018.

Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot thinks he knows what the rest of the Atlantic 10 thinks of his team. And it doesn’t have a lot to do with the Dukes’ record (14-5, 5-1).

“I don’t think anybody respects Duquesne yet,” he said.

“They just think we played some home games (11-1 at Palumbo Center),” he said, “and won a couple road games (two-game winning streak on hostile courts) against what they think are average teams.”

Actually, he’s not wrong.

Before beating Saint Louis (14-5, 5-1), Duquesne’s four conference victories were against teams with a combined 5-20 record. Its only loss in the A-10 came at Davidson (5-1).

So, the answer is to keep trudging through the schedule until something really significant happens.

Marcus Weathers believes hard work at practice, where Dambrot is often unsatisfied, is the answer.

“He’s been telling us in order to play well in the games, you’re going to have to keep practicing harder and harder,” Weathers said.

“Coach Dambrot says we’re 70 percent of where we can be. We still have to reach that 100 percent. I’m pretty sure when we reach that 100 percent, we’re going to be a scary team come postseason.”

But there are 12 more conference games before the A-10 Tournament, and the next one is Saturday at Palumbo against VCU (13-6, 4-2). The bad news is Duquesne must confront its remaining opponents without 6-foot-10 freshman forward Austin Rotroff, who tore an ACL on Wednesday and is lost for the season. Rotroff was averaging 13.3 minutes, 4.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.

“Tough loss for us, but most importantly I feel bad for him,” Dambrot said. “He’s got a long road ahead.”

That shortens Duquesne’s bench even further after losing Mike Lewis II to a transfer and Kellon Taylor to football.

It also opens up opportunities for two other freshmen big men, 6-9 Amari Kelly and 6-11 Gavin Bizeau. Bizeau scored seven points in eight minutes against Saint Louis; Kelly is second on the team with 15 blocks.

“We’ll see if I’m a decent prognosticator,” Dambrot said. “We’ll see if Bizeau can play. I’ve said it all along. Amari can play better, and he gives you some different things than Austin does.”

He added that starters Michael Hughes and Weathers, who are second and third on the team in rebounds (6.4 and 6.1 per game), must stay out of foul trouble.

VCU will challenge Duquesne’s ball handlers with full-court pressure. Dambrot said the Dukes are getting better at playing together, but they still have more turnovers (283) than assists (279).

That’s where freshman point guard Sincere Carry can help. Carry averages 32.5 minutes, but only 2.9 turnovers per game.

“The thing I like about Sincere is when he makes mistakes it doesn’t faze him,” Dambrot said. “He just tries harder.”

Carry is also one of the team’s most gifted players.

“He does some things that I say, ‘I can’t believe he did it,’ ” the coach said. “When he spins around and scores, I wouldn’t say that’s a normal basketball play, but he’s capable of doing it.”

Dambrot hopes his 19-year-old can withstand the rigors of a full season, but he doesn’t bother him about it.

“You learn to leave good players alone until they have an issue,” he said. “You don’t want them over-thinking anything.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.