Keith Dambrot calls it: ‘LeBron’s better than Zion’ |

Keith Dambrot calls it: ‘LeBron’s better than Zion’

Jerry DiPaola
Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot signals to his team as they play against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

After he had answered all the mundane questions about Duquesne’s 77-73 victory against Saint Louis on Wednesday night, coach Keith Dambrot fielded one on his second-favorite subject – LeBron James.

“What would be a bigger deal?” a reporter wanted to know. “Jay-Z going to a Pitt game or LeBron going to a Duquesne game?”

“I’m the wrong guy to ask,” said Dambrot, who was James’ high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron. “The problem when LeBron comes to the game, no one watches the game. They just watch him. It’s true. Grown men.”

Dambrot, who maintains a close relationship with James, said he won’t allow the NBA superstar to come to a Duquesne game “until we’re really good.”

“But he cares about what we do.”

The question was prompted by Jay-Z’s appearance at Peterson Events Center on Tuesday night for the Duke/Pitt game. Jay-Z was likely in town to watch Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, who are projected to be the top picks in this year’s NBA draft. Jay-Z owns Rock Nation Sports, an agency that represents Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors, Ndamukong Suh of the Los Angeles Rams and several other high-profile athletes.

“LeBron’s better than Zion Williamson,” Dambrot said, unprompted. “Zion’s great, but there’s not many like LeBron. But I’m biased. I love LeBron like a son. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

Shout-out to the fans

Dambrot was pleased by the largest crowd of the season at Palumbo Center (3,011), but he wants to see more Saturday when Duquesne plays VCU. “The crowd was terrrfic, but I’m a perfectionist, so I’m not going to be satisfied with 3,000 people in the building,” he said. “But by the same token, why should they come until we prove we can win?

“A fan said to me, ‘I had season tickets for 35 years and I couldn’t do it anymore.’ What am I supposed to say to that? I don’t blame him. They haven’t been in an NCAA tournament (since 1977).

“But until we prove our worth, that’s what we’re going to get.

“But our students were good (Wednesday) and they helped us win.”

Injury update

Freshman forward Austin Rotroff injured his knee early in the game and did not return.

“I’m sick over that,” Dambrot said. “He’s probably one of the nicest kids we have in the program.”

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