Pittsburgh, PA— Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot had his pregame media availability session Friday morning, in advance of the team’s contest Saturday against Davidson.
The game will mark Duquesne’s senior day as Chas Brown, Rene Castro-Cannedy, Eric James and Jordan Robinson will all be recognized prior to the game.
Brown was a graduate transfer who played in this one season and despite having an ankle injury has given his all to the team on both ends of the floor, consistently earning the starting nod.
Castro-Caneddy came to Duquesne highly regarded as a Butler transfer and did not possess the consistency he was looking for in either his sophomore or junior seasons. It is clear that he has been determined as a senior and has certainly made this year count.
As was discussed in an earlier feature, James had a breakout sophomore season, regressed in his junior year and had to come back from an early season injury this year. He has been more of a bench presence but has learned several lessons that have helped him both on and off the basketball court.
Robinson started the season out as a starter but the minutes increase was a little much and he has found his confidence in a bench role where there is less pressure provided. Robinson has changed his body and has shown defensive improvements which compliment his already capable offensive abilities.
Here are some takeaways from Dambrot’s session:
1. Duquesne’s posts better be ready to defend– Following Duquesne’s most recent loss at Fordham, Dambrot remarked to reporters that his team was playing too much “three-on-five” and that it eventually wore his team down.
On two separate occasions, Dambrot mentioned that Davidson can shoot at all five spots and spreads the ball across the offensive end which will bring one or both post players towards the top of the key.
“It’s going to be a challenge, because they move you all around,” Dambrot said. “This guy (Davidson coach Bob McKillop) has coached a thousand years, he’s going to be in the hall of fame and he’s a very good offensive coach. They’re going to move us and they are very skilled, in some ways more skilled than Bonaventure. It now puts pressure on your big guys to leave the paint, so it’s a hard deal. They seem like they are a good defensive team, which they’re improved, but the way they play offense helps their defense. It should be a relatively low-scoring game in my mind.”
2. Dambrot feels for Mike Lewis II– It is no secret that Mike Lewis II is going through a bit of a shooting slump right now, so what is Dambrot’s plan to try and correct it?
Not talk about it.
“Mike is a victim of many things in fairness,” Dambrot said. “He’s going to get the best defender every night and they don’t have to help, so he gets no easy, open opportunities. They’re not pass-first point guards. Everything he gets is hard. Even last year they had more guys to create opportunities than we have. When you don’t get a lot of opportunities, the ones you do get become more important and you get a little bit anxious. I feel for him there are things to work with him to get better but most of it is not as many good opportunities as he deserves.”
After the team’s Friday practice, Lewis II was shooting with assistant coach Terry Weigand and student manager Chad Pichoske staying loose and having competitions among themselves.
While the trio were shooting from different points, Dambrot further tried to define the struggles his sophomore guard was going through.
“He is the face of the program, so he takes the most heat of anyone if he doesn’t play at a high level,” he said. “He’s put some pressure on himself because he wants us to win. When he doesn’t make shots, he knows we’re going to have trouble winning that’s a lot. I really feel for him. It’s not easy for him given our circumstances.”
3. Duquesne believes it can still make a run– Yes Duquesne is on a season-high five game losing streak, but with three games left and two of those being home tilts, there is still the chance to obtain moment come Atlantic 10 Championship time.
After Saturday, Duquesne will host a Saint Louis team Wednesday that humiliated the Dukes at Chaifetz Arena. Regular season play will conclude next Saturday at UMass.
Duquesne views all of these as winnable games, but even further, Dambrot views the team’s two most recent losses which came at Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure as an improvement in play.
“We’re capable of playing three good games and winning the A-10 Tournament,” he said. “I’m not saying they (top top teams in the conference) aren’t consistently better than us, because they are. You don’t have to play three great games, you have to play three good games. If you look at the tournaments across the country, the best regular season team usually doesn’t win it, even at the highest level. We’re not that far away from playing well in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, now if we don’t play with emotion or engagement, we can’t beat anybody. That’s how fine a line this thing is.”
As of Friday afternoon here is a look at the Atlantic 10 standings. By virtue of its two victories over George Washington, Duquesne is currently safe in regards to avoiding first round play which features the bottom four teams in the league based on regular season conference play.
|Rhode Island||14 – 1||22 – 4|
|St. Bonaventure||11 – 4||21 – 6|
|Davidson||11 – 4||16 – 10|
|VCU||8 – 7||16 – 12|
|Saint Louis||8 – 7||15 – 13|
|Dayton||7 – 8||13 – 14|
|George Mason||7 – 8||13 – 15|
|Saint Joseph’s||7 – 8||12 – 15|
|Richmond||7 – 8||9 – 18|
|Duquesne||6 – 9||15 – 13|
|George Washington||6 – 9||13 – 15|
|La Salle||5 – 10||11 – 17|
|Massachusetts||4 – 11||11 – 17|
|Fordham||4 – 11||9 – 18|
Photo credit: Duquesne Athletics