Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer
Nov. 19, 2020
Libby Bazelak could have made a name for herself in the college basketball world in the state that she grew up in Ohio. Back in high school, she had an offer from the University of Akron, one of the two schools that had offered her. Instead of becoming a star at Akron, Bazelak is shooting three-pointers and playing efficient basketball for Duquesne University, the only other school that offered her.
Bazelak returns to the Duquesne women’s basketball team for a fourth straight season, and as a senior, she knows the upcoming campaign is going to mean a lot more to her than usual. As a junior last year, Bazelak led the team in points per game (13.2), rebounds (6.5), assists (3.9), 3-point field goal percentage (.444) and free throw percentage (.758). The Dukes were 20-11 last year, showing Bazelak can lead the team in wins and not just statistics. With the numbers that she put up from last year, it’s hard for people to not think that is the star player on the team.
Despite an outstanding junior showing, Bazelak knows there are still things that she can improve on to become a better player and leader.
“I am more of a leader by example. I think I know the game pretty well,” Bazelak said, who is a physician’s assistant major at Duquesne. “As a point guard, I like to facilitate the offense and I think that’s what makes me a leader. The past two years, I had to step up in a more vocal role, and I feel that I am still working on that. You can always improve with things; I need to step up in more of a leadership position. The sophomore girls have developed a leadership role on the team and that has helped us a lot with everything going on and that has created a bond with our entire team.”
Duquesne Head Coach Dan Burt and the rest of his staff noticed how well Bazelak played on her AAU basketball team during her time in high school and wondered how no other schools showed much interest in her. She was basically a steal for the Dukes, and Burt has enjoyed coaching her and seeing her strengths and development as a player.
“On the floor, Bazelak is athletic and has a very high basketball IQ — as high as anyone that we’ve had at Duquesne,” Burt said. “Her ability to get places on the floor is very impressive. Defensively, she is much a better athlete than what people give her credit for. She reads passing plays very well. She is a good on-ball defender as well.”
With the way that Bazelak has been able to overcome adversity while playing basketball on the court and the hard work that she has put in, it makes Burt’s job much easier as a coach knowing that he has a player like Bazelak who does not complain and keeps on working.
“If a defender, who is very athletic, is covering Bazelak, she will not have that deter her from getting to the spot on the floor that we need her to be to facilitate the offense and score,” Burt said. “She has an every day dedication to excellence and it is really ingrained in her family. Everything that Libby does is built around excellence daily, whether it’s on the court or in the classroom.”
There is not much that Burt has to complain about with Bazelak, as the only thing he has asked her to do is to continue to bring leadership on the team.
“She is very complete. We always like her to maybe shoot the ball with a little more range, but she is already one of the best 3-point shooters in the Atlantic 10. She is continuing to be more vocal as we need her to take the reins along with Amanda Kalin.”
“I always knew that I just loved the game as playing NCAA Division I basketball was my goal and my dream,” Bazelak said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I worked hard and my dad really pushed me. Sometimes, he would say not what I wanted to hear, but he, the rest of my family members, former teammates and coaches are the reasons that I am here.”
As Bazelak got older and has played longer on the team, she has started to carve out more of a role, and has found a way to get a little bit out of her comfort zone.
“I have become a lot more confident on the court,” she said. “As a freshman in 2017-18, I was not exactly sure what my role was on the team and I was a little homesick. As time has gone on, I realize that I need to step into a bigger role on the team as a leader and a scorer. I am more of a passing point guard but my team needs to score so I transitioned more of a scoring point guard, so I have to do what is in the best interest of the team.”
With everything going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, people have realized how life can be taken for granted. Bazelak was aware of that, but is excited to get back on the court and hopes to try to lead the Dukes to an Atlantic 10 championship and a berth to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“It [the COVID-19 pandemic] has given us more time as a team to prepare,” she said. “It’s tough, everyone is in the same situation where you are trying to protect you and your teammates. We have to go through individual practices and we really didn’t have any summer workouts. So, that put us a little behind.
“I think it has given our team more motivation and I really just want to go out and play basketball and I think that’s what our team mindset is as we want to compete.”
With the hope that there will be a college basketball season, Bazelak will be waiting for when she gets the chance to put on her Duquesne uniform and get back to playing games with her teammates.
“I have a lot of fun playing basketball. With everything going on this year, I have really thought about loving the game of basketball. It brings joy to my life. Having basketball to relieve pressure from school and hanging out with my teammates is nice as it will always be a part of my life.”