Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer
Nov. 4, 2021
Head Coach Dan Burt is entering his ninth season as the leader of Duquesne’s women’s basketball program, and what he’s noticed during the offseason are the little strides that his team is making to become better.
The Dukes finished last season with a 5-11 record and were eliminated by La Salle in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
With the Covid-19 year still lingering for some college athletes, training habits can be implicated. During his availability at Thursday’s A-10 Media Days event, Burt talked about the importance of what he and his staff need to do to prevent injuries as Covid and the protocols that accompany it still persist.
“We’re going to see injuries in numbers that we may not have seen in past years. And I think Covid itself is not the reason, but I think the way that we trained, not just Duquesne women’s basketball, but Division I athletes across the country, the way that we have trained over the course of the last year with being on and off, off and on, that we’re going to see more injuries this year,” Burt said. “And we’ve got to really look at preventing those. For us, we’ve shortened practices. We’ve really emphasized prehab and rehab.”
With this in mind, such habits can help a team that is looking to make a deeper run in this year’s A-10 tournament. Burt is continuing to focus each day on how his team can get better. That process started at the conclusion of last season, when he gave his players some much-needed time off.
“When the season ended, we were in a place where we needed to take a break from a mental standpoint,” Burt said. “We gave the kids 67 days off from basketball and that allowed them to go home [following a challenging year with Covid]. Again, we’re not dodging bullets and we’re not walking or marching off to war. But as a society, it was a tough year. And for student-athletes and college students in general, when you can’t visit and socialize like you normally would, that makes things incredibly difficult.”
Burt knows that finally returning to campus and having a permanent gym will make a significant difference in the way his athletes prepare on a daily basis.
“You throw on the fact that we didn’t have an arena for two years, nor a locker room or a practice facility. That affected us,” Burt said. “When we were able to see the light that the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse was opening, and our kids were getting back into that, that certainly gives you a little hop in your step.”
Burt loves what he’s seen from his team so far this offseason and is excited that having fans back in the stands can help motivate his players.
However, he knows that his team still needs to keep practicing and progressing to get better.
“Are we going to be our best in November? By no stretch,” Burt said. “Our goal is to be playing our best basketball when we start the conference season in January. And that’s what our expectations are right now.”
Two of the biggest things that Burt would like his team to improve on before conference play begins are playing better defense and rebounding the ball better. If they can do those two things, Burt feels that his team will be just fine.
“We want to cut down turnovers and be able to offensively rebound the ball. For us, scoring the basketball has never been a problem. It’s been defending,” Burt said. “We’re going to need to be a much-better defensive team to get ourselves back in that top three or four in the league, where we’ve traditionally been.”
Burt emphasized the importance of using non-conference games to bolster these skills.
“As we go through November and December, we really have to have great focus on our defense and doing the little things defensively,” Burt said. “That’s not just scheme wise, but that’s our foot placement in boxing out on every possession and not allowing layups. All the little things that we emphasize every day in practice, we’re going to have to continue to get better and better at in our non-conference season.”
Becoming a more-complete team is something Burt said he would like to see from his team in non-conference play. From there, he said, he’ll know where the team needs to make adjustments prior to the beginning of A-10 action.
“Once we start conference play in January, we’re completely focused and dialed in to be the best defensive team that we can be,” Burt said. “We’ve never really had a lot of problems scoring the basketball over the course of a game, but we have had droughts, especially this last year with the youth and inexperience that we had. I think that we’ve overcome that, but that’s going to be a concern … that we’re consistently scoring the basketball throughout the game.”
With less than a week before the beginning of the season, Burt is eager to see how this year’s squad will shape up.
“We’re really excited about our group because when you watch us scrimmage one another, or [if] you watched us in the private scrimmage that we had, we can score the basketball,” Burt said. “We have offensive weapons. Now we have to become a better defensive team and we have to become a better rebounding team.”