MBB enters season with overhauled roster

Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief

Nov. 3, 2022

After a 2021-22 season in which the Duquesne men’s basketball team lost 17-consecutive games to end the season, there’s a lot of questions to be answered in 2022-23.

Led by Head Coach Keith Dambrot, who went 1-16 in Atlantic 10 Conference play in his fifth campaign guiding the Dukes, this season’s Duquesne team was picked to finish 15th out of 15 teams in the conference’s preseason poll.

Roster turnover is unavoidable for any team, but Duquesne lost seven of its players to the transfer portal this offseason (Primo Spears to Georgetown, Leon Ayers III to Bowling Green, Jackie Johnson III to UNLV, Tyson Acuff to Eastern Michigan, Toby Okani to Illinois-Chicago, Mounir Hima to Syracuse and Mike Bekelja to Kent State).

All of the signs point toward another season of struggle.

However, one silver lining is the Dukes’ non-conference schedule.

Of the 13 non-conference contests the Dukes will play in, just two of them will be played away from UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Duquesne will travel to play at Kentucky (Nov. 11), in addition to battling Colgate (Nov. 18) in a neutral-site contest in Akron, Ohio.

Ironically enough, Kentucky and Colgate are two of just three teams (also New Mexico State on Dec. 11) in the non-conference portion of Duquesne’s schedule that appeared in postseason competition last season, as all three squads made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Duquesne’s 10 other contests will come against: Montana (Nov. 8), South Carolina State (Nov. 14), North Florida (Nov. 21), Alabama State (Nov. 23), UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 29), Ball State (Dec. 3), Marshall (Dec. 8), DePaul (Dec. 14), Indiana State (Dec. 17) and Winthrop (Dec. 21).

Of those 10 teams, only three (Montana, UC Santa Barbara, Winthrop) finished with a record above .500 in 2021-22. The schedule is certainly manageable, and it helps the Dukes’ cause that they’ll hardly be leaving home between Tuesday and the end of the calendar year.

While the roster is littered with turnover, Dambrot has used the transfer portal to his own advantage as well. Tre Williams (10.8 points/game in 2021-22) and Kevin Easley Jr. (10.7 points/game), who came to Pittsburgh from Indiana State and TCU, respectively, prior to last season, will be counted on to do some of the heavy lifting.

In addition to Williams and Easley, as well as Rodney Gunn Jr. (transferred from Lenoir-Rhyne prior to last season, did not play due to injury), Dambrot added five players (Tevin Brewer, Tre Clark III, Dae Dae Grant, Joe Reece and Quincy McGriff) to his squad via the portal.

Grant topped Miami (Ohio) with 17.5 points/game. Brewer led FIU in scoring with 15.2 points/game. McGriff was second at Salt Lake Community College with 13.5 points/game. Clark paced Northwest Florida State College with 12.3 points/game after two seasons with A-10 foe VCU. Reece scored 11.2 points/game at Bowling Green.

All of that scoring depth will be depended upon, particularly considering that just four players (Spears, Williams, Easley and Johnson) scored 10.0 points/game or more last season.

Having that depth will also be essential come A-10 play.

Of the 14 teams in the conference last year, six won at least 22 games and appeared in either the NCAA Tournament (Davidson, Richmond) or the National Invitation Tournament (Dayton, VCU, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis). The conference also adds Loyola of Chicago, which went 25-8 in 2021-22 and has appeared in three of the last four NCAA Tournaments.

For a team that adds five freshmen (David Dixon, Halil Barre, Matus Hronsky, Devin Carney and Kareem Rozier), in addition to the five transfers, veterans like Austin Rotroff could play a pivotal role. In an era where players can up and leave seemingly at the drop of a hat, Rotroff has stayed the course and is entering his fifth season at Duquesne.

With this year’s journey set to get underway on Tuesday, the Dukes have a cast of players that could help them begin to dig themselves out of the conference’s basement. However, as last season evidenced, all it takes is a few losses to let a year spiral out of control.