Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
To a man, a lot can change over the course of a year.
Within the realm of college basketball, almost everything about a team can change within just one offseason.
Just ask Keith Dambrot.
In Dambrot’s inaugural season as the head coach at Duquesne in 2017, the Dukes returned only six scholarship players from the prior year. This past offseason, Dambrot saw even more aggressive turnover, as eight of the team’s 11 eligible scholarship players from 2017-18 departed from the program.
Now, for the second time in as many years, Dambrot is practically starting over, but this time, he’s got the talent he needs to do something special.
If only he had a little more experience.
“That’s probably the newest thing for me … I’ve never had a newer team. This is the second newest team in the country behind Detroit,” Dambrot said post-practice on Wednesday before assembled media at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
Dambrot went on to directly compare this season’s team to last year’s.
“When you analyze last year’s team, it was an old team. It wasn’t a very deep team, but it was old,” Dambrot said. “This team has more skill, but no experience.”
Mike Lewis II, the team’s longest tenured player alongside forward Kellon Taylor, echoed similar sentiments regarding his team, saying he’s aiming to lead by example for his younger teammates this season.
“I really want to see everybody play hard every game. If we do that, we’re going to be in games, and it’s all about executing after that,” Lewis said.
The Dukes are going to have to do exactly that in their season-opening date with the William & Mary Tribe on Nov. 10 if they hope to begin the year 1-0.
Dambrot acknowledged the tall task that his team has ahead of them in Nathan Knight & Co.
“No, I’m not too excited,” Dambrot said of facing Knight on Nov. 10. “I’m not excited to see them at all, really. It’s really poor scheduling on my part.
“Talk about an experienced coach, experienced team, one of the best shooting teams in the country and a tough system,” Dambrot continued. “We’ve spent a lot of time getting ready for them. It’s a hard prep. But by that same token, if we want to be where we want to be in the A-10, we have to beat William & Mary, UIC, Radford — you know, we have to beat those type of teams to get where we want to get.”
Indeed, topping the CAA’s Tribe would absolutely be a step in the right direction for Duquesne. A year removed from becoming the first team in the history of college basketball to finish a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point land and 80 percent from the foul line, William & Mary will stand as a tall order for the youthful Dukes.
Particularly, the 6-foot-10 Knight will. Considered by some as a fringe NBA prospect, Knight averaged 18.5 points per game on .575 percent shooting in 2017-18, and was named to the CAA’s Preseason All-Conference Second Team prior to this season.
Following the Dukes’ season-opener against the Tribe, Duquesne will face UIC Nov. 12, and Radford in Akron, Ohio Nov. 17.