Thomas, players speak during A-10 Media Days

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Duquesne's Tyson Acuff averaged 3.7 points per game and 13.7 minutes per game in 2020-21, his first season with the Dukes.

Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer

Nov. 4, 2021

With the start of the college basketball season less than a week away, the Duquesne men’s basketball team is starting to form an identity. During the Atlantic 10 Conference Media Days event on Thursday, assistant coach Charles Thomas and players Tyson Acuff and Tre Williams took questions regarding the upcoming season.

Much of the focus was on the influx of players transferring in and out of Head Coach Keith Dambrot’s program during the offseason. Thomas said he has confidence that Dambrot will be able to adapt and succeed, no matter the circumstances.

That man lives with a chip on his shoulder, and I think if you watch his teams play, that’s how we play, so it’s going to be no different with this team this year,” Thomas said. “It’s their second chance to play a different university, but from our leader, just the way he coaches away and how passionate he is about the game, the chip is going to be there, whether we are picked [to finish] first or 14th, it is always going to be there. That’s how Keith Dambrot-teams play.”

Thomas also spoke about the team’s attempt to rebuild a culture and an identity among a cast of new players coming in to the start of the season.

We’re coaching just basketball. We’re not coaching attitudes or effort, and that’s been the biggest thing so far. It’s just coaching the basketball, and these guys are hungry,” Thomas said. “The hour before we get started, they come in. After their studies, they come back in the gym and work again. They work in the weight room tirelessly and relentlessly.”

“Just the fact that these guys come in and bring their hard hats every day, it’s been easy to coach these guys so far. It’s going to equate to some wins once we get on the basketball court.”

Meanwhile, Acuff and Williams stressed the growth of the team’s culture throughout the offseason, and how that improvement can be expected to translate onto the court,” Thomas said.

Acuff said he would describe what fans could expect from the team this year in one word: unselfishness.

“We’re going to push the ball up the floor. We have a huge offensive threat that just came in [Tre Williams] who’s going to open the floor for the shooters,” Acuff said. “We play very unselfishly, giving one more pass a lot more, getting easier looks, playing inside out. It is going to be an easier game and it’s going to flow a lot more fluently.”

Williams said that he believes the team will be up-tempo because “Dambrot is going to keep that energy and we’re going to play hard every possession.”

Williams, an incoming transfer from Indiana State University, said his time with the Dukes has been “wonderful” so far.

“Everyone is passionate about what they do,” Williams said. “Everyone brings the mentality to work hard and bring the energy so we can just be as good as we can be when we step foot on the court.”

Acuff also addressed the team’s shooting struggles from behind the 3-point line a season ago, and how the new additions can help improve that weakness.

“They’re going to open the court more for us, especially now that we have Tre as an offensive threat in the paint. It is going to cause teams to want to double-team or keep him out of the post,” Acuff said. “If he’s doing his job, putting the ball in the hole and being an offensive threat, he is going to open things up for the shooters and [we’ll] get easy looks.” 

Acuff made it clear that the effort has been there throughout the offseason.

“Everybody’s been in the gym super early, getting up shots,” Acuff said. “They’re consistent, working hard coming after classes to get more shots up.

“Everybody works at this, so it’s just a matter of time before it’s shown on the court.”