Four games into Atlantic 10 play, DU sits near the top of the league’s crowded standings at 3-1. Wins over Fordham, Saint Joseph’s and Richmond should have fans excited for the coming months, but the Dukes look far from dominant. Here are a few things I’ve noticed thus far in watching the team.
Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Jan. 17, 2019
Duquesne is four games into Atlantic 10 play, and it finds itself with three victories by a combined 12 points.
Its lone conference loss came via a tightly-contested 65-61 bout at Davidson.
So is life in the A-10.
The Dukes haven’t looked necessarily spectacular to this point, with their well-documented lack of collective identity on full display.
Let’s not forget, however, that two seasons ago, Jim Ferry managed to win three Atlantic 10 games in total.
Already this season, Duquesne has one hard-fought road loss to Davidson, two solid home victories (Fordham and Saint Joe’s) and a road win at Richmond — the program’s first triumph there since 1993.
Most things in life are relative, and similarly, the success that Duquesne has enjoyed to this point is relative. Besides, the A-10 slate is only just kicking off.
Nevertheless, what’s transpired so far this season is still that: success.
Here are three insights I’ve garnered from Duquesne’s first four conference games.
1. Dambrot’s rotations have solidified
Early on in the Dukes’ non-league slate, Head Coach Keith Dambrot made a specific point of spreading his team’s minutes around as evenly as possible. After an 83-71 victory over UMass Lowell in late November, Dambrot said he came into the game with the intent of playing several young guys, no matter what happened.
“I made the determination today that I was playing those young, big kids, and I don’t care what happens,” Dambrot said, referring to the 33 combined minutes that freshmen forwards Gavin Bizeau, Austin Rotroff and Amari Kelly played on Nov. 25. “If we have to take a hit or two along the way, we’re playing them.
“For the good of the program, down the line, those guys are going to be good players. And we have to take our hit until they’re ready to play.”
As correct as Dambrot may have been back in November, the team’s developmental efforts are on pause, at least for the time being.
Dambrot’s recent rotations reflect that notion.
Bizeau, who played sparingly to begin with, hasn’t seen game action since Dec. 16 versus Maine.
Freshman guard Brandon Wade has played a combined 22 minutes versus conference competition, with 11 of those coming at Richmond.
Even Rotroff, who started four straight games in early December, has seen his playing time taper off as of late in favor of Kelly.
Outside of the team’s starters (Sincere Carry, Eric Williams Jr., Frankie Hughes, Marcus Weathers and Michael Hughes), plus Tavian Dunn-Martin, Kelly, Rotroff and occasionally Lamar Norman Jr. or Kellon Taylor, don’t hold your breath in regard to anybody else’s playing time.
2. Frankie Hughes has stepped up recently
On Jan. 5, in the first half of Duquesne’s Atlantic 10 opener at Davidson, sophomore wing Frankie Hughes was everywhere on the Belk Arena hardwood: playing inspired on-ball defense opposite Wildcat star Kellan Grady, creating plays offensively and hitting jump shots, including two 3-pointers en route to 12 first-half points.
Especially after Mike Lewis II’s mid-season transfer to Nevada, Hughes should be well-positioned for a prime spot in Dambrot’s guard rotation going forward. Right?
Not so fast. Although Hughes played 34 minutes at Davidson and 28, 24 and 23 since, Dambrot has had Hughes on a fairly short leash. That may be because he sees Hughes’ humongous potential.
That same potential was on display late against Saint Joe’s as Hughes hit an important 3-pointer late in the game, and at Richmond in the form of five 3-pointers.
Dambrot sees it daily in practice.
“I think the biggest thing with him is better conditioning, keeping it simple, practicing harder,” Dambrot said after the Davidson game. “He’s a high-level recruit, you know — he just has to be more consistent.”
3. Dukes will go as far as Sincere can Carry them
This was already evident to anyone who’s watched Duquesne at all to this point. As early as the first few games of the year, Carry established himself as one of the pillars of this young Duquesne team, offering Dambrot outstanding energy and poise at the lead guard position as only a freshman.
Months later, and Carry has cemented himself atop the Duquesne rotation, as well as the A-10’s Weekly Honor Roll (this past week, Carry was named to the list following a week that saw him score 18 points on .636 shooting in the Dukes’ two wins). Prior to the Richmond game, he led all freshmen nationally in steals per game.
At the beginning of every game, Carry’s the first one bringing the ball up the floor, and the first one ramping up the Dukes’ full-court efforts on defense. If Duquesne’s to continue to win A-10 games consistently, it needs for Carry’s effort to be just as consistent.
That shouldn’t be an issue.
By no means is Carry Duquesne’s most talented player. He might be.
But, at this point, it’s clear he’s Duquesne’s most important player — and by a long shot.
This post was updated Thursday, Jan. 17 at 3:54 p.m. EST.