Dukes recreating land of the giants

Posted on Nov 14 2017 - 5:11pm by Jonny Heller
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6-foot-9 Point Valley high school basketball star Dylan Swingle is Duquesne’s headliner on an impressive, tall 2018 recruiting class. (Photo Credit: Karla DePugh/For the Gazette)

On Monday, Duquesne made official what many fans have been clamoring about for years. The Dukes signed five recruits, four of which are 6-9 or over. Over the years, the Dukes have been solid in the backcourt but think up front. This has carried over into this season, but Coach Keith Dambrot has made it abundantly clear that he will run his offense through the post. You need size for that, and he is certainly bringing that to the Bluff with this class.

6-foot-11 forward-center Dylan Swingle is considered the centerpiece of the class and for good reason. Dambot described him as a “huge human being,” and one look at Swingle confirms that statement. Swingle was ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN and the tenth-best player in Ohio, which says something because Ohio is loaded with talent all over the state. Swingle averaged 21.3 points per game and 13 rebounds per game as a junior at Paint Valley High School in Chillicothe, Ohio. Pittsburgh Sports Castle reached out to Swingle Monday where he see’s the program by the time he’s a senior, “I see us as one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 as well as competing in the NCAA tournament.” That’s refreshing, right? No more let’s strive to be in the middle of the pack talk.

Dambrot also got landed 6-foot-9 power forward Amari Kelly from Norcross, Georgia, to sign on the dotted line. Kelly averaged ten points per game as a senior and eight points per game as a junior but was hampered by a nagging injury and didn’t play the full season. Dambrot described Kelly as “one of the most defensive-ready players we saw.” Watching highlights of Kelly brings to mind flashbacks of former Duke Shawn James. We also asked Kelly where he sees the program by his senior year, he said this, “By senior year I see myself as a starter, leading the team in points and rebounds. I also see the program moving forward and a lot of winning.” Starting to see a common thread here?

6-foot-11 small forward Gavin Bizeau hails from Plainfield, Indiana, and possesses the ability to swing between multiple positions for the Dukes. When asked how we would describe his game, Bizeau told me, “I see myself getting to 240 pounds, playing multiple positions and winning championships.” Having a 6-foot-11 kid who can step out and make outside shots as well a be a battering ram in the paint is the type of player I see Bizeau becoming. And that continued championship talk sounds great.

Austin Rotroff, a 6-foot-10 power forward, comes to the Dukes from Wauseon, Ohio and is rated as the ninth-best player in the 2018 class from Ohio by ESPN. Rotroff continues the trend of getting big men with the ability pass, shoot and play defense in Dambrot’s inaugural class. Rotroff averaged 13.7 points and 8.2 boards a game as a junior at Wauseon High.

Rounding out the class of 2018 is 6-foot-2 point guard Brandon Wade of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wade put up video game-like stats at Skyline High as a junior and looks like every bit of the floor general that a team that wants to compete for a title in the Atlantic 10 needs. Wade also brings much-needed length at the point guard position for the Dukes.

All in all, Coach Keith Dambrot is making the bluff into the land of the giants. Duquesne has hailed the 2018 class as the tallest recruiting class in school history, and that is certainly no exaggeration or hyperbole on the Dukes end. This class will enable Dambrot to play through the post as he and much of the fanbase desires. The days of watching big men coming into Palumbo Center from other schools and dominate night after night looks to be over.

As far as the championship talk? I love the confidence of the newest Dukes and don’t have any doubt that when they finish their careers at Duquesne, they will look back at plenty of championships and consistent winning. Get used to that. It’s coming. That’s going to be the new norm on the Bluff.

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