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Dru Joyce III becomes the new leader of Duquesne basketball, facing great achievements and difficulties

For newly appointed Duquesne men’s basketball coach Dru Joyce III, he is taking over the program after the team achieved heights not seen in fifty years.

Dru Joyce III, the newly hired head coach of Duquesne men’s basketball, is taking charge of the team at a time when they have achieved significant success not seen in 50 years.

Joyce was moved up from assistant coach to head coach Thursday, took over from Keith Dambrot who recently retired after working for seven years and 22 years in Division I basketball. Dambrot led Duquesne to a historic performance in the first round of March Madness earlier this month, with Joyce serving as his top assistant.

The 39-year-old Joyce is now responsible for leading the team after the Dukes entered the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977, won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1969, and achieved back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1971 and 1972.

For these reasons, Joyce III feels that this is the perfect time and place for his first college head coaching opportunity.

“I am extremely happy,” Joyce said during Friday’s “Breakfast With Benz” podcast. “This is something I have prayed for and I’m thrilled to make a positive impact on our young student-athletes both on and off the court. I am deeply passionate about the purpose and opportunity I have been given.”

However, Joyce is not taking over the team under entirely calm conditions. Whether Dambrot stayed for another year or not, Joyce understands the serious need to refuel the team roster.

Seven players are leaving the team after completing their eligibility, including the top scorers Dae Dae Grant (16.4 points per game), Jimmy Clark III (15.0), and graduating forward Fousseyni Drame, who was the top rebounder and the fourth highest scorer. This includes Duquesne’s top rebounder Fousseyni Drame who scored an average of 6.9 points per game.

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“Every team, every coach experiences this with their program,” Joyce said. “Sometimes you lose your top scorers, sometimes you lose your role players. You need to rebuild and regroup. However, I believe in the returning young men and the established culture at the core.

The players returning to Duquesne could form a strong nucleus for competition in the future, with David Dixon showing ongoing progress in defense and the potential for improved offense, Jakub Necas demonstrating versatile defensive skills with a developing offense, Matus Hronsky showing promising game development, and Kareem Rozier bringing his two years of experience as the point guard.

Joyce currently believes that most of last year's players will remain at Duquesne despite the coaching change.

“I think our young men want to be part of Duquesne University,” he said. “They have enjoyed their experience and want to continue. These are discussions we still need to have. I want the players who have committed to this program to stay for the next few years.”

So there are still aspects that should continue from Duquesne’s recent success, but Joyce knows he still needs to find some immediate contributions from the transfer portal and the incoming freshman class.

“Recruiting has been going well. We need to keep working hard and finding the right pieces that fit, not only in terms of talent, but also in embracing our culture and goals here,” Joyce added.

In 2024-25, the Dukes hope to repeat as Atlantic 10 tournament champions, a challenge that the program hasn’t faced since 1978 and one that Joyce will have to deal with in his first year on the job.

One thing Joyce is sure about, he will have his own plan to make that happen, even if at times it seems like a lot of Dambrot’s thinking is integrated into his approach.

“Some people may notice similarities when they see me on the sideline and say, ‘That's what Coach Dambrot used to do,’” Joyce laughed. “Who knows? But I’m just excited for the opportunity to be the best version of myself.”

At the very least, Joyce will be able to start that journey next fall in a much better position than most coaches do when they take over a program — on the same night a banner is raised from the previous year.

Listen: Tim Benz interviews new Duquesne men’s basketball coach Dru Joyce III

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