In the past five years, the Duquesne University women’s basketball team has come close to making the NCAA Tournament; however, coach Dan Burt says that will not be acceptable this season.
“We’re honored to be picked third [in this year's Atlantic 10 preseason poll], especially with having a change in leadership, but our expectations are the NCAA Tournament, period,” Burt said.
Despite being without a head coach for a month, the players have gelled with the coaches as a whole new staff is in place. Now practices are tailored differently with an emphasis on running. This idea started shortly after Burt was hired as he put the team through hard work in the gym.
“We really emphasized the weight room,” Burt said. “We measured the kids in eight or nine different categories with the goal of them improving in every category. Everyone on our team improved in at least seven categories and we’re talking about significant jumps. To increase your vertical leap one inch is pretty tough to do, but we had kids at two inches. People lost four percent body fat within eight to 10 weeks. We saw significant jumps in our overall strength.”
The Dukes have a 30-game schedule, and one of the games that has many players excited is the Dec. 1 matchup against Notre Dame, which is ranked seventh in the preseason poll. The game will be played in Toronto, and the Dukes have four Canadians on their roster while the Fighting Irish have one.
“I’m really excited. I went home this past weekend, and everyone was talking about the Notre Dame game against us,” senior Wumi Agunbiade said. “I’m expect a lot of fans and family members there.”
Ultimately to make the NCAA Tournament, Agunbiade does not want to leave anything to chance.
“We need to win the A-10 tournament,” she said. “We don’t want to finish second or third and cross our fingers that we make the NCAA Tournament by winning our conference.”
Duquesne opens its season on Nov. 8 in Chicago against Cal Poly as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic.
The following is a roster breakdown that features information on each of the team’s 13 players.
Projected starting lineup
April Robinson- Robinson is a sophomore who started all 32 games last season. She averaged 8.3 points per game and was a three-time A-10 Rookie of the Week. Her season high was 16 points Nov. 28 at Buffalo. Of the returning players, Robinson’s 43 steals last season were highest.
As an underclassman, Robinson has made herself a steady force on the team and earned a fan in Burt.
“April is someone who you know what you’re going to get,” Burt said. “She does everything you want to do on the floor without you even asking. That’s really everywhere within our program, as a sophomore, she’s invaluable to us.”
Still Robinson is making strides in her game and hopes to improve in a couple of areas.
“I’m making sure my teammates are able to hear me,” Robinson said. “I want to get my assists up. I want to be a facilitator and my teammates are helping me out with that.”
Raegan Moore- This is Moore’s first season starting in college. Moore has not previously started a game and averaged 7.6 minutes per game last season, but Burt says she will get the nod due to her work ethic.
“If you asked me in June about her I wouldn’t have been sure if she bought in 100 percent like the others have,” Burt said. “Raegan has bought in 100 percent. She’s going to be the surprise of this team. She had an outstanding scrimmage and is a senior who understands that this is it. She looks like the player she was when she was the freshman at Valparaiso. She’s a kid that’s going to be very significant to us this year.”
Moore had her most productive season to date in her freshman year at Valparaiso where she scored in double figures five times and had a career high 25 points Mar. 6 against University of Illinois at Chicago. She scored 5.7 points per game that season. Her high point total with Duquesne came Jan. 13 last season at Xavier with a six point game and was matched Feb. 7 against St. Bonaventure.
Orsi Szecsi- Szecsi was named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Second Team. Half of what is the self-proclaimed “WO Show,” Szecsi is in her senior season. The 6-foot-3 guard/forward from Budapest, Hungary, averaged 8.6 points per game last season while being named to the 2011 A-10 All-Rookie Team. Szecsi played 27 games [starting 25] last season and missed seven games due to a shoulder injury. Szecsi set a career high in points Feb. 18, 2012 with 25 points against La Salle.
While the process of her senior year can be an emotional one, Szecsi understands that there is business to take care of.
“I don’t wake up every day thinking this is my last day,” Szecsi said. “It’s more like there’s no next year. This is it, we have to make it.”
Last season, Szecsi played 26.1 minutes a game and that number is likely to go up. Szecsi is 145 points away from 1,000 in her career.
Wumi Agunbiade- Named to the Atlantic-10 Preseason All-Conference First Team, expectations are high for Agunbiade.
“Her ability to score inside and out is arguably the best in our league,” Burt said. “Even though she’s a little undersized, she can elevate her jump shot and can score over people on the block. She’s developed her game on the arc and can shoot the three with consistency. She’s very understanding of this being her senior year. Frankly if she wants to leave with her number retired here sometime, she needs to take us to places we’ve never been before.”
This off-season, Burt has worked on Agunbiade becoming more vocal in order for her to transform into the leader he expects. Burt told the media that if a freshman makes a bad play, that Agunbiade is blamed for it.
Agunbiade scored 13.2 points per game last season. She scored her 1,000th career point Dec. 30, 2012 against Delaware. On Nov. 22, 2011, Agunbiade scored 32 points against North Dakota State, a career high.
Jose-Ann Johnson- Much like Moore, Johnson will see a significant increase in minutes. Johnson had 8.7 minutes last season, the second-fewest on the team. Burt is ready to start her as he says that she is ready.
“She’s really developed the confidence that she may not have had in the past,” Burt said. “I told her the day I was hired that ‘you’re my guy’. You can drop the ball five or six times, you aren’t coming out of the game. I really have tried to give her confidence that way.”
Johnson’s career high point total is six points scored Nov. 9, 2012 against Liberty and she played a career high 23 minutes in the game.
Starting at center, Johnson has a chance for a breakout year.
The bench will see three experienced players led by senior guard Oditte Odisho [3.8 ppg/1.0 rpg] and junior guard Belma Nurkic [3.4 ppg/1.6 rpg].
Odisho came off the bench last season and scored a career-high 14 points Feb. 18 against Dayton and once again Mar. 3 versus Butler – a team high in that game. Odisho’s 71.4 percent clip from the free throw line was second on the team.
Nurkic played in all 32 games last season and started 21. She scored a career high 19 points Nov. 25, 2012 against Ohio University. Nurkic led all Dukes players with 39 three point shots made, accounting for over half of her field goals.
Also coming off of the bench will be Stasia King [1.7 ppg/3.1 rpg] King scored a career high 10 points Feb. 27 against La Salle. earning a double-double in the win after another career high 10 rebounds.
Burt’s thoughts on the freshman/transfer class: (Note: These quotes were obtained in late August and do not include Erin Waskowiak ,who is out for the season due to injury.)
Brianna Thomas- “She came in and sat out the semester. Bri then had minor knee surgery towards the end of April and did not have the summer I wanted. She’s working hard to get back to where she needs to be, but we have very high expectations for her as a freshman.”
Angela Heintz- “The most college ready of all of our players. She came in fantastic shape, is stronger already and has a level of maturity that is more aligned with someone who is a college junior. I think Angela really has an opportunity to open our eyes very early in her career.”
Kyasia Duling- “Kyasia has found out how difficult training at this level is and what it’s like to play against a kid like Wumi Agunbiade every single day. Kyasia is in a learning phase but she has a college-ready body, athleticism and with some further skill development expect good things from her.”
Amadea Szamosi- “Amadea is kind of the wild card few people know about because she is from Hungary. She had a very good U-20 performance overseas in Turkey. Amadea is going to have a period of adjustment because it is a different style of game and different culture. With her skill level and athleticism, we’re expecting very big things from her. She’s a very gifted player.”
Olivia Bresnahan- “Olivia has worked as hard as anyone on our team. You could make a case that she was our hardest worker this summer. She has performed very well, not only in the weight room, but on the floor. Her jump shot has improved dramatically, her three point range has really become a lot more consistent. She has a pro mentality, and wants to be a professional player once she graduates. She knows what work ethic is and how to get into the gym on her own. I’m very excited about her becoming eligible on December 19.”