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Coach Dan Burt builds women's program at Duquesne on more than basketball

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 5:36 p.m.
Duquesne junior Conor Richardson (Carlynton) is known for her defense, but coach Dan Burt said her offensive game has improved.
Duquesne Athletics
Duquesne junior Conor Richardson (Carlynton) is known for her defense, but coach Dan Burt said her offensive game has improved.

Duquesne women's basketball coach Dan Burt will talk basketball with his players for as long as they can stand it. A coach since 1998, the man knows a ball screen from a backdoor cut and would love to sit and tell you how and why they work.

But Duquesne's program is not defined just by basketball. Burt won't allow it.

As he opens his fifth season as Duquesne's coach Friday at Charlotte, he's just as proud of his recruiting style (“I have no desire to kiss your butt,” he said) as his won-loss record (89-46, 43-25 in the Atlantic 10).

The makeup of this year's team mirrors his particularly choosy style of recruiting. The players come from three areas: overseas and Canada, local and almost local. Of the 16 players on the roster, nine are natives of foreign lands, four played in the WPIAL and three are from Ohio or West Virginia.

“We use Hungary like a Triple-A farm system,” said Burt, who tries to visit twice a year with his wife Kata, who grew up there, and their two bilingual sons.

The best of the foreign players might be Juso Vojinovic, a 5-foot-10 junior guard from Serbia. She averaged 10.9 points and 5.0 rebounds and recorded 104 assists last season. Burt said Vojinovic is good with a basketball in her hands.

“Sometimes too good,” he said. “She likes to thread the needle. She's an outstanding passer and really sees the floor, and she can score in bunches.”

Vojinovic is one of three players Burt said comprise the best group of guards in the Atlantic 10. The others are Conor Richardson (Carlynton) and Chassidy Omogrosso (Blackhawk). Vojinovic and Omogrosso were named to the Atlantic 10 preseason third team.

Richardson was named to the conference's preseason all-defensive team, but Burt said, “She has really smoothed out her offensive game.”

Burt said freshman guard Amanda Kalin of Pine-Richland also will be part of the mix in the backcourt.

“I asked (Kalin), ‘Where did you play the last two years of college?' ” Burt said. “She does not play like a college freshman. She plays like a college junior.”The key to Burt's success is his insistence on investigating more than a recruit's jump shot.

“We are brutally honest in the recruiting process to the point where we lose kids,” he said, mentioning he once lost a recruit when he told her she was playing too soft in a pickup game.

And there's this: “I have to be able to talk to you about something other than basketball,” he said.

That helps him build relationships with his players, and gives them a sense of belonging, he said.

“If you give them ownership of the program and your trust, then they run through walls for you,” Burt said.

Duquesne was picked fourth in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches' poll (behind Dayton, St. Joseph's and Saint Louis). But last year, Burt took a team with four sophomores among the top five in starts and advanced to the conference championship game. The only players not returning are 6-3 Hungarian center Amadea Szamosi and 6-4 forward Brianna Thomas, who graduated.

“Dayton is probably a tick above the other schools,” he said, “but St. Joseph's, Saint Louis and us, you could have really put in any order.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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