Sometimes, Duquesne freshman guard Eric Williams Jr. will hear an admonishment from coach Keith Dambrot and will wonder, “Is he talking to me?”
That's an example of Williams' confidence. Dambrot tolerates it because he wants his players to believe in themselves as they continue the resurrection of a once-proud program.
The next step in that process arrives at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Palumbo Center when the Dukes (13-6, 4-2 Atlantic 10) confront George Mason (9-10, 3-3).
Williams will bring his near double-double efforts (13.9 points, 9.7 rebounds per game) and a strong belief he and his teammates can prevail.
Whether they are right isn't the immediate point. The belief is what matters, Dambrot said.
“A guy who really believes in himself, they can make mistake after mistake or not shoot it good and it doesn't faze them,” Dambrot said. “They think the rim's broken or the ball is bad.
“That's what makes (Williams), even to the point where he thinks I'm nuts when I correct him. He's got this little hard edge to him that sometimes I get mad at, but I have this theory that what makes you great also hurts you at times.”
Williams, who has played at least 30 minutes in 17 of 19 games, speaks with conviction when asked about his confidence.
“I just think my ability is good enough to do anything,” said Williams, who scored 50 and 40 points in consecutive playoff games for state champion New Haven (Mich.). “Even if I miss a few shots, I keep shooting, and they go in eventually.”
Williams' stats compare favorably to the best freshmen in Duquesne history. His scoring average is fourth, behind only Wayne Smith (1999), Robert Mitchell (2007) and Tom Pipkins (1994). Only Dick Ricketts (1952) and Bruce Atkins (1979) had better rebounding averages as freshmen.
Williams landed at Duquesne because assistant coach Charles Thompson was recruiting him for Akron when he was on Dambrot's staff there.
“We didn't have any (available) scholarships, but we kept recruiting him,” Dambrot said.
Then, when Dambrot took the Duquesne job, Williams was one of his first calls.
“We worked him out and offered him a scholarship on the spot,” Dambrot said. “He's been one of the best freshmen I've ever had.”
Not a bad testimonial from a coach in his 20th year.
About the same time Duquesne was bearing down on Williams, Ohio State started recruiting him, but the Buckeyes were little threat.
“It was after we had already been in there pretty good,” Dambrot said. “He had visited Youngstown before he visited here, and they didn't even offer him.”
Williams briefly considered visiting Ohio State, but he ended up committing to Duquesne two days before the trip.
“They (the Ohio State staff) ended up getting fired anyway,” Williams said, “so it ended up working out.
“I knew this was going to be a good spot for me for the next four years.”
Dambrot's recruiting victory surprised even him.
“Relatively speaking, it was a fairly easy get for us,” he said. “Which is shocking when you look at him now, right?”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.