When Latoya Singleton heard that sports were coming back to Duquesne, her ears perked up.
Singleton, a 2002 Duquesne graduate and former basketball player at the school, is a passionate leader, having coached football, basketball and baseball. Now, she’ll be coaching at her alma mater, too. Singleton will handle coaching the 8th grade girls basketball team, while Shawnese Brown, a 6th grade math and 6th and 7th grade Project STEM teacher at Duquesne, will coach the 7th grade girls. Both are elated to be a part of rebooting athletics in the district.
“Sports and Duquesne are synonymous. They love it,” Brown said. “The city just kind of thrives off of the sports teams. Whenever they brought sports back, the turnout from the community was amazing and very welcoming.”
Singleton and Brown both noted the substantial crowd turnout for the Duquesne boys basketball games, and are hoping for the same at the girls’ games. At the moment, Singleton and Brown are hoping that they can gather more participants for the teams. For those that have regularly practiced, though, the focus is on building from the ground up.
“We’re just trying to lay some groundwork and get them to understand basketball and what it’s all about and what it takes. Just getting down the basics, and hopefully we can build from there,” Brown said.
“Our goal is that by the time they leave 8th grade, they’ll be ready to go to high school and step onto a JV team.”
Singleton echoed those thoughts, and added that she’s trying to get the community more invested in basketball, with hopes of building up some feeder programs of sorts for the teams.
“I’m just trying to bring basketball to these girls,” Singleton said. “If we start getting them interested in 4th and 5th grade, they’ll want to come out and play.”
At any given practice, it’s easy to see the team’s passion and energy. As such, improvement is being made.
“The girls that have been showing up, they’ve been making great strides and great improvement,” Brown said. “The will to do well is there.”
Brown said that the team understands Duquesne’s rich sports history, having heard tales of it from their family members. Even more, practicing in a gym lined with championship banners is a great relic of what they’re trying to build back up to.
“Just walking into the gym, you see all the different trophies and posters and awards,” Brown said, “I think it’s a great reminder that this was here, that this happened before and now you’re a part of it.”
In practice on Monday, Brown and Singleton participated actively in live five-on-five play, along with the rest of the coaching staff. So too did some of the school's boys basketball players. There is an obvious buy-in in trying to get Duquesne sports back to their old standards, and the community and the school are coming together in the process.
“We’re becoming like a little mini family,” Brown said.
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