The glue guy. Someone who keeps a team together. Someone who maintains the team’s focus when things are difficult. Someone who doesn’t tell players what they want to hear, but rather what they need to hear.
Every team has one, but in the case of the Duquesne men’s basketball team, the glue guy comes from an unlikely source.
Kareem Rozier, a freshman point guard, will make all the required sacrifices to serve as the team’s unifying force. Always motivating teammates when they need it, only concerned with the outcome of a game. Rozier is an integral part of the Dukes and, more important, has played a big role in why they have seen so much success this season.
From Day 1, Rozier made it known his role on the team. The team responded simply by letting Kareem be Kareem, and in doing so, they accepted Rozier as the vocal guy on the squad.
“It was immediate,” Rozier said. “I think that they never really had a younger dude come in Day 1 on Level 1,000 with energy and just doing what I do. That surprised them in a way. So, I think after Day 1, it was like, ‘I like this little dude,’ and they respected me.”
But this dynamic of being the young guy on the team and having the older players listen to him is not something new to Rozier, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound guard out of Detroit. In high school at Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s, he was the captain of the basketball team all four years.
“That’s been like that for a while now,” Rozier said. “And I always look to coach [Keith] Dambrot as the prime example because he brings it every day. Every day. So there’s no excuse why I shouldn’t, or any of my teammates shouldn’t be able to come in every day with that energy.”
Rozier attributed his leadership qualities to his parents. Due to his small size, he had to make up for it in other ways.
“Since I was younger, my dad and mom instilled leadership in me, given the fact that I was always the smallest dude on the court,” Rozier said. “So it had to be something that separated me from everyone else to be noticed, and it was being the loudest person in the gym. So when you left the gym, you knew about that little guy.”
One of Rozier’s most important roles is leading the team in the pregame huddles. He uses videos of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for inspiration to assist him in being a forceful leader.
“When I give him my little pregame speech, I’m passionate about it,” Rozier said. “They hear it in my voice. I want them to know this is how bad I want to win, this is how bad I want to go to battle with you. If I don’t do that before the game, it’s a problem. They get on me, and they’re looking for me. If I try to come late to the huddle, then they will wait to go out onto the court until I do. So, before every game, I’ll make sure I give them a good word and make sure I get them fired up.”
The opportunity to play Division 1 basketball was instrumental to Rozier’s success and, in part, is why he takes his role as the vocal guy on the team so seriously. He had only three offers to play D-I basketball, and Dambrot was the one who ultimately took a chance on him.
“It means a lot. It means that he sees something in me that everybody didn’t,” Rozier said. “He offered me on the spot, and he told me, ‘I don’t care about your size, I want you here.’ I’m blessed to have a man like that coach me, that cares for me, and understands everything I’ve been through being such a smaller guy.”
So how does he accomplish this when his only significant number in the stat sheet is minutes played and he isn’t likely to be the team’s leading scorer?
It’s because he is the glue guy. Rozier is the personification of what a team player should be. He is a standout teammate in every way and takes satisfaction in doing the little things that affect the outcome of games. He is the type of player every coach wants on their team.
“I’ve never had a freshman open his mouth more than him, but I’ve never had a freshman that was more well-respected by the older guys than him,” Dambrot said. “And that’s even before he started to play really well. I’ve never seen guys 23 or 24 years old gravitate toward an 18-year-old. It’s the craziest dynamic that I’ve ever been around.”
Perhaps graduate student and starting point guard Tevin Brewer summed it up best:
“I feel like if you don’t have a guy like Kareem on your team, then you’re not winning,” Brewer said.