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Tomorrow is the beginning of the early signing period for basketball recruits. With my election whirlwind, I neglected to mention that Akron recently locked up a third recruit for 2010. Dakotah Euton is a 6-foot-8 power forward from Kentucky. In fact, he was a former recruit of Billy Gillespie at Kentucky. When UK fired Gillespie, Euton reopened his recruitment. More on Euton coming as the night goes on...
What I can tell you on the record is that Bowling Green is the team rumored to have turned in Reno Ferri for alleged recruiting violations. I would tell you what the supposed violation is, but I've learned the hard way too many times not to post rumors, even if this is only a blog.
Mount Union's logo is amateurish. The script "Raiders" could be done much more professionally. It looks like a high school design.
The Zips other potential signees tomorrow include Michael Green from Dublin and Josh Egner from Massillon. This recruiting class is heavy on can't-miss talent, but it lacks what you'd like to call a superstar. Fans want every center to be Shaquille O'Neal or Dikembe Mutombo. They want every forward to be Kevin Garnett or Lamar Odom. They want every guard to be Steve Nash. The truth is, teams need solid filler players, who can play a role. Look at the successful MAC teams over the years. Unless you have NBA talent, the best teams are the ones who are full of smart role players. Kent State mastered that process.
Akron's starters: Brett McClanahan, Darryl Roberts, Nik Cvetinovic, Tim Carroll and Chris McKnight. I had to laugh out loud when I heard Carroll's name. I will bet Keith Dambrot is sending a message to one of the guards by doing that.
Humpty Hitchens came off the bench. He appears to be walking a little tenderly on his ankle. McClanahan, meanwhile, has hit two 3-pointers.
With 15:17 left, Zeke Marshall entered the game. I'll document his every move or at least try. ZEKE WATCH: 1) He caught the ball in the low post and quickly whipped a pass out to the perimeter. He certainly looked comfortable with the ball. 2) Wow. He just brought the house down with a giant dunk. He took off from the baseline and literally left the ground from outside the paint. If you were afraid Marshall wasn't aggressive, that is a great sign. 3) He blocked a shot without jumping. 4) He made a nice interior pass, feeding Chris McKnight for an easy layup. And with that, Marshall went to the bench after 2:10 on the floor, tallying a dunk, a rebound, an assist and a blocked shot.
I am/was one of the people concerned that Marshall would be passive. I recall all sorts of praise for Jimmy Conyers, and I bought it. He is skilled and athletic but never has asserted himself enough on the floor. I'm probably overreacting, but Marshall just sold me that he will contribute in a big way this season.
Akron has already taken 11 3-pointers, making five. Mount Union is playing a zone, which lends itself to giving up 3s. Still, I'd prefer to see what kind of post game the Zips can establish with the McKnights and Marshall.
Back to Euton... He appears to be a skilled big man who can shoot. Rivals.com called him a combo guard in one article, which said Duke and Florida also were interested in him. Euton originally committed very early and felt he wouldn't fit in well with the new coaching staff.
Marshall is back on the floor. 1) He gathered an offensive rebound on a free throw and put it back in. 2) He got beat in a post situation by a quicker Mount Union player. 3) He made a nice pass out of the post to a cutting Carroll.
Mike Bardo didn't make his first appearance until 5:30 was left in the first half.
There is a curtain blocking off one endzone. Aside from that, I think attendance is great. Tom Gaffney and I counted only about 300 fans at last year's exhibition against Walsh.
No Ronnie Steward. He'll be out for at least a couple more weeks with a leg injury. A bearded Alex Sullivan has entered the game, however. So has Steve Swiech, the spelling of whose name I always have to double-check.
Chris McKnight swatted a shot to end the half. Score: 45-17.
I'm sitting in between two of my constituents. Gaffney and Steve French are both Stow residents. French told his radio listeners that he wants me to lower his water bill and get a rec center for the city. Gaffney was upset about the city's sidewalk program making his sidewalks look like a checkerboard. Not to discuss my campaign too much, but these gentlemen are examples of why I found it crucial to meet as many people as I could. How else will I know what Stowites want?
Marshall is back on the floor. 1) He caught a pass on the block and glided to the hoop, getting fouled and missing a layup. He showed a nice foul shot stroke and made both. 2) Marshall swatted another shot. 3) On the other end, he stepped into a 17-foot jump shot that went off the back rim. 4) Cvetinovic found Marshall on a short interior pass. Marshall streaked for the rim before a Raider fouled him. He missed both free throws following a timeout. 5) He committed his first foul with 15:37 left in the second half. 6) Marshall swatted three shots on a single possession! The first was a jump shot that Marshall sent into the press row. The second and third were off rebounds, almost one after the other. The fans loved it. I loved it. How often do you see me use exclamation points?! 7) On press row, we think Marshall deflected another shot. This guy is a cold-hearted assassin. 8 ) Marshall backed down a short post player and delivered a perfect baby hook. He is really working to get open down low. 9) There was another blocked shot down low, either belonging to Marshall or Bardo. Marshall left the court to a chorus of cheers.
For those who are reading this to get a scouting report on Mount Union, here are some thoughts: The Raiders are overmatched tonight in size, athleticism and skill, so there's no point in comparing apples to oranges. The team is very good at protecting the ball, however. It's the first game of the year, and they've committed only 13 turnovers to an aggressive defense.
The stat sheet credits Marshall with seven blocks, two assists, four rebounds and eight points. As I type that, he comes back onto the floor. Back to the Zeke Watch ... 1) Conyers found Marshall's head poking over the rest and lobbed him a pass. Marshall wound up and slammed it. 2) Marshall was fouled while attempting to catch a pass. He made both foul shots. 3) Marshall blocked a shot without leaving his feet. The Mount Union player basically fed it to him. 4) He laid in another baby hook. Mount Union has made the mistake of letting him get too deep in the post without the ball. It's too easy for an entry pass, which is a guaranteed dunk or five-foot baby hook.
We interrupt this Zeke Watch to give a Swiech update. He blocked a shot and tossed an outlet pass to Hitchens for a layup.
After those few minutes of terror, Marshall returned to the bench. If he kept playing, a triple-double was likely.
Kyle Petersen entered the game for his first action. Dambrot is going with three guards (McClanahan, McNees and Petersen) and two centers (Bardo and Swiech) right now.
To put this all in context, Mount Union has only five players taller than 6-foot-5. The tallest Raider is 6-7. Marshall won't have it this easy against the Kenneth van Kempen's of the world (right, Elton Alexander?). But seriously, I'm happy to see Marshall is so aggressive and that he doesn't have any major deficiencies. Although you can't really ask for more from a true freshman in his first appearance, it's no guarantee that he will be the Freshman of the Year. It is a guarantee, in my opinion, that Marshall is going to be a major contributor to the reigning MAC Champions.
Alexander, by the way, is covering Cleveland State this year, as well as his usual duties on Akron and Kent State. He is a great writer and has forgotten more about basketball than I'll ever know. MAC fans are lucky to read him, whether they agree with his opinions or not.
Carroll stole the ball and went coast to coast for a dunk. He has six points and four rebounds. He holds the ball as the clock expires. Akron wins by 50. Marshall must be the story for people leaving Rhodes Arena.
Final stats of note: Marshall finished with 14 points, eight blocks, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and he was 5-of-6 from the field. Chris McKnight led the team with nine rebounds and was second with 13 points. Swiech also had nine rebounds. Hitchens had five assists. Mount Union's leading scorer was Matt Weir with eight points.
Akron's 3-point percentage (52.9%) more than doubled Mount Union's field-goal percentage (19%). Akron won on the boards, 53 to 37. Akron had 20 assists compared to nine turnovers. Mount Union had four assists and 14 turnovers. The Zips outscored the Raiders in the paint, 34 to 12.
Quotes from Dambrot:
"That's a difficult game to judge. Physically, we're so much bigger and stronger. The past two days, we've shown more fight than the previous preseasons. I thought we played relatively unselfishly."
Marshall "is the best talent that I've had since LeBron. You can't really tell sometimes in practice, but he had good presence, he was very calm. I thought he would play a little better because of adrenaline, but he's such a great kid. He's so unselfish too. He's going to be a great talent once he puts 20 pounds of muscle on him. He's playing now on instincts. That was a very good performance. I don't care who it was against."
"I told our guys, when he's in the game, you have to play a tad bit differently. If you can sniff them around you, let them go, because he's going to block it. We have to use his ability to receive the ball to our advantage. Our best players are our fours and fives. You have to figure out how to get all four of them out there. that might mean Brett McKnight and Chris McKnight at the three spot."
"I told our guys that I'm judging him every day on performance. Before this season is over, he's going to be one of our best players.
On how the MAC will defend Marshall: "What's going to happen to Zeke? They're going to try to mug him, because he's physically not strong yet. It's our job to protect him. That's what's going to happen in our league. They're going to beat him up physically."
"They never threw him [Marshall] the ball much in AAU. When we recruited him, we told him we would throw him the ball. In the first few weeks in practice, he couldn't get a rebound. He has come on very quickly in the last week. He has the ability to be a pro -- a first-round draft pick. He's going to have some peaks and valleys."
"The one thing he can do is, you're not getting it over him. It doesn't matter who you play against with that 6-5 wingspan."
"I like our versatility. I like that if one guy doesn't feel like doing it the right way, then fine, 'See ya.'"
"I thought McNees and Humpty didn't play as well as the other two at Cleveland State. It's achieve and receive. Ronnie will be back. Alex Sullivan has good talent. He just doesn't know anything. Bardo is caught a little bit, too. We're going to play the best guys by their performance."
"Nobody has grabbed a spot except Chris McKnight and Nikola. But Zeke is close. I've played young kids. I played LeBron when he was a freshman. Do we have a chance to be very good? Zeke gives us the ability to play with the big boys. As great as [Jeremiah] Wood and Rome[o] [Travis] were, we had to play a perfect game against the big boys because we were small. With him, we can get beat off the dribble and he'll knock one. We can use him to beat the press."
On possible jealousy of Marshall: "This team went to the NCAA Tournament and this guy comes in and gets all the publicity. Now all the writers want to talk to this guy. It's hard on the guys. They have to realize that if you win the big prize, everybody gets theirs."
On how the team will give out three scholarships tomorrow: "We have some guys that have told us that if they don't play, they will go somewhere else and play."
Final score -- Mount Union 38, Akron 88