Notes from tonight's season-opening practice...
- Steve McNees looks like a high school wrestler -- short, scrappy and tough. He has been working through some shooting problems. With the depth at guard, he might be destined for a lot of bench minutes regardless.
- Cedrick Middleton looks in fabulous shape. Coach Keith Dambrot confirmed that, saying of all the players, Middleton's game should improve most this season.
- He's only a freshman, but Mike Bardo appeared to be nothing more than a warm body. His speed and coordination were lacking. Dambrot is hoping Bardo can provide some solid defensive minutes.
- Chris McKnight reminds me of Amare Stoudemire. He's big, strong and appeared to have an upper hand on Romeo Travis in the post.
- Dambrot told me a lot of people might look down upon the Zips' schedule. Truth is, a lot of these road opponents -- like Niagara, Binghamton, and Oral Roberts -- are picked to finish at the top of their conferences. Sure, Akron beat Clemson last season, but these games should be considerably more difficult.
- The coach continued by saying he's done making trips to big schools. The new plan is to get one-for-one deals with high-end mid-major schools, like Creighton. However, these schools wanted the game this season to be home, and that was not satisfactory for Dambrot, who wants to preserve some home games for seniors Travis and Dru Joyce. Makes sense.
- National signing day is Nov. 12. Coaches can call a couple times per week to check in, or "babysit." Rivals.com and other media outlets have reported the Zips have commitments from Columbus guard Ronnie Steward, Lancaster forward Brett McKnight and Pennsylvania center Steve Swiech.
- The starting lineup is not set, although Dambrot has some idea. He does know who his main six to seven rotation players will be. Although he did not mention them to me, here is my speculation: Joyce, Nick Dials, Middleton, Nate Linhart, Travis and Jeremiah Wood.
- Jimmy Conyers may very well join that list because of his versatility. Dambrot said it might take part of the season to see what Conyers can do in game situations. With LeBron James, Dambrot needed only three games. Now, in no way am I saying LBJ and Conyers are supposed to be mentioned in the same sentence. But for the coach to say that, I think he knows the kind of talent he could be dealing with.
Perhaps the Zips are overcoming their MAC inferiority complex.
Akron won at Miami tonight 1-0, making it the Zips' second-straight MAC win, moving the team to 3-4 in conference play and 10-4 overall.
Haja Dumbuya scored the game's only goal with an assist from Christine Vacha.
Akron will play next at Ball State on Sunday afternoon.
The Zips lost another MAC match Friday night.
This time, Kent State repaid the Zips for their loss earlier in the season at Rhodes Arena. After the 3-0 loss, Akron moved to 7-14 and 1-6 in the MAC.
The next match will be the season's most challenging. The Zips will head to Athens for a battle Saturday against No. 21 Ohio
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