Jim Tressel spoke with the University of Akron men’s basketball team following practice Tuesday at Rhodes Arena.
Tressel, the former football coach at Ohio State and Youngstown State, walked in and watched the final few minutes of practice as UA prepares for its NCAA Tournament matchup with Virginia Commonwealth on Thursday night in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Tressel chatted with UA basketball coach Keith Dambrot and then addressed the team for a few minutes in a huddle under a basket. The chat was serious, and then drew smiles and laughter at the end.
“This guy has been in nine national championship games,” Dambrot said. “Why wouldn’t I have him talk to our guys about big games? Nobody knows better about big games than him. I am going to use every resource I can to make sure that we are ready to play this game.”
Tressel is UA’s Vice President of Strategic Engagement, a position that promotes student success.
Dambrot showed Zips players Skype videos from people with UA ties before the Mid-American Conference Tournament last week. UA went on to defeat Kent State and Ohio University on Friday and Saturday night to win the MAC Tournament title at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
VCU coach Shaka Smart, a former UA assistant, was among the video participants. Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Nate Linhart and Jeremiah Wood are among a host of former Zips players who have shared a few words with the team recently either by video, phone, text or email.
“We showed a video about mid-majors who have made good runs in the tournament and who have upset other people,” Dambrot said. “We made a simulation of the national championship trophy. I am trying to stress to our guys that we belong in the NCAA Tournament. We are not some fluky team that just slipped into the tournament. We belong.”
The Zips went through drills and 5-on-5 full-court play Thursday at practice.
Junior Demetrius Treadwell earned the MAC Tournament MVP with two-game averages of 13.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. Senior Zeke Marshall averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks to join Treadwell on the All-MAC Tournament team.
Junior Nick Harney (11.0 points) and senior Chauncey Gilliam (9.5 points) also played key roles in Cleveland.
“We basically told our guys that ‘Look, you can’t go into war without a plan and an objective,’ ” Dambrot said. “Our objective is not just get to the tournament, our objective is to win games in the tournament and win the national championship. Eventually a mid-major is going to win the national championship. If you don’t have that mind-set, then you don’t belong in the tournament.”