Whether you liked how the season concluded or not, Akron fans must admit this team overachieved.
From being picked fourth in the division to winning a postseason game, it was a tumultuous season. There were injuries upon injuries. Many players, such as Nate Linhart, Cedrick Middleton and Steve McNees, experienced drastic ups and downs.
Heading into next year, the Zips will lose the league's most dominant post scorer, the league's most fiery leader and the league's hardest worker, as well as a situational shooter and athletic role player.
Next year's team will be very young. The roster will feature one senior and two juniors (assuming Jimmy Conyers and Darryl Roberts get their fourth year of eligibility).
Here is a rundown on the eight newcomers...
Ronnie Steward, PG -- He had a rough year as a true freshman. He suffered a hip pointer early in the season. Then he had chest pains. Steward wasn't even ready to play by the MAC Championship (theoretically, the team would never waste a redshirt on a few games). He is a true point guard, unlike Roberts and McNees. He will allow both of them to share their natural position of shooting guard. The coaches are very high on his ability to run an offense.
Steve Swiech, C -- Swiech came to campus highly touted. When he got here, he wasn't a finished product, particularly on defense. He worked with assistant coach
Mike Bardo and
Jeremiah Wood during his true freshman year. In my opinion, Akron must get a good deal of scoring from Swiech in order to match last year's success.
Rydell Brooks, SG -- He transferred from Niagara, where he started 30 games for the eventual MAAC Champions. Brooks' stats weren't great, but
Keith Dambrot must have been impressed by a true freshman who starts for an NCAA Tournament team. The Buchtel grad will have to earn minutes in a crowded, youthful backcourt. To get on the floor, he must improve his defense.
Nikola Cvetinovic, SF -- The Serbian played high school ball in Virginia. He has quickness and defensive prowess. Scoring isn't his forte, but he has a nice touch around the rim. At 6-foot-7, he plays a lot like Linhart. With the real Linhart, Conyers and Brett McKnight coming back at small forward, look for Cvetinovic to sit out this season.
Humpty Hitchens, PG -- If there is one sure-fire star in the incoming class, it is "Humpty," who had a boatload of scholarship
offers from the best Midwest mid-major schools around, including Butler and Kent State. He is lightning quick, suffocates the ball handler on defense and is a great leader. Hitchens made a great pass on the winning basket for Chillicothe High School's state championship. You can pencil in Hitchens as being Akron's all-time steals leader within three years.
Brett McClanahan, SG -- This is the first pure shooter Dambrot has recruited in a while. A guy who can shoot from long range will become more valuable next season when the NCAA moves the 3-point line back. With all the depth at guard, McClanahan is probably heading for a redshirt season, however.
Andrew Parrish, PF -- Parrish is a do-all big man. At 6-8, he can post up, stretch the defense with his shooting and alter shots on defense. Although Parrish would profit from a redshirt year, Akron needs a fifth big man. Parrish might play.
Alex Sullivan, PG/SG -- Sullivan is similar to Hitchens in his defensive ability. He can slash and get to the hoop, too. Sullivan should get a chance to play his first year, but he'll have to beat out Hitchens, which is not likely.
Eric Coblentz, SG -- Lake High School's all-time leading scorer is not likely to play much. The walk-on picked the wrong team to get playing time in the backcourt. Perhaps he will find a niche, like
Nick Goddard did.
Here is my best guess of how the playing time will go...
PG -- Steward, Hitchens SG -- Roberts, McNees SF -- Linhart, Brett McKnight, Conyers PF -- Chris McKnight, Brett McKnight C -- Bardo, Swiech, Parrish (maybe) Redshirt -- Cvetinovic, McClanahan, Sullivan, Parrish (maybe) Reserves -- Brooks, Coblentz, Carroll,
might not be amused, but the judges adored
, who earned a standing ovation on "Dancing with the Stars."
He was the "mambo king" who was "always in control." Another judge said Taylor is a real contender with a great shot of winning the competition. Taylor scored three "9"s out of 10 points.
"Everyone is having fun," Taylor said after his performance. "I'm just glad I didn't pass out."
Taylor by urging Akron fans to vote for the former Zip. You can vote
reports that the Zips are ready to restart spring practice after a week off for spring break.
J.D. Brookhart is excited by the play from
Ryan Bain, some of the young defensive players and the quarterbacks. I plan to report from practice on Thursday evening.