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More on the game

By mrasor Published: February 22, 2007

Men's basketball

Reporters listed three themes throughout their game stories this morning: Akron made a nice comeback, missed foul shots down the stretch and could not score in overtime.

Here are some nuggets...

  • The ABJ's Tom Gaffney points out the Zips almost shot their season average at the line, but missed the shots when they mattered most.

  • The taller perimeter players pestered Akron's short guards, the PD's Elton Alexander adds.

  • Miami still is the only Division I team to hold each opponent to fewer than 70 points, the Cincinnati Enquirer says.

  • I wrote a column that talks about Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce's contributions at UA. Their final home game (barring a first-round NIT game) will be Saturday against Bowling Green...

Romeo and Dru. Dru and Romeo.

You don't need last names.

It's like Yogi and Boo Boo without the pic-a-nic baskets. Stockton and Malone with fewer pick-and-rolls. Siegfried and Roy minus the femininity.

These guys don't just play for Akron. The past four years, they have become Akron.

Romeo and Dru have called Rhodes Arena home since their time at St. Vincent/St. Mary's High School, when the two witnessed the most heralded prep star in basketball history. LeBron James and Co. won state championships, AAU honors and even the fabled national title.

Of course, as James prepared for the NBA draft, Romeo and Dru sifted through a modest list of college teams interested in them. Dru had no other Division I scholarship offers. Romeo had a few, but none from schools a novice fan would recognize.

Enter Keith Dambrot, who coached St. V's for part of James' career but left for an assistant coaching job at the University of Akron. He saw the talent other teams overlooked and recruited Romeo and Dru.

Slowly, Dru and Romeo separated from the tag of LeBron James and Co. They began to make a name for themselves at the University of Akron under Dan Hipsher and later Dambrot, when Akron hired him after Romeo and Dru's freshman season.

But you could see the frustration in the duo's eyes.

Visiting reporters asked about their relationship with James, not Dru's stellar assist-to-turnover ratio or Romeo's great rebounding. (Not that Dru and Romeo care much about individual accolades anyhow. They have always preferred to prop up their teammates.)

Still, the bulk of national coverage circles around the question: "What if James played at the University of Akron rather than turning pro?"

With more than 75 wins on their resumes, we can now safely say that Romeo and Dru will leave Northeast Ohio as more than just James' cronies. They have made a name as the best duo in the Mid-American Conference and possibly in school history.

Under their guidance as seasoned juniors last year, Akron made its first postseason appearance since 1989. The Zips' win over Temple in the first round of last year's NIT was the school's first postseason victory since 1975. Dru is six assists away from breaking the school record. Romeo already squashed the all-time mark for blocked shots.

To be brief, Akron actually matters in basketball. No team in the nation would consider a trip to Rhodes Arena as a waltz to victory, not even No. 1 Ohio State. That has never been true in the program's Division I era - until this year.

Dambrot also deserves a lot of credit. He leads the team on the court, but he also is the reason Romeo and Dru wear gold and blue.

That era will end on Saturday. The two cornerstones of Akron basketball will play their final game at Rhodes Arena (barring a first-round home game in the NIT).

They deserve a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd when the public address announcer introduces them for a final time.

As a student, faculty member, custodian, landscaper or alumnist, you owe Romeo and Dru your attendance.


The Buchtelite's Josh Volchko previewed the new season, which will begin Friday in Tennessee.

Akron returns two solid offensive players in Kurt Davidson and Vince Chiera. Coach Pat Bangtson said fans will see some new faces as well, such as Phil Bednar, a shortstop transfer from Ball State.


I previewed the MAC Championships this weekend at the Field House.

Coach Dennis Mitchell is absolutely thrilled to be hosting the event. He wants to see a lot of students in attendance to boost the home-track advantage.

He says the presentation of the event is top-notch. I plan to make it out for a couple hours of the competition. You should, too.

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