Overall, the Zips didn't look great in their 83-67 win over Hillsdale College.
Here are some notes I scribbled down while chatting with Tom Gaffney of the ABJ...
- Jeremiah Wood sported a giant knee brace. It looked as if his entire leg was wrapped in ice. He entered the game in the first half, played one minute and tallied two fouls. He seemed a bit tentative and admitted he felt some discomfort in his surgically repaired knee. He said he was "definitely rusty," Keith Dambrot said Wood "is just not all the way back. He's not as bouncy as he was before."
- Wood probably won't start, at least in the beginning of the year. Dambrot wants to make the forward earn his way back into the lineup. "We just have to make sure he blends well," the coach said. "I shouldn't give him anything." Wood is taking that news in a professional manner, Dambrot said. "No one at Akron doesn't want to start, especially when he was on the All-MAC Freshman team."
- Until Wood proves he is back, I assume Quade Milum will start. Dambrot admitted that Milum hasn't developed as quickly as he could have. "We've quick-hooked him," the coach said. That means Akron had plenty of depth at the 4 and 5. So when Milum blew an assignment or had a turnover, he would quickly hear the substitution horn. Milum had the most impressive move of the night when he blew by a defender from the top of the key for a bucket. He also blocked four shots. As we saw against Temple, Milum certainly can contribute. Milum "gives us something we don't have," Dambrot said.
- Although Akron didn't dominate on Sunday, it shouldn't be a cause for concern, Dambrot said. Many teams are having problems with Division II foes. Last year, Hillsdale gained a 15-point lead over Cincinnati in an exhibition game. Part of the problem was sloppiness. Another was Hillsdale's 58.3 percent from 3-point range.
- Nick Dials led the team with 15 points. With five steals, his defense appeared to be scrappier. It should help that he no longer wears a knee brace.
- Nate Linhart, while he does no one thing particularly well, always seems to quietly score in double figures. He dropped 14 on Sunday, but I can't remember any more than a couple field goals.
- Steve McNees did not play. Dambrot said that does not assure him of a redshirt. The coaching staff gave Jeremy Sallee the first chance to show he can eat some minutes at point guard.
- Romeo Travis tweaked his ankle and did not play in the second half. Dambrot said it's not serious.
- Jimmy Conyers debuted in a Zips jersey. He scored four points in nine minutes. Conyers told me afterward that he prefers to focus on his defense while he finds his niche in Dambrot's offense. Ideally, Conyers could play as the Zips' fourth guard and backup small forward. I am writing my column about Conyers and his journey from Maryland to Akron. Look for it in the Buchtelite Men's Basketball Preview Magazine, which comes out Thursday.
- Cedrick Middleton, who scored nine, is lightning fast. He is going to be a serious weapon on fast breaks. I don't like to cuss in this blog, but Middleton is a straight-up badass.
- Chris McKnight and Mike Bardo had mixed results. Both played well at times (Bardo on defense, McKnight on offense), but they a ways to go. The coaches are hoping one of the two can emerge to take stress off Milum, Wood and Travis.
- Dambrot said the team spend three days with a sports psychologist recently to help with team chemistry and other issues that athletes deal with. The psychologist predicted Akron would play flat in its next game after all the emotions spilled during the session, which dealt with selfishness, gambling, women, alcohol and drugs. "If one of us faults in any area, it affects the whole group," Dambrot said. "It was one of the most enlightening and fulfilling things I've ever been a part of."
We will find out this evening if Akron makes the NCAA Tournament.
The selection show is between 4 and 5 p.m. today.
CollegeSoccerNews.com says Akron is a lock. With this university's history of being screwed, I won't believe it until I see it.
Backup quarterback Carlton Jackson was supposed to play a couple series on Saturday against Bowling Green.
It never happened.
J.D. Brookhart implied Jackson got into trouble: "We were gonna do that, (but) a couple of things came up off the field that I made the determination he wouldn't play today."