Akron is a six-point favorite to beat Buffalo tonight as the team honors its three seniors.
Jimmy Conyers has endured a career made for the movies. He arrived on campus with coaches promising he would be the best player in the MAC from day one. He struggled with the ball, looked downright frightened. Consequently, he made mistakes. Having a low-tolerance coach and Nate Linhart's ascent kept Conyers from getting consistent playing time. Always a sturdy post defender, Conyers added to his repertoire the ability to crash for offensive rebounds. For this reason, he became a necessary cog in Dambrot's lineup. The steady playing time calmed Conyers nerves. Pretty soon, Akron got the player it thought it was getting five years earlier--a good ball handler, solid shooter, great defender and gutsy rebounder. One of the best players in the MAC.
The story on Chris McKnight, I feel, has not completely been written. McKnight looked like a Romeo Travis clone when he arrived on campus--a decent mid-range shooter, good rebounder and someone who can score put-backs. That sort of talent is why Keith Dambrot has constantly talked about McKnight's play determining the Zips' outcome. When you have the full Chris McKnight, you have a Romeo Travis. When McKnight does not play well, the Zips have a scoring void. Despite only having five to eight games left in his career, McKnight is at a crossroads. Will he be remembered as an essential player in the Dambrot era, or just another guy? The way McKnight finishes his career, and any impact he plays on the Zips' postseason, will determine the answer.
Tim Carroll is a guy you know Dambrot believes in. The walk-on came to Akron, despite scholarship offers from smaller Division I schools. When Dambrot is fed up with his lineup, he inserts Carroll, because Carroll is someone who can be counted on to play hard and smart. When Nik Cvetinovic went through a near mental breakdown after a bad call a few weeks ago, it was Carroll who came and sat by him to calm him down. Two years ago, Carroll collapsed during practice, but that didn't derail his role on the team. You can tell that, if he wants, there will be a place for Carroll among the coaching ranks.
Tom Gaffney chronicled the careers of Akron's three seniors.