University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot went into the exhibition college basketball game Friday night against Bluffton looking for some answers to key questions.
Losing center Zeke Marshall and starting guards Alex Abreu and Brian Walsh left holes — big holes — in the Zips’ starting lineup.
Dambrot already might have some answers. His starting five consisted of center Pat Forsythe, guards Carmelo Betancourt and Nick Harney along with forwards Quincy Diggs and Demetrius Treadwell.
Harney led the Zips with 21 points and three rebounds in the 95-40 victory at Rhodes Arena. Diggs and point guard Nyles Evans scored 13 apiece. Treadwell added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Zips got an easy lesson with respect to the potential they possess.
“We’re very deep and we already knew it. We can get after it on defense pretty much,” Treadwell said.
The Zips held the Beavers to 29.8 percent shooting, grabbed 17 steals and blocked seven shots.
“We learned how to play in the game together,” Harney said. “Not everyone has played in a game together ... so now that everybody got this under their belt people are more comfortable.”
Although the starting lineup dominated, it will be tricky putting together the rotation behind the starters, Dambrot said. Their common weakness, with the exception of Diggs, is shooting, making reserve play a key should Dambrot decide to stick with the current lineup.
“We have to figure out those combinations and what the best way to go is,” Dambrot said. “That’s a little bit difficult.”
Decisions will have to come quickly with the season opener against Coastal Carolina on Friday night.
With Abreu gone, Dambrot needs still to find the one who can replace the minutes and the leadership. Betancourt started the game, but Dambrot split the minutes almost equally between him and Evans. The difference between the two players revealed itself in that span.
Betancourt offered defense and comfort in running the offense. He distributed the ball well, getting six assists and committing no turnovers. Evans showed speed, quick hands to pick at opponents and an ability to score quickly.
“They all bring a little bit different qualities, so we just have to decide which way we want to roll with it and who should start and who should finish,” Dambrot said. “Things like that which is harder than you think to figure out.”
But Diggs’ return gives Dambrot unbelievable flexibility at the point. He opened the second half, starting at the position, and gave the Zips instant scoring, hitting seven points.
“My first year, when he threw me in there, I wasn’t ready,” Diggs said. “Now I’m more comfortable playing there and I want to play there actually, but if he needs me playing at the one, I’ll most certainly play at the one.”
The size Diggs possesses at 6-foot-6 gives an advantage at the position overall, especially in the Mid-American Conference.
“He’s a really good shooter. He’s really improved in that area as probably as much as anybody,” Dambrot said. “He’s improved his shooting and he’s improved his ball handling. Now you’re talking about one of the quickest guys from end-to-end with good size who can really shoot pull-up jump shots who can pass the ball and handle the ball whereas before his ball handling was shaky.”
The exhibition game gave Dambrot an opportunity to play freshmen in what became a blowout. Kwan Cheatham Jr., B.J. Gladden, Aaron Jackson and Isaiah Johnson combined for 19 points. The time will come when Dambrot will have to decide whether to redshirt them or potentially give up what will likely be the least productive year for one or all of them. Either way, there’s reason to believe that the class of 2013 holds a lot of potential.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.