As the University of Akron basketball team winds down its season with hopes of amping up its chemistry and cohesion, an undeniable fact has emerged.
As Tree grows, the Zips seem to go.
And 6-foot-8 forward Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell is growing during his junior season, his first as the face of the program.
The story can be told in the numbers. Treadwell, a Euclid native, is among the best in the conference and the stats show that he continues to improve across the board.
Last year Treadwell averaged 11.5 points per game (11.4 in the Mid-American Conference), 7.9 rebounds (8.2 in MAC), shot 50 percent from the free-throw line (62 percent in MAC), blocked 11 shots overall (six in conference) and stole the ball 26 times during the season with 15 coming during conference play.
He’s impressed even more during the current season.
So far he’s giving the Zips 14.5 points per game (16.3 in conference) and he’s grabbing 8.8 rebounds, 10.2 in the MAC. His free-throw percentage has risen to 63 percent overall and 65 percent in the conference and he’s blocked 23 shots (15 in MAC) and he has 30 steals, 18 in the MAC.
In the past 10 games, the fewest points Treadwell scored during that span (12) came against Bowling Green.
He tapped a career high this past Saturday against Northern Illinois when he scored 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting. And he added 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double in 10 games. It was the first time a UA player scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds since Christopher McKnight on Feb. 14, 2010.
“It’s more of a midseason thing,” Treadwell said. “You’re starting to hit your stride. The double-doubles are starting to come. It’s me giving effort every night.”
Efforts such as those or close to it might be required during the team’s stretch run because the Zips are without forward Nick Harney and wingman Reggie McAdams.
“It was very important [to the carry team],” he said after Saturday’s game. “As everybody knows, Toledo lost [Saturday].”
That loss left three teams with 9-3 records, including the Zips and Western Michigan. The top two seeds receive a double bye in the MAC Tournament. UA lost to both Toledo and Western Michigan.
“Every game gets bigger from here on out,” Treadwell said.
And the reality is that his teammates look to him when it comes to effort on the court.
Coach Keith Dambrot said that the Zips star power forward serves as a spark for his team.
In several games this season, the Zips played without a lot of energy, and that includes this past weekend, only to have Treadwell roar in the second half.
“Whatever I do, negative or positive, they always feed off of it,” Treadwell said.
It’s as if he gets stronger as the game wears on and adversity mounts.
Dambrot admitted that in the Zips’ most recent game that his team struggled offensively and had it not been for Treadwell, things could have turned out much differently.
The season could have been much different also had Treadwell not begun to wrap his head around the reality that his face and jersey number, along with Dambrot, represent UA basketball at this moment in the program’s history.
For a brief stretch at the beginning of the season — at least mentally and emotionally — it appeared as if Treadwell struggled with that responsibility.
Dambrot said he’s growing into that role.
“I think the biggest thing is we view it as a personal challenge for both of us,” Dambrot said. “If he doesn’t play well, we have no chance. He’s been very, very consistent.”
A preseason first-team all-MAC selection, that consistency could lead him where only UA’s Romeo Travis has gone before — player of the year in the MAC. Travis won the award for the 2006-07 season.
It will take some doing.
Toledo guard Juice Brown will get some run because of his team’s play this year. Buffalo’s Javon McCrea, who has always played like a beast and plays against the Zips tonight, leads Treadwell in most statistical categories. Treadwell’s 13 double-doubles lead the conference.
When it comes time for postseason awards, if Treadwell continues to play as he has, there’s little doubt that he should be a prime contender for that title.
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.