Those who have talked with University of Akron basketball coach Keith Dambrot would do a double-take after hearing him talk about freshmen Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams.
“They’re two of the best freshmen we’ve ever had here,” he said without a moment’s hesitation after Wednesday morning’s practice as the Zips worked on preparations for their trip to Cary, S.C., to take on Coastal Carolina.
Dambrot never hesitates to dish out praise when it’s earned, but for it to be so effusive this early in the season, McAdams and Kretzer must be doing something right.
They certainly had the credentials to get in the door at UA.
Kretzer led his Waverly High School team to three consecutive sectional championships and claimed the Ohio High School Basketball Coach’s Association’s Division II Player of the Year award after averaging 26.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in his senior season.
McAdams’ resume impresses, as well. His Elida High School team was a state runner-up in 2011-12, a season in which he was the Associated Press Division II Co-Player of the Year in Ohio, averaging 22 points, nine rebounds and 4.2 assists.
In UA’s two exhibition games, McAdams and Kretzer have averaged 14.5 and 10 points respectively.
More than a few players have walked into a college situation believing that they were entitled to status and minutes. That belief isn’t part of the modus operandi for McAdams and Kretzer.
They were quietly confident in their quest to earn playing time.
It appears as if they will receive significant playing time in part because of the loss of last year’s MAC Sixth Man of the Year, Quincy Diggs, and a relatively minor injury to point guard Alex Abreu.
“We came in with the mindset that we could play right away,” McAdams said. “In the offseason, we kind of proved that in conditioning and open gym. We kind of showed that we could play with the seniors and upperclassmen.”
They arrived on campus together and share on-campus living space with fellow freshman Carmelo Betancourt. They also worked their way through grueling offseason training together.
Dambrot noticed their work ethic. And he loves the fact that they are coachable.
“They’re kids that don’t say anything,” he said. “They just come to work every day and they’re good on top of it. Do they run and jump on top of people? Nah, but they know how to play and they’re tough kids.”
Kretzer and McAdams share a philosophy when it comes to how they approach practice.
“I’ve always prided myself on listening to my coaches,” Kretzer said. “My parents taught me that you don’t talk back to adults. When I come to practice I try to listen to Coach and whatever he tells me I do the best I can. If I mess up, change whatever I can. Whatever he says goes. Even if I think he’s wrong, it’s still right.”
Dambrot said that the two are not as good as they’re going to be. Despite the fact that they will get a lot of playing time during the regular season, they are still adjusting.
For the 6-foot-7 McAdams, it’s learning what part he has to play in the grand scheme of things.
“It’s been a lot different than high school,” he said. “In high school, you’re the main guy. You’ve always got the ball. You always take the last shot or trying to make a play.”
Kretzer has had other issues.
“The intensity level is so unbelievable. It’s much higher than high school basketball was,” he said. “The first few practices were kind of tough, but now everything has evened out and I’m starting to like practice more and more.”
Don’t think Dambrot won’t be smiling when he hears that statement.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. 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.