Ask University of Akron junior forward Sina King to talk about how she has been playing and she first mentions the team.
The Zips are off to a 7-1 start this season, including a 65-49 win over George Mason on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
King’s efforts have been downright Anderson Varejao-like. She continues to amass double-doubles in the nonconference season, her fifth coming with a 10-point, 12-rebound against George Mason.
It is a logical step in her development, her numbers rising each season at UA.
“You’re happy when you see players like Sina receive awards and become successful because she’s put the time in and worked extremely hard and that’s what you preach to your kids every day,” Zips coach Jodi Kest said.
This year, her rebounding leaps out as the area of greatest improvement. She’s averaging 13.8 points per game, and her average of 9.9 rebounds is three more than last season.
“My role increased when [Rachel] Tecca got injured and gave me the confidence for this year to do just what the team needs,” King said. “I definitely think that’s rebounding and more of a scoring aspect. Just the confidence knowing what my role is carried over to this year.”
Indeed, she was forced into a more dominant role after Tecca, the team’s top player, suffered a knee injury last December that sidelined her for the rest of the season.
It derailed what many thought could have been a very successful season, and the Zips were forced to retool and refocus.
A product of Waterford High School in southeastern Ohio, King came to the Zips wanting to play shooting guard but played power forward until she assumed Tecca’s duties at center.
“I think why my rebounding has shown such an improvement has been the physical aspect and from playing from the four [power forward] to the five [center],” she said. “Those players are stronger and taller and I think have given me the experience in guarding the five and made me focus on rebounding.”
The Zips have also benefited from King’s versatility.
Her ability to guard three positions — shooting guard, power forward and center — is valuable, as is her skill at shooting from the outside or taking an opposing player to the hoop off the dribble, Kest said.
“It definitely has helped her inside,” Kest said. “She’s stronger this year. She’s stronger physically. She’s stronger mentally.”
It helped that King spent the summer working on strengthening the inside and post aspects of her game, adding to her versatility.
“I think last year having to step up when Rachel got injured really made me work on my post game and my inside game, but also having experience as a four player and playing the outside perimeter as well,” she said. “It’s hard to defend if you can shoot the three and make a post move.”
King plans to channel her improved game into the team’s primary goal — winning the Zips’ first Mid-American Conference championship and going to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have confidence now knowing that if we do the things that have been designed to do, we can definitely win no matter our opponent,” she said. “Not getting there last year, just gave us that much more motivation this year. I think it gives us much more motivation having [Rachel] back and we all have one goal in mind.”
If you’re looking for a reason for the fast start this year, glance at the defensive stats. The Zips are averaging 80.2 points per game and are giving up just 59.6 points while playing a man-to-man defense.
“Our defense keeps getting better every practice and every game,” Kest said. “This year, we made it a point of emphasis to pay more attention to the defense.”
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.