The afro morphed into dreads. The body is svelter and the outside shot is improved.
The recognition is there, but it’s still a little surreal to see guard Quincy Diggs, the University of Akron’s one-time MAC Sixth Man of the Year on the court, at Rhodes Arena practicing with teammates he does and does not know.
He runs the drills. He doesn’t complain and goes about his business. He’s back after a school year’s suspension for a violation of the university’s Code of Student Conduct that ended at the end of this year’s spring semester.
No detailed explanation of the suspension was ever given, but allegations surfaced. Diggs remains hesitant to go into too much detail himself, offering that he’s grateful to Zips coach Keith Dambrot for having him back, having his back and offering a second chance.
But he returns to campus, summer classes and the team after a year in which he was forced to make progress toward his degree while suspended and undergo psychiatric evaluation. After being approved by the school’s compliance department, he went right to the court to begin working out.
Diggs averaged 8.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 25.5 minutes per game as a junior, good enough to win the league’s sixth-man award. But his value to the team and its postseason hopes cannot be diminished. He’s skilled enough to drive to the hoop and help his teammates score, a decided weakness for the Zips last season.
He wants to complete his degree. He wants to help his team win and go deep into the postseason and, above all, he wants redemption.
Q: What’s it like being back?
A: I don’t know. It’s bittersweet for me because I don’t feel I deserved [what happened] but at the end it feels good to be back and back in the gym with Coach [Keith Dambrot].
Q: Is it a weird feeling?
A: At first it was. Getting those looks and people looking at you funny, yeah. I’m just glad to be back.
Q: I was going to bring that up later, but because you did already, you believe you got a raw deal?
A: Yeah, [but] I dealt with it. As Coach D said, I went through a lot of adversity and I fought back and made it back.
Q: Most people might have gotten a second chance, why didn’t you?
A: Yeah. I don’t know how to explain it, but it hurt. I’m just glad to be back. And I beat the adversity.
Q: OK, did race play a role in it?
A: My mom thinks so, but I don’t know (laughing). I can’t call it.
Q: No one got you on the record as to what happened.
A: It wasn’t fair what happened, how the school got involved so quick, to judge me and not hear my side, which wasn’t fair. They basically went off what they heard.
Q: What exactly happened then?
A: It was a July Fourth incident. I will never forget it. It was a bad breakup that led to no physical abuse or nothing. The school found out about it, and it just went out of hand.
Q: Why do you think there was a rush to judgment?
A: I guess because it’s domestic violence, a boy and a girl. Stuff can get out of hand with domestic violence. I’m just here to clear my name and say nothing physical happened to that girl. It was just a bad breakup.
Q: What did you have to do to get back here?
A: You know, when people bring it up, I don’t like talking about it. I went through hell, and I had to go into survival mode. Not having money coming in. ... It was hard watching the success that Akron had and me not being a part of that. It stung and it stuck with me a long time. It still does a little bit, but I got through it and beat the adversity.
Q: Were there psychiatric evaluations or anything like that?
A: I’m still going through that right now. That stuff is expensive. They didn’t think I’d be able to complete all of that. I proved the school wrong and I did my part and it was a lot of obstacles they tried to put me through [and] they didn’t think I’d make it, but I did.
Q: It’s safe to say you’ve got a chip on your shoulder?
A: I’m a man on a mission just to prove a lot of people wrong. That’s what my goal is. I’m ready to carry this team.
Q: What’s it mean that coach Dambrot has welcomed you back?
A: I didn’t hear about it because of my situation, but I love that man to death and he loves me. He went to battle with me and I appreciate everything he’s done. Like he told me: adversity. I went through it. I got that from him.
Q: You saw the success they had [last season], it hurt not to be part of it. What is your best scenario for this upcoming season? What do you want most?
A: Of course I want the [Mid-American Conference] title, but I want to carry this team and get some wins in the NCAA Tournament, help the school and program and help Coach D get his name out there even more. My goal is to get out there and compete every day and become a better practice player for Coach D and myself.
Q: How much of a difference do you think you could have made last season?
A: I saw a few games. They didn’t really have an attacking guard who could get to the rim and create for other people. But they always found a way to win. That’s what Coach D does. He’s a winner. I could have helped out tremendously. The VCU game, I could have helped out tremendously in that game. Buffalo [the one that ended the winning streak], which was the one they lost. I see myself being a big part of that streak.
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.