It’s an early-season break and University of Akron basketball coach Keith Dambrot is grateful.
The Zips don’t play another game of consequence until Dec. 7, when they travel to the Wolstein Center to take on Cleveland State.
That’s because the Zips (1-2) have gotten off to a rocky start, a position not unfamiliar to Dambrot and his team, nor is it one entirely unexpected, given their travel schedule the first week of the season. UA played in the wee hours of the morning on a Tuesday in California and had to hit the road to Middle Tennessee State the following Saturday.
After two consecutive losses, time off is welcome.
“This block is going to end up being good for us,” Dambrot said after Monday’s practice. “I didn’t like it at first, but now I do.”
There will be plenty to work on, but guard production could be an emphasis. It was a spot that had been a position of strength before Alex Abreu was arrested near the end of last season. This season, there has been a transition that isn’t complete and has not gone smoothly.
“We’re young. It takes time,” sophomore point guard Carmelo Betancourt said. “We have to get into better shape. We’ll be fine. I think it’s just a matter of time — a couple of games. Last year, we started like this, kind of rough, then everything fell into place. We’ll see.”
Combined, point guards Betancourt and junior college transfer Nyles Evans are averaging three points, an assist and a turnover per game. Even when you factor in numbers from Quincy Diggs, who has seen some significant time at point guard, the numbers — 7.2 points per game, 1.3 assists and 2.1 — are not inspiring.
“We have to get assists and/or points,” Dambrot said. “Right now, we’re not getting assists or points, so we have to re-evaluate every game.”
The reality is that Betancourt is right, he’s still very young. Diggs has been off for a year and Evans is new to Dambrot’s system, and that is showing up in his game.
“It’s been pretty tough as far as the detail,” said Evans, who played at North Canton Hoover High School and transferred from Brevard Community College. “The detail in practice and the game is a lot harder and a lot more complex. But I’m starting to get used to it a few games in. Hopefully it will start to get a little bit better as we go on.”
Evans seems to have a handle on his problem.
“I think it’s more the system and translating from a different style of coaching,” he said. “One style I came from [junior college] I think it was more of an open system. I would say a little bit more free, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment for me so far.”
Dambrot has given Evans an opportunity, starting him in the loss against Middle Tennessee last Saturday. The stat line wasn’t great, but Dambrot expressed confidence.
“I just wanted to see how he would play. [Middle Tennessee] recruited him and I thought he would be ready to play and he was ready to play, he just didn’t hit shots,” Dambrot said.
Evans said things will turn around.
“I think it’s going to come for me,” Evans said. “As I get more fluid with it, I think I’ll get more assists and the ball will start going in the rim for me a little more because I know I can score on this level and I can shoot on this level. I’m going to stay with it and just keep doing what Coach D wants me to do.”
“Once we get it together, the position’s fine, we’ll be better,” he said.
For Dambrot, it comes down to a simple fact: “It is what it is right now. We’re going to find out how good [we are] as coaches now.”
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.