The University of Akron men’s basketball team has suspended forward Nick Harney for conduct detrimental to the program, coach Keith Dambrot said Tuesday.
A visibly disappointed Harney was at practice Tuesday morning in street clothes. Dambrot revealed the decision after practice.
Dambrot declined to specify the number of games the Zips would be without Harney, who has started 11 games, including the past five as part of a lineup that had been giving them a boost.
Harney’s suspension is a blow to the Zips because he had recently found his groove. Harney is averaging 8.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, but has been an offensive spark the past five games. In that span, he’s averaged 11.8 points per game and the Zips have won four of five.
When asked how long Harney would be suspended, Dambrot said: “Until we clean up his conduct.”
It is Harney’s third suspension as a member of the Zips. He was first suspended two seasons ago for the same rule violation. It cost him five games. Last season, the NCAA nailed him for three games for a compliance issue that was beyond his control.
What Dambrot made clear is the unwillingness to abandon members of his team. He’s maintained support for any that have met with difficulties. He has his limits, but he’s not reached them with Harney.
“When I don’t feel a guy has a chance to be successful or I feel like the percentages are against that person being successful,” he said when asked about when he might give up on Harney. “I tend to not quit on young people. If I have a fault that tends to be [it].”
The move will force changes on the Zips as Harney’s starting position will have to be filled. The beneficiaries of the move will come from centers Pat Forsythe and Isaiah Johnson and freshman forward Kwan Cheatham.
Dambrot mentioned on more than one occasion that he’d like to go bigger with his lineup, but given that involved playing Harney at the small forward spot, that becomes problematic. As has been the case in the past, the team will have to rely on someone stepping up to fill a void, in this case, a substantial one.
“In the long run, it will help develop our program. In the short run it will hurt us — maybe,” Dambrot said.
How much it could possibly hurt depends on how long Harney is suspended.
“I think he’ll be back this year,” Dambrot said. “We’re going to stand by our guys again, like I always do. We want to help them through their issues. Our goal is to make them better people, players and students.”
The loss of Harney only makes the Zips’ challenge of repeating as Mid-American Conference champions that much more difficult.
Unlike the past two seasons, parity has come to the MAC. In the prior two seasons, UA lost a combined five conference games. This year there are no easy games.
“We had a dominating team for two years and Ohio had a dominating team for two years,” Dambrot said.
UA and Ohio have fallen back of the pack this season and Toledo has raised its game considerably. The result is that the next few weeks should be very interesting, and it begins at 7 tonight against Western Michigan.
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.