A good half-hour after his teammates left for classes or other priorities, junior forward Demetrius Treadwell stood at the free-throw line at Rhodes Arena tossing in shots.
Three consecutive makes, then the odd miss. The point is he was out there after practice working on one of several weaknesses in his game.
Treadwell has little problem acknowledging that the holes exist, but it’s what he does about it that will ultimately help determine the University of Akron’s fate in the upcoming hoops season.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he’d worked on his mid-range jump shot, something he needs to have in his offensive arsenal. “I’m working on everything in my game — mid-ranger, free throws, ball handling, everything,” he said at the end of Monday morning’s practice.
Treadwell’s stock and profile have risen since he walked away with the Mid-American Conference’s Most Valuable Player trophy back in March on the way to the Zips’ appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Last week, collegeinsider.com named him to the 2013 Lou Henson Preseason All-America Team, following in the footsteps of former center Zeke Marshall who is now playing in Europe.
He’s been selected preseason All-MAC by Lindy’s Sports, Athlon Sports, Sporting News and USA Today Sports.
With that recognition will come expectations. If he’s able to improve those aspects of his game, professional opportunities could await.
But in the here and now, that’s beside the point because he’s being looked to for leadership, UA coach Keith Dambrot said.
“He went from a guy we let go from point A to point B to a guy now [who’s] got to lead the way for the guys. When he doesn’t play very good or play very hard, let’s say, it affects us,” Dambrot said.
Repeating his well-known story borders on redundant, but simply put, Treadwell hurdled obstacles (some of his creation) to get to where he is now.
Now that he is showing some signs of success, the ferocity with which he plays on the court manifests itself in a determination off the court.
He names the personal goals quickly: “win a national championship and be the best player I can be.”
The first one is couched in team as is the second — indirectly — if you ask Dambrot. Right now it’s all about the team. Defensively speaking, there is a huge hole in the paint that the Zips will have to replace with the absence of Marshall.
Treadwell can be counted on to take up some of the slack, and there is no way to know if anyone will be able to replace the 3.7 blocked shots Marshall provided per game.
“It’s hard to replace that shot-blocking that [Marshall] gives,” Treadwell said. “It’s going to make us work a lot harder and not having that shot-blocking presence like we did last year is going to make us feel like we have to work a lot harder. We’re going to have to press more without him. Overall, I feel we can possibly be a better basketball team than we were last year.”
And how does he feel about the early recognition?
“It’s in the back of my head, but it really doesn’t matter whether I’m getting them and whether I don’t. I’m still going to go out there and play the best basketball I can,” he said.
Dambrot sounds confident the Zips will be able to make up for the loss of Marshall’s productivity.
‘‘We went four years where we had a guy in the middle who could shot block,” he said. “Before that we’ve always been good defensively and we didn’t have that kind of size. We have good size still.”
It sounds as if freshman Isaiah Johnson, a 6-foot-10 center from Cincinnati, is making an impression.
“I think Pat Forsythe can do a lot of things Zeke did,” Dambrot said. “I think Big Dog [Johnson] can do a lot of things offensively and maybe even better in some ways. He can score the ball around the rim and he can pass it.”
When you get a name like Big Dog as a freshman, someone is paying attention.