The time honored cliché says that good things come to those who wait.
For University of Akron sophomore forward Jake Kretzer, perhaps that should read good things come to those who earn them.
It’s only two games, but plenty of good things are happening since he has been in the starting lineup.
In those two games, Kretzer is averaging 20 points as part of a wholesale lineup change that left forward Demetrius Treadwell in and added Nick Harney, Quincy Diggs and Carmelo Betancourt.
The result has been a lineup that has gotten off to a faster start and allowed the Zips to take control of games early. It helps when someone such as Kretzer shoots the lights out.
In that two-game span, he’s making 50 percent of his shots (14-of-28) and 55 percent from behind the 3-point arc (11-of-20).
As a shooter, Kretzer could just as easily be as cold as the recent sub-freezing weather. Sometimes shooting comes in streaks. For Kretzer, there’s something else in play as he assumes a prominent spot in the starting five — his health.
While his teammates ran up and down the floor during summer training, a back injury relegated him to a spectator on the sideline.
“I was making a lot of progress this summer with ball-handling and handling the ball more,” he said after Monday’s practice. “I was in really good shape and the whole back injury really set me back because I couldn’t practice.”
UA coach Keith Dambrot agreed.
“He was playing great before his back was hurt,” Dambrot said.
The back injury cost Kretzer all of August and September and two weeks in October. By then, with an earlier than usual start of the season looming, Kretzer was not in game shape and even when he did start to get practice time, he endured an ankle sprain that set him back a little bit more.
It possibly cost him a starting role at the beginning of the season.
“We knew he was one of our best players, but when you miss two months, man, it’s hard to play as good as he played really,” Dambrot said. “Think about it. If that had been anybody else, they would have struggled.”
Kretzer is 6-foot-8 of lean. His jump shot can be deadly. When he’s in a groove, such as he was against Eastern Michigan, he can get an outlet pass, stop, and bury shots. Dambrot and his teammates knew of his potential from his freshman season, but not being healthy stunted that potential.
By his estimation, he didn’t really feel healthy until the Zips played back-to-back games against South Carolina — one in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic and the other on the Gamecocks’ home court.
As Dambrot and his staff worked through their machinations to see who and how the team worked together with various lineups, it was evident that problems existed getting rolling early in games. With that in mind, Dambrot made the requisite changes and the short-term result has been faster starts in wins against Eastern and Central Michigan.
Kretzer admits the starting role provides for a little more adrenaline heading into a game.
“People put too much emphasis on starting, but you do get pumped up. You’re in the starting rotation,” he said. “You get to hear your name [announced].”
Kretzer knows whether he remains in the starting lineup depends on performance. But for now he provides that third scorer needed behind Diggs and Treadwell and he’s a big body that helps keep opponents off the boards. And though he doesn’t do so often, Kretzer has been trying to take the ball to the basket more than he did before.
If he can maintain all of that, the Zips might have found the elusive chemistry they’ve been seeking — at least with the starting five.
Rachel Tecca, starting forward for the Zips women’s basketball team, continues to tear up the school’s record books. Tecca, a 6-foot-1 forward from Archbishop Hoban, became the first player in Zips history to score 2,000 points and did so on a night when she obliterated other records.
She set a single-game scoring record with 43 points and grabbed 22 rebounds against Eastern Michigan on Sunday. For a little perspective, the last player to get more than 20 rebounds for UA was Cheryl Bowles in 1999.