Success will never produce apathy in the men’s basketball team at the University of Akron.
That was one of the predominant themes at the media day for the UA men’s and women’s programs Wednesday in the Tommy Evans Lounge at Rhodes Arena.
In 2010-11, the Zips finished 23-13 for the their sixth consecutive 20-win season and tied a Mid-American Conference record by appearing in the tournament final for the fifth consecutive year.
The Zips defeated Kent State 66-65 in that final to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. A 69-56 loss to Notre Dame in their first game left the Zips with a 0-3 all-time NCAA record.
As a new season approaches, those accomplishments have done nothing but motivate the team to continue to win — and win at a higher level.
“When I win, I don’t really get complacent. It drives me to win more,” senior swingman Brett McClanahan said. “We have accomplished a lot, but I feel there is always room for improvement.
“We are all humans. We are flawed. One of our flaws is not being able to go to the second round of the tournament. That is the next step.”
The Zips lost Brett McKnight, Steve McNees, Darryl Roberts and Mike Bardo from last year’s team. But UA has a solid core returning in McClanahan, Nikola Cvetinovic, Zeke Marshall, Alex Abreu, Quincy Diggs and Josh Egner.
In addition, transfers Brian Walsh and Chauncey Gilliam and grayshirts Nick Harney and Demetrius Treadwell are expected to be major contributors.
Coach Keith Dambrot, who has a 162-75 record in seven seasons at UA, said his players will always be motivated to succeed and their goals will keep getting loftier.
“There are three parts to a program. The first part is getting over the hump and teaching guys how to win, which we have done a really good job of that,” said Dambrot, whose 53rd birthday was Wednesday. “The second part is sustaining that, which isn’t as easy as it seems. The third part is taking the next step. We all want to take the next step.”
UA has a home exhibition game Nov. 3 against John Carroll. The regular-season opener is Nov. 9 at Mississippi State.
The new technology
This basketball media day was like no other at UA.
For the first time, the entire 70-minute program was streamed live on the MAC website. It was streamed live last year only on the Zips website.
Also, for the first time, fans could engage in live chat during the webcast and could be part of a Twitter feed. That allowed them to ask questions of the coaches and players. Five of them were relayed, and Dambrot or his players answered.
“It’s a technology that many programs don’t take advantage of, but we have embraced as an athletics department,” said men’s basketball sports information director Dallas Moyer III.
Women’s team returns 10
The Zips women’s team lost all-time leading scorer Kara Murphy to graduation, but it has 10 letter winners back.
“It’s the most excited I have ever been in the six years,” women’s coach Jodi Kest said. “I feel we have something very special here.”
Kest said having that many returnees has created quite a battle for playing time.
“Practices have been so competitive. I can’t tell you who our starting five is going to be,” Kest said. “Like I told out kids, it’s not important who starts. It’s important that everyone contributes.”
Tecca seeks improvement
Forward Rachel Tecca (Archbishop Hoban) was first-team All-MAC last season and led the Zips in scoring (15.8) and rebounding (9.6).
Tecca, a 6-foot-1 junior, said she worked on two specific areas in the offseason.
“I tried to get stronger and I think I am. And I worked on my 15-foot shots,” Tecca said.
Marshall gets stronger
Junior center Zeke Marshall, the MVP of the 2011 MAC men’s tournament, said his body weight of 227 pounds is about the same as last year, but he is lifting considerably more weight in the bench press.
“I surprised myself how well I did. I am maxing 275 [pounds], which is almost what people do in the NFL Combine. I feel stronger. I am stronger,” he said.