The real work begins for the University of Akron as the Zips make their way back from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, with an impressive showing at the Puerto Rico Tip-off.
The Zips went 2-1 in the tournament — an overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the opening game was the only blemish. They now have two weeks before their next game Dec. 2 at Rhodes Arena against Middle Tennessee.
That will be the next opportunity for fans to see what the Zips are made of after forwards Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney return to the lineup.
Because of the players’ ineligibility, Dambrot wasn’t sure who from the team’s deep roster would fill what roles.
The starting five — Brian Walsh, Chauncey Gilliam, Zeke Marshall, Demetrius Treadwell and Alex Abreu — is probably cemented. Harney is more than likely to be the first guy called from the bench, depending on the situation. Dambrot said he will likely use an eight- or nine-man rotation.
Freshman Jake Kretzer (10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds) has earned his way onto the floor with his play, Dambrot said. He’s also shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Beyond that, does Dambrot turn to freshman Reggie McAdams (6.6 points per game) or sophomore Deji Ibitayo (4.8 points per game) to fill that shooter’s role? Each has had his moments in the exhibition season, and each has struggled at times.
A significant problem Dambrot will face is how to allocate minutes, especially in the case of point guard Alex Abreu, whom the coach said needs to get in condition after an ankle injury.
“The biggest thing for us right now is getting Alex Abreu back in shape. That really affects how we play. If he’s really good we’ve got a great chance,” he said.
Dambrot is aware that he could have issues with bruised egos over playing time, but players who don’t get a lot of minutes will have to bide their time.
“It’s hard to play really well and keep people happy like that. You have to play the best guys and ride the guys that are playing well on that particular night,” Dambrot said.
Carmelo Betancourt (3.6 points, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals) did much to impress Dambrot in the tournament in Puerto Rico, especially in the team’s last game, when he scored 10 points, had three assists and grabbed three steals in a victory over Penn State.
Before that, Betancourt, a native of Puerto Rico, had his struggles. Perhaps playing in a familiar environment helped his game.
“He had a confidence issue, but the last game he played great. He just let loose and played well defensively. He handled the ball well and was very aggressive offensively,” Dambrot said.
“If he can play like that, we’re going to be really good because at this point he gives us a much better defensive player than Alex is. He changes the tempo of the game defensively for us.”
Post tournament surprise
Marshall was a bit shocked when informed by the Beacon Journal that he was named to the all-tournament team. The 7-foot Marshall broke a tournament record by blocking 13 shots in three games. He also averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over that span.
“I’ve been working on my game,” he said.
“It showed in the exhibition game. I’ve been telling everybody that I can’t wait for the season to start just to showcase what I’ve been working on.”
Dambrot said there’s more that Marshall can do.
“He played really well defensively. We need to keep throwing him the ball on offense, there’s no question about that,” Dambrot said. “He’s the one [player] that no one else in our league has. No matter who they recruit, they still don’t have that shot blocker at the rim like him.”
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.