University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot was direct Friday after taking his basketball team through its paces in preparation for today’s game at Cleveland State.
“It’s been a pain in the behind just to motivate guys every day to practice,” Dambrot said. “We practiced 18 or 19 days without a real game. That’s hard on everybody.”
Before the extended hiatus it appeared as if the Zips (1-2) could use some prolonged practice. They are currently losers of two consecutive games and played out of sync during those losses.
Although Nyles Evans, who apparently has assumed the starting role, and Carmelo Betancourt haven’t lit the court up, averaging a combined six points and two assists per game, Dambrot seems perfectly willing to show some patience with the point guard position.
“I don’t think our point-guard issue is as bad as other issues. I’m not as worried about that,” he said. “They played better against Malone [an exhibition game]. Our chemistry isn’t as good as it should be yet.”
The team’s youth — Quincy Diggs is the only true senior — plays a part in that lack of chemistry, but the issue is bigger than that for now.
Dambrot said it stems from players not being settled in their positions thus far. Roles still have to be figured out and, as his string of 20-win seasons attest, Dambrot has a tendency to figure things out.
The Vikings (4-4) could offer the opportunity to begin that process. The Vikings came close to upsetting highly ranked Kentucky before losing grip on the game in its final moments and are 1-1 in their two games since, including a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Drexel on Wednesday.
The Vikings are young with three sophomores — guards Bryn Forbes and Trey Lewis and forward Anton Grady — in the starting five. They combine for 42.6 points per game. The rest of CSU’s offensive punch comes from its bench. Guard Charlie Lee and forward Jon Harris average 12.8 and 11.3 points, respectively.
Dambrot said that the Vikings have definitely improved from the team the Zips beat 87-57 last season.
“They shoot the ball better,” Dambrot said. “They’ve got the two transfers — Harris [Miami] and then Lewis [Penn State] — so that helps them shoot the ball better. And then Forbes has improved. They still have issues like we have our issues.”
Dambrot said the Vikings’ strength is their outside game.
“They’re very perimeter oriented,” he said. “They live and die with the jump shot. Now they’ll go into the game and try to get Grady [a preseason all-Horizon League selection] involved inside, but they haven’t been able to do it yet.”
The coming weeks, and this game in particular, offer the Zips an opportunity to make up some lost ground and prep for the Mid-American Conference portion of their schedule.
“There’s no question we’re behind,” Dambrot said. “The only way to get game ready is to play. You don’t really know what guys can do until you get them into those positions, so while everybody else is sitting, we’ll be playing [in Hawaii].”
The Zips’ two consecutive losses — against St. Mary’s and Middle Tennessee — represent a rarity for the basketball program since Dambrot’s arrival in the 2004-05 season.
The Zips have only lost two or more consecutive games on 14 occasions, including 11 two-game and three three-game losing streaks. Of those 14 losing streaks, 10 included two or more games on the road.
Dambrot said that he’s “pretty much” made up his mind that B.J. Gladden and Aaron Jackson will redshirt in their first season.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. 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.