Part of being accountable for a problem is knowing one exists.
The University of Akron men’s basketball team has a problem at the point-guard position. The good thing is that sophomore Carmelo Betancourt and junior transfer Nyles Evans realize they haven’t played up to standards this season.
The two are averaging 6.7 points and 3.9 assists per game and the Zips are accustomed to getting more production from their point guards.
“I don’t think it’s pressure. I don’t know what to say. It’s a different team,” Betancourt said after a recent practice. “We’re both still learning the system, both still trying to get it right. I think as soon as we keep paying attention, learning little details, we’ll be fine.”
Evans arrived at UA averaging better than 15.7 points and 3.3 assists per game at Brevard Community College in Florida. Although there were times during the pre-conference schedule when he looked as if he’d put things into focus — such as the Cleveland State and Detroit wins — Evans has scored just eight points in the past six games.
“It takes a full year to fully understand a new system, but for the most part, it’s just been me,” Evans said. “I don’t think it’s the system at all. I’ve just got to play better. My confidence is down. Shots haven’t been going in for me as of late. I think it’s more that than the system.”
For the past few years, Zips followers have been used to the spark that point guard Alex Abreu provided. He could distribute and he fearlessly took big shots. With Abreu gone, there were some big shoes to fill and neither Betancourt nor Evans has looked or felt entirely comfortable in that role.
“It’s unfair to those guys,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said. “You’re talking about a professional player, really. Abreu is a pro. He’s not an NBA pro, but he’s a pro. He’s going to play for money. Now they have to come in here as inexperienced guys and do what he did.”
Dambrot calls the current difficulties a self-fulfilling prophecy for Betancourt and Evans. They can’t be Abreu, therefore they’ve faltered. One solution to the problem is to not try to be someone they’re not.
For Evans, that means allowing the game to come to him instead of forcing shots and passes. As a scorer, he has to work to get into the flow of the offense.
“Obviously, I’m struggling big time,” Evans said. “I’m just staying with it every day. I can’t do anything about the last five or six games. I just have to keep coming to practice every day, keep having a good attitude about it, and things will turn around.”
Dambrot knows what Betancourt is capable of on the court. He’s a gritty defender and has the ability to get his teammates into the flow of the game by distributing the ball. Scoring is not his first priority.
He showed flashes of that form in Wednesday night’s 78-68 win over Eastern Michigan. Wholesale lineup changes with a lean toward UA’s best players contributed to that win, but a pesky Betancourt, who produced five points and eight assists, displayed exactly what can happen when he’s on his game.
“I thought he played really good defensively and offensively; he was calm and made a lot of good decisions,” Dambrot said. “But the scrappiness defensively set the tone for the game. If he can put a couple of games together, I think he can make a huge jump.”
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.