Walk into Rhodes Arena these days and you’ll see would-be members of the University of Akron basketball team rotating through the various stages of practice. Forty minutes of court time working on assorted drills designed to improve their basketball fundamentals and then it’s on to the weight room.
A rule change allows the coaching staff to work with players as long as they are enrolled in summer school or are in good academic standing. Coaches are given two hours a week spread over eight weeks.
During Tuesday’s practice, only junior college signee Nyles Evans and B.J. Gladden were missing. Evans was finishing academic obligations in Florida and Gladden reported Wednesday.
The first person anyone would notice is Isaiah Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound center from the Cincinnati area. He possesses a nice touch for a big man.
The issue with him will be how much weight he takes off his frame.
“He’s not going to be able to take a lot off because once you take it all off it’s going to turn into muscle,” coach Keith Dambrot said. “We probably want to convert 25-30 pounds into muscle. [But] he’s strong now.”
And he’s tall, joining a unit in which everyone but point guards Carmelo Betancourt and Evans stands at least 6-foot-5.
“We’re big and strong. We’ve got some good talent with the young kids,” Dambrot said. “We have to keep working with them so they understand what we’re trying to do.”
Diggs thus far
Quincy Diggs’ return from suspension by the university is no big surprise any longer, but some might be surprised by the fact that he doesn’t look rusty.
“He lost a lot of his strength, but overall he hasn’t lost much else,” Dambrot said. “He shot the ball good his last year here, but he’s become a very good shooter.”
Diggs said his priority is to help the team return to the NCAA Tournament and go deep into it, and Dambrot welcomes the attitude.
“It’s good having him back. He’s a kid that cares a lot about basketball,” Dambrot said. “Anytime you have a gym rat who cares a lot about basketball, it’s good for your program.”
No one can accuse wide receiver recruit Mykel Traylor-Bennett of lacking commitment. He’s in school and already at work on his own with the goal of getting to playing as soon as possible. He’s posted links on Twitter of him playing pitch and catch with presumed starting quarterback Kyle Pohl. His twitter handle is @MrFootball_10, and he can be very witty at times.
Heard around campus
The football team will likely get some much-needed depth as another Florida State Seminoles player who earned his degree plans to join the Zips. The NCAA granted defensive tackle Moses McCray a sixth year of eligibility due to injuries, according to reports this week. … Former Zips guard Brian Walsh is now a graduate assistant with the basketball team. … Women’s basketball forward and Archbishop Hoban alumna Rachel Tecca will likely try to play without the bulky, though light, brace that she wore on her knee last 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.