The University of Akron Zips might as well be looking at themselves when they take on the University of Detroit at noon today at Calihan Hall in Detroit.
In some respects, the Titans and Zips are very similar when it comes to personnel, especially at point guard.
As Alex Abreu goes, so do the Zips. The same can be said of Ray McCallum, the Titans’ junior point guard who leads them and who sends shivers down coach Keith Dambrot’s spine.
“We’ve done a good job with him for two years, and that kind of scares me,” Dambrot said.
McCallum has averaged just seven points per game against UA in two games, far below his current season average of 19.2.
If the Zips are going to break their current three-game road losing streak, they’re going to have to focus on McCallum and make him a mere mortal.
“For us the key is keeping him active on defense, so he has to guard, use energy and not let him go wild on us. Now he’s capable of going wild on us,” Dambrot said. “That’s how they made the NCAA Tournament; he went nuts at the end of last year.”
Abreu didn’t face McCallum last season when the teams played the second of their four-game series at Rhodes Arena, but they did face off as freshmen, and he held McCallum to single-digit scoring in the Zips’ win.
“I didn’t do anything special for him. I just played my game, put pressure on him defensively and offensively and made him guard me,” Abreu, who averages 11.1 points and 5.6 assists per game.
Dambrot maintains the highest regard for McCallum.
“He’s probably a pro. He’s probably a first-round draft pick somewhere down the line or thereabouts. So we’re going to have to do a good job,” he said.
Abreu said he’s aware of that.
“It’s going to be a dogfight. I’m not going to back off,” he said. “Straight from minute one I’m going to be going at him and I expect for him it will be the same.”
And that might just be the battle within the war. Dambrot knows Detroit, which was hampered by injuries and a key suspension the last time the teams played, is more than a one-man team.
He refers to guard Jason Callliste as a pinpoint shooter. And he says take note of forward Nick Minnerath (11.6 points, 5.8 rebounds per game) and Juwan Howard Jr. (9.2 points per game), who is finding his way with the Titans after transferring from Western Michigan.
Dambrot reserves the most significant compliment he could give to any basketball player for senior forward Doug Anderson (11.2 points, 6.4 rebounds per game) whom he said might be the best athlete playing college basketball today.
“You watch tape on him, and he should be in track and field. That’s how great a jumper he is. I saw him get six dunks against Toledo and those were all highlights,” he said. “It was like LeBron [James] out there.”
Put that all together and this won’t be an easy game for the Zips, but it offers the chance for them to build some momentum through the rest of the non-conference schedule and take that into the Mid-American Conference portion.
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.