The University of Akron men’s basketball team has to find someone other than point guards Alex Abreu and Carmelo Betancourt who can drive to the basket with any degree of consistency or they could be in for a difficult season.
Watching their most recent game, a loss to the Detroit Titans on Saturday, it’s clear that far too often the Zips settle for a jump shot when a little patience can lead to a drive that would work much to their advantage.
“It’s a skill. Some guys can’t. Even some [NBA] guys can’t. Even Ray Allen [of the Miami Heat] isn’t a great driver. He’s a great shooter,” Zips coach Keith Dambrot said. “We have to keep working on it. There are some guys who are naturally good drivers like Alex Abreu.”
Then there are others. The names roll off Dambrot’s tongue of those who have the potential to take the ball to the rim. But why aren’t they?
“They’re playing in their comfort zone, trying not to make mistakes,” Dambrot said.
Senior forward Chauncey Gilliam said that the team is trying to concentrate on getting easy shots by getting the ball to their big men, something that any team will do. But the ability to work the ball inside on a dribble drive results in easy hoops if the opportunity is there, and it can also eventually break down defenses.
Gilliam said that it’s a skill that can be learned.
“At this age you’re pretty set into what you do,” he said. “You can always work on something in the gym and get extra reps. You have to do what you really do.”
“I believe that,” he said. “You have to have some innate ability. It’s like anything else. If you can’t shoot it, you can’t shoot it. You might make yourself average, but you won’t make yourself great. Guys like [freshmen] Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams, they don’t have to be great drivers. They have to be functional. When somebody rushes at them, they have to go by.”
But right now this points to a larger problem that Dambrot faces: There’s no one on the team who is filling the rather large sneakers of last year’s MAC Sixth Man of the Year Quincy Diggs, who is suspended by the university. Losing him just before practice started was a big blow for the Zips, primarily because he was a big body who could take somebody off the dribble as well as play defense.
Right now the Zips are 4-4. Dambrot consistently put the ball in Diggs’ hands with the game on the line, and more often than not, he delivered. No one was sure of the impact his loss would have but the picture is a bit clearer now. However, that’s the past and Dambrot expects someone on the team to step up in that regard this year.
“If not, we’ve had teams here that couldn’t drive at all. We survived. We just played a little different,” he said.
Speaking of records
That 4-4 mark isn’t what Dambrot wanted for the start of the season, but it certainly isn’t new.
“We’ve been here before a million times,” he said. “The way our schedule’s been the past couple of years is we’ve been front-loaded with road games … and we have a lull at home.”
With their next six games at home, beginning tonight with Arkansas Pine-Bluff, they have a chance to work out their kinks and get fat on some home cooking.
“At this time of the year we’re still working things out,” Gilliam said. “We’re still figuring it out as coaches and as players. Look forward to seeing better basketball in the next few weeks here.”
Player of the week
The MAC selected Demetrius Treadwell as the East Player of the Week for his 20 points and eight rebounds against Detroit. It is the first time he has received the award. He is the second this season for the Zips; center Zeke Marshall was the other.
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.