University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot could be throwing up his hands in frustration.
He has young players who don’t like to practice, who don’t like to be yelled at. He has one who refuses to take a charge.
But Dambrot sees flashes of their amazing talent. The same kind of talent he saw in a young LeBron James. The same kind of talent that might lead them to the NBA.
So instead of reining them in, Dambrot reins himself in and lets them loose.
Trailing rival Kent State by 10 points with 13:24 to play Saturday night at Rhodes Arena, Dambrot saw the full fury of those youngsters unleashed. With sophomore Nick Harney leading the way with 21 points, 19 in the second half, the result was a smashing 84-75 Akron victory before a sellout crowd of 5,252.
“At times we look like thoroughbreds, at other times I wonder what we’re doing,” Dambrot said afterward. “Our team scares me a little bit.
“This is the most athletic team we’ve had and we’re still trying to put ’em all together.”
Although the statistics don’t show it, Harney, sophomore Demetrius Treadwell and junior Quincy Diggs played a huge part in putting Kent State away down the stretch.
Harney became the scorer, hitting 10-of-12 shots while playing just 14 minutes. The Cleveland Benedictine product was suspended for five games earlier this season for a violation of team rules.
Diggs took over at point guard, dishing out five assists to starter Alex Abreu’s seven and showing a special chemistry in feeding Harney. Diggs’ pass to Harney for a slam that put Akron ahead 76-63 with 4:52 remaining was a thing of beauty, a play befitting the next level.
Diggs finished with eight points, sinking two of the four consecutive 3-pointers the Zips used to take command.
Diggs, from Wichita, Kan., can be frantic at times, throwing wild passes and committing exasperating fouls, but Dambrot understands the trade-off when Diggs takes over the offense.
“This group is going to turn the ball over,” Dambrot said after Akron threw the ball away 15 times, 11 in the first half. “I’m resigned to the fact Quincy Diggs is going to make more plays and more turnovers, just like LeBron. He’s going to make more turnovers because he’s going to do more. I have to adjust to what I have.”
Treadwell, from Euclid High School, became the enforcer, the muscle man underneath. The player nicknamed “Tree” scored seven points, pulled in nine rebounds and blocked one shot in 16 minutes. Treadwell also drew a suspension this season after being arrested in a bar fight, which led Dambrot to comment, “We have to continue to have our whole team; we’ve had a lot of issues this year.”
With nine players contributing, Harney said afterward, “I think we’re the deepest team in the MAC.” The Zips’ bench produced 41 points and 16 rebounds, while the Golden Flashes subs countered with 15 points and six rebounds.
“The way their depth played certainly had an impact. They finished the game with Treadwell and Harney on the floor,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said, almost marveling at that thought.
But Akron isn’t just about depth, but about the talent that Dambrot must try to nuture, even as his young babes keep kicking in the womb. He said Harney and Treadwell don’t want to go hard in practice every day.
“Romeo Travis didn’t want to practice, either,” Dambrot said of a former Zips star from St. Vincent-St. Mary. “They build credibility because they play well in the game.”
Dambrot said Harney and Treadwell “hate my guts” when he screams and yells.
“I have days; I do try to minimize those,” Dambrot said.
“We’re not as disciplined; we don’t understand our defensive concepts as well, but we’re gifted, we’re good when we run, we probably should press.”
Dambrot is also wondering if he should spend less time on working on the opponent’s tendencies and just let his players play.
“Coaching is being flexible,” he said. “You may have in your head how it should be, but you have to adapt to these young people today, you have to get them to play at their highest level. It’s not the way I like to run my business, but they’re talented guys.”
Dambrot acknowledged that the press may have to wait until next year. But as he watches his thoroughbreds mature, the wily 53-year-old coach may find himself tempted to try just about anything.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MarlaRidenour. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.