When Kyle Petersen takes his familiar spot at the end of the University of Akron bench tonight, it will be for the final time on the Zips’ home court.
His career statistics don’t portend a career in professional basketball; he has averaged just three-tenths of a point per game in his previous three seasons. But he doesn’t fret about it.
“I like it. I love basketball. I grew up around it and played throughout high school,” Petersen said. “I just love everything about it.”
Chances are he could have gone on to play ball at another college where he would have received significant playing time, but there were other considerations.
“I don’t want to quit on something that I gave a lot of time to after I already committed to it,” he said.
Petersen is one of three seniors — along with forward Nikola Cvetinovic and guard Brett McClanahan — who will close their UA careers at Rhodes Arena tonight against Buffalo.
Cvetinovic and Mc-?Clanahan have received far more playing time than their teammate but their love of the game, and particularly the Zips, is the same.
“It’s been fun. A lot of ups and downs, but that’s part of the ride. I really enjoyed my tenure here and hopefully it doesn’t end after this year,” McClanahan said.
Ask all three of them the high points of their time at UA and the same things are mentioned: two MAC championships and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, along with the streak of 20-win seasons that have accumulated under coach Keith Dambrot.
But they also are looking beyond their playing days.
Petersen didn’t come to the Zips to waste his opportunity at an education. A biology major, he wants to be a doctor and has interviewed at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
Cvetinovic? After playing pro ball in Europe, he plans to enter the world of politics in his homeland of Serbia.
McClanahan doesn’t want to leave the screech of sneakers on the gym floor behind. He wants to coach and hopes to eventually begin his career as a graduate assistant with the Zips or, if that doesn’t pan out, another program.
For now, however, they have another goal to fulfill after celebrating their final home game tonight.
“It’s a lot of memories but we have to be focused and win this MAC Tournament to make it 3-of-4,” Cvetinovic said.
McClanahan agreed as he spoke about the ups and downs of his college career.
“This year we’ve obviously controlled our own destiny as far as the season goes, so this is another up we’re in right now,” he said.
They would prefer that the ups continue into the postseason. Win one of the final two games of the year (the finale coming Friday against nemesis Kent State), and they have the MAC’s regular season title and the top seed in the tournament.
The Bulls (17-9, 10-4) come into tonight’s game against the Zips (20-9, 12-2) having lost three of their past four games.
A win over the Bulls would also give the Zips their 500th victory as a Division I program since 1980-81. … With a win, the Zips will post just their third undefeated home record in MAC play, joining the 2006-07 (8-0) and 2005-06 (9-0) teams. … Akron has won 14 consecutive MAC home games.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://zips.ohio.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.