At age 53, University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot is still able to adapt to the players he guides through their strengths and weaknesses.
It’s the latter that has required patience in recent games. Say what you will about the Zips, but they make games interesting and entertaining. That’s not always an admirable quality when they do so courtesy of mistakes.
One of the most significant deficiencies for this version of the Zips — turnovers— is normally the bane of every coach’s existence.
But that’s not necessarily the case for Dambrot.
“I’m not minimizing them. We’ve probably been one of the best assist-to-turnover teams in the league. It’s just that this team is going to turn the ball over more than other groups,” he said after Saturday’s victory over rival Kent State. “I’m just resigned to the fact that Quincy Diggs is going to make more plays than he is turnovers. Do I like it? No. By the same token, I have to adjust to what I have.”
An example of living with it came against the Golden Flashes as the Zips seemed to be on their way to a 20-turnover performance, giving up 11 in the first half. They stopped the bleeding in the second half when they gave up just four.
“The environment was great and everyone was playing a little bit fast,” point guard Alex Abreu said. “It happens sometimes. We picked it up the second half and converted.”
True, and in their past four games, the Zips are 3-1, but they’ve averaged close to 16 giveaways per game.
“You don’t want to accept turnovers. You want to cut down on them,” forward Diggs said. “I think he deals with them because he wants us to make them up on defense. As long as we do that, he can accept it.”
That doesn’t get to the root of the problem, however. What’s causing the miscues?
Youth is probably the primary contributor. The Zips are winning on raw talent right now as Dambrot adapts, teaches and molds them into what he wants them to be. With that youth comes a lack of experience that can be translated into a lack of knowledge.
“A lot of it is a function of our understanding,” Dambrot said.
For instance, on more than one occasion in transition, the guards passed to center Zeke Marshall before he was completely in the post in an easier position to score.
“A lot is because it’s some of the guys’ first year playing,” Diggs said.
But in other instances, just plain laziness gets in the way, Abreu said. “The passes have been a little sloppy.”
More than a few of the Zips’ turnovers came on errant passes as opposed to anything Kent State caused Saturday, reflecting a season-long trend.
“It’s probably one of our poorest passing teams— other than Abreu and Quincy Diggs — we really don’t have a great passing team,” Dambrot said.
For the Zips to go deep into the postseason, the turnover issue will have to be remedied.
“Those are things you just have to keep working on intellectually,” Dambrot said. “We have to be careful. We can’t have dumb ones.”
Considering the MAC East-leading Zips (12-7, 4-1) are taking on West-leading Ball State (12-5, 4-1) tonight, there’s no time like the present to start working on them.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://zips.ohio.com. Follow the Zips on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.