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Posted on Wed, Feb. 15, 2006 http://www.ohio.com

Showing some love for Zips
By Terry Pluto

Since the surprising University of Akron men's basketball team was playing on Valentine's Day, it's time to say I love what coach Keith Dambrot has done with the program.

I love how he has won with a bunch of underrated, overachieving local players -- guys such as Dru Joyce III, Matt Futch and Romeo Travis, all of whom had no other major-college offers.

I love how the Zips are so unselfish, how they aren't especially fast or strong. Nor would anyone say they're big for a Division I college team. Not when they often play three guards in the 6-foot range at the same time.

I love how they move the ball from one side of the court to the other, how the players usually end up in the right spot when the ball comes to them when it's time to shoot.

I love how their defense is disciplined, how they can switch from man-to-man to a few different zones with little problem.

I love how the Zips lead the Mid-American Conference in scoring, yet they could win a physical, body-slamming game as they did 77-62 over Bowling Green before 3,869 fans Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.

I love how Rhodes has become their personal playpen in two years since Dambrot became coach -- 25-1 in the past two years. They are 11-0 this season, winning by an average of 21 points on this floor.

I love how UA truly does share the ball. Travis is the leading scorer at 14 points per game; Joyce and Nick Dials are at 10 points.

I love how Dials fit perfectly with Dambrot's style. Dials was a walk-on at Ohio State, played a year for the Buckeyes, starting nine games as freshman. When there was a coaching change, Dials knew his court time would be limited.

I love how Dials came back from major knee surgery in six months to start for the Zips, and how he plays every game like a kid still trying to make the team.

I love how Joyce plays like a 10-year NBA pro in terms of how he knows how to lead an offense, work the shot clock and play solid position defense.

I love how Travis has proved wrong so many critics who believed that he was nothing more than a product of playing with LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

I love that the Zips are 19-5 and headed for their first 20-victory season since they were 21-8 in 1988-89, the final year of coach Bob Huggins when they were an independent.

I love what Dambrot is doing -- one of the best, least-noticed coaching jobs in the country. In the previous four years before Dambrot became the coach, the Zips didn't have a winning record. Overall, they were 49-66, 30-42 in the MAC. Now, they are 12-2 in the MAC, leading rival Can't State (11-2) by a half-game in the East Division.

I love how Dambrot has been able to win without bringing in a bunch of junior-college transfers, how this is not a quick-fix program. Darryl Peterson, Rob Preston and Futch are the seniors. Usually, only of them starts.

I love how Preston is blooming as a senior, demonstrating that he's far more than just a 6-foot-9 jump shooter. He's playing the best basketball of his career at absolutely the right time.

I love how freshman Matt Linhart is developing into a skilled 6-foot-7 forward, capable of starting for the rest of his career.

I love how Dambrot made room for local walk-ons Chad Marz (St. Vincent-St. Mary) and Nick Goddard (Wadsworth) on the roster.

I love how UA was able to overcome a major knee injury to Jeremiah Wood, the rebounding machine from Central-Hower who played only 10 games last season. He has a medical redshirt this year. He'll have two years left to play beginning next fall.

I love how UA basketball looks good again next year with Joyce, Travis, Dials, Linhart, Wood and Cedric Middleton returning -- and playing with extensive experience.

I love how UA basketball has become fun again.

[Image: MACC.gif][Image: screwks.gif]
Wow, you'd think Akron has been doing this year in and year out.. I believe that one loss on your home court was to us. And since you haven't beaten us yet this season, slow down on how much better you are than us. Stepchildren should be kept in their place.
This smacks of jealous younger brother behavior.
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