Written by: Sartaj Aujla
At Basketball Media Day last Wednesday, Akron’s men’s basketball team told the media that they are looking to improve and to continue their winning culture.
Head coach Keith Dambrot, junior guard Alex Abreu, senior center Zeke Marshall and senior guard Brian Walsh spoke to the media about their goals for the upcoming season.
Dambrot knows his program is built for success.
“We like our team,” he said. “We are trying to make pros, and guys who graduate from college.”
Dambrot has an overall record of 292-157 in his 14 years of coaching, with a 184-87 record at The University of Akron.
He stressed the importance — and the difficulty — of maintaining his team’s winning culture.
“We built the program on that winning mentality,” he said. “It’s interesting, because that winning mentality is hard to harvest when you don’t have it. Winning teams figure out ways to win, and losing teams figure out ways to lose.”
Dambrot described the schedule as daunting.
“If you look at the mid-major poll, (you have) No. 1 Creighton; Middle Tennessee, who has been good; Princeton; Cleveland State; Detroit — all these teams are really good,” he said. “But then you throw on top of that the chances to play Oklahoma State, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Providence, Penn State… It’s not going to be easy by any means, but we feel like we have a team to play with those people.”
Senior guard Brian Walsh said his team is thinking bigger, and would rather take down the “big dog” teams than settle for only beating one.
The players also believe that if they beat those big teams, they will be at a significant advantage for the rest of the season.
Junior guard Alex Abreu suffered a serious knee injury last season, but he is back on track to make it back onto the court.
Abreu hopes to step up his game and help his team.
“It gets sore from time to time, but I’ll be ready to play,” he said.
Senior center Zeke Marshall is also looking to improve his game.
“I just want to improve every part of my game that I can,” he said. “Ultimately, I want to put myself into a position where I’m ready to go to the next level.”
Dambrot told the media how impressed he has been with Marshall.
“He’s done a terrific job of preparing himself, both physically and mentally, for taking the next step,” Dambrot said.
The team lost some of its players in the off-season, but has been able to fill those holes with new players they picked up through recruitment.
Their biggest acquisition, however, has been transfer center Pat Forsythe, whom they expect to be able to contribute behind Zeke Marshall both on and off the court.
Dambrot said he knows his team is good, depth-wise.
He also said that he makes his players earn the minutes they play.
But having a lot of good players makes it difficult to find them all opportunities to play.
Dambrot believes that his team’s biggest weakness is the lack of a big scorer.
“The thing we have been having the most trouble with is that we won the last three or four years not averaging more than 10 points a game from our leading scorer, which is a good and bad thing,” he said. “It’s difficult to coach that way, but it’s good because (the opponents) don’t have one guy to focus on. We are in the process of figuring all of that out.”
The men’s basketball team believes it’s in a special position this year.
Their schedule may be daunting, but the coach and the players believe that they can go head-to-head with these big-name teams and overcome any obstacles.
“We have always been a team to emphasize a winning mentality,” Dambrot said. “We know it’s going to be a hard season, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”