Four for the core: Zips making big impact in first year

By: D.J. Johnson

Coming into the season, the Akron men’s basketball team had lost four key contributors from their 2010-2011 team that went to the NCAA Tournament.

Luckily, four players that were not able to play last season were in waiting to bring new life to the program.

It is now 24 games into the 2011-12 season, and the expectations have not changed; if anything, they have increased.

A trio of sophomores — Demetrius Treadwell, Nick Harney and Brian Walsh — and a junior, Chauncey Gilliam, have continued to build on one of the best mid-major programs in the country.

Two are in the starting rotation and two come off the bench. All have had a huge impact. Together, the four combine for more than 30 points a game, grab 13 rebounds a contest and shoot over 45 percent from three.

All four bring something different to the squad.

The 6-foot-7 Treadwell pulls down rebounds like his goal is to deflate the ball, as his mere presence is intimidating. The just-as-tall Harney is a highlight reel waiting to happen, and a guy that can take over a game at any moment.

Walsh shoots the 3-ball as well as anybody in the conference and rebounds as if he were 6-foot-7 rather than his actual size, three inches shorter. Gilliam can penetrate, hit from long distance and will throw down a thunderous dunk any chance he gets.

The four have brought in a new era of Zips’ basketball, one that thrives on momentum and pure talent, rather than veteran savvy and knowing the system. The hard work is still present, but the new-look Zips have created an atmosphere unseen at James A. Rhodes Arena since the days of Romeo Travis.

The presence of Nik Cvetinovic, Zeke Marshall and a host of other Zips is as apparent as ever, but never have they played like this.

Last year at this time, Akron was 14-10 and 5-5 in the conference, but that squad found a way to win when it mattered — in March.

Ultimately, this team will be judged in the same manner — how many wins they can pick up in the first two weeks of next month. Maybe even three.