Category Archives: Akron Zips

Small-Time Basketball Report: Elliott Williams stepping up for Sixers

Note: The Small-Time Basketball Report is Sam Amico’s regular feature covering the NBA, the NBA D-League and pro basketball overseas.

Former Trail Blazers first-round draft pick Elliott Williams is off to a solid start with the 76ers.

Williams, a 6-foot-5 guard, is only averaging 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 9.5 minutes, but has offered underrated intangibles that don’t show up on a stat line. The Sixers signed Williams (along with rookie guard Lorenzo Brown) on Nov. 20, when they waived center Kwame Brown, a former No. 1 overall pick, and guard Darius Morris.

Williams was selected with the No. 22 pick in 2010 but appeared in just 24 games with the Blazers after suffering an array of injuries. They included multiple knee surgeries and a ruptured Achilles tendon.

He was not re-signed by the Blazers over the summer — although he did attend training camp with the Cavaliers. Williams appeared in six of the Cavs’ eight preseason games, and was waived before the regular season started.

He has appeared in nine games for the Sixers.

• Former Akron center Zeke Marshall was obtained by the D-League’s Maine Red Claws in a three-team trade with the Reno Bighorns and Santa Cruz Warriors. Marshall, a 7-foot center, was not drafted by an NBA team after his senior season this past summer. Nor has he played for a D-League team. He most recently played with Yulon Luxgen in the Taiwan league, compiling averages of 12.7 points and 4.0 rebounds.

• Former Cavs forward Jamario Moon is averaging 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds as a member of the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League. Moon, 33, has started four the D-Fenders’ first five games.

• The D-Fenders also obtained the rights to ex-Cavs guard Manny Harris from the Canton Charge for a 2014 first-round D-League draft selection Harris last played for the Charge in 2011-12.

• Speaking of the Charge, second-year forward Kevin Jones (another ex-Cav) has caught the eye of NBA scouts with his start to the season. When asked Wednesday about the odds of a call-up, Jones says he feels “like I have a pretty good shot.”

• Former Lakers and Cavs forward Luke Walton discussed his role with the D-Fenders on podcast on Ridiculous Upside, a website devoted to D-League coverage. Listen to it or read more here.

• Ex-Cleveland State forward J’Nathan Bullock has signed to play professionally in Finland.

• Also, former Youngstown State forward Damian Eargle has signed with the Saint John Mill Rats of NBL Canada. Eargle was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO

A bunch of summer basketball stuff

Before we go into full football mode, a few leftover basketball notes…

*Earlier this week I wrote about Quincy Diggs and his return from a year’s suspension to the University of Akron basketball team.

You can read that story here.

If you want to see highlights from Diggs in the Cleveland-Akron Summer Pro Am at Walsh University, the guys at 3rd Coast Hoops have put this together. Diggs looks like a guy who can play point guard if Akron ends up needing him to, right?

The guys at 3rd Coast Hoops do an outstanding job covering basketball in Northeast Ohio and sharing highlights online. If you want to burn a couple hours, their site is a great place is a start.

*3rd Coast Hoops has landed highlights on major networks and websites all summer, and their timing is right with a bunch of talented prospects coming through the high school ranks in Ohio right now. During major shoe-company showcase events last week, Franklin’s Luke Kennard added offers from Kentucky and Michigan State, while Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph’s Carlton Bragg added offers from UCLA and Georgetown to what was already an impressive list. Bragg and Kennard are Ohio’s top two prospects in the class of 2015.

Those who know say the class of 2016 could be the best basketball class Ohio has produced in years. That group is headlined by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s VJ King.

*Speaking of Diggs and Akron, the Zips are headed to Hawaii at Christmas for the Diamond Head Classic. Dayton is going a month earlier for the Maui Invitational, and the Flyers will play a marquee first-round game there against Gonzaga.

Dayton won the Maui Invitational in 2003; Gonzaga won it in 2009. The Maui Invitational is one of the best early-season tournaments every year, and this year should be no different with Syracuse, Minnesota and Baylor also in the field.

The Dayton-Gonzaga game is Monday Nov. 25 and the Maui championship game is in its traditional spot two nights later on the night before Thanksgiving.

Akron opens its tournament against Oregon State. Iowa State, Boise State, George Mason, South Carolina, Hawaii and St. Mary’s are also in the field.

*Things didn’t go as planned for Team USA at the World University Games in Russia earlier this month as the Americans went 6-2 but did not medal.

Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick averaged 7.5 points per game off the bench but shot just 32 percent. Iowa’s Aaron White, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne started three games and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.

*Xavier sophomore guard Semaj Christon has accepted an invitation to the exclusive Chris Paul Elite Camp next month in the Clippers’ point guard’s hometown of Winston-Salem N.C.

At least two other Ohio players have been contacted by the camp but their attendance hasn’t yet been confirmed.

Lighty, Linhart among those in Bucks’ mini-camp

Former Ohio State guard David Lighty is among the prospects working out in a free agent mini-camp being held by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Lighty was named second-team All-Big Ten following his senior year in 2011, when he averaged 12.5 points and 1.5 steals. He wasn’t selected in the NBA Draft, and has spent the previous two seasons playing overseas.

This past season, Lighty played for Nanterre of the French league, averaging 12.5 points in 35 games.

Ex-Akron forward Nate Linhart and former Cleveland State guard Cedric Jackson (Cleveland, Washington, San Antonio) are also participating in the Bucks’ mini-camp, which began Monday.

Others taking part in the camp:

Tom Abercrombie, G, Washington State/New Zealand
Craig Brackens, F, Iowa State/NBA
Dwight Buycks, G, Marquette/D-League
Gary Flowers, F, Southern Mississippi/D-League
Sundiata Gaines, G, Georgia/NBA
Jonathon Gibson, G, New Mexico State/Turkey
Mickell Gladness, C, Alabama A&M/NBA
Ricky Hickman, G, UNC-Greensboro/Israel
Tyler Honeycutt, F, UCLA/NBA
Dennis Horner, F, NC State/D-League
Rick Jackson, F, Syracuse/D-League
Damion James, F, Texas/NBA
Dominique Jones, F, South Florida/NBA
Gal Mekel, G, Wichita State/Israel
Hamady N’Diaye, C, Rutgers/Senegal
K.C. Rivers, G/F, Clemson/Russia
Salim Stoudamire, G, Arizona/Venzuela
Jermaine Taylor, G, Central Florida/NBA
Terrico White, G, Mississippi/Serbia
Chris Wright, G, Georgetown/D-League

The camp concludes Wednesday.

Never boring Kent State baseball wins another wild one

AKRON – Standing in the Canal Park dugout as the game wore on and the scoreboard re-started the inning count, Kent State coach Scott Stricklin had a little deja vu.

Maybe the most famous game in Kent State’s famous run to the College World Series last summer was the first, a 21-inning win over Kentucky in the regionals. And here, Thursday night, with not as much on the line but still in an important spot, Stricklin thought back.

It’s a different year and a totally different set of circumstances, but the Flashes finally beat Akron, 5-4, in 17 innings Thursday night to keep their hopes alive of winning the Mid-American Conference regular-season title. The winning run was produced when Derek Toadvine advanced from first to third on a Sawyer Polen bunt in the top of the 17th, then scored on an Evan Campbell top fly.

All are familiar names from last year’s run.

“It was after that 21 inning game that we really took it to a new level last year,” Stricklin said.

So the challenge is there again. Kent State will have to win next week’s MAC tournament in Avon, Ohio to get back to the NCAA tournament; either the Flashes or Buffalo will be the No. 1 seed.

Kent State took a 4-0 lead in the first three innings Thursday night; the Zips got all their runs in one big inning. Three times in extra innings Thursday Akron left a runner stranded on third base.

The night’s other big winner was Akron Children’s Hospital; the seventh annual Diamond Classic for Kids drew a crowd of more than 2,200 and raised almost $21,000 for the hospital.

“Get something to eat and get some sleep,” Stricklin told his team after the game — and about 12 hours before they were due back on the bus for the second game of the series. In college baseball, the show goes on quickly.

A boring program Kent State is not. It is one that’s used to playing its best at this time of year, and we’ll see starting today (game two of the series started at 3 p.m.) if the Flashes can ride the momentum they gained from winning in 17 innings.

Toadvine’s baserunning heroics can be seen in the video below

Notes and observations from the North-South Classic

DAYTON, Ohio – I went to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic on Saturday to work on a couple projects for down the road. While I was there, I watched a couple football games.

**This Urban Meyer guy knows what he’s doing. As expected, the stars of the games for some of Ohio’s best in the class of 2013 were Ohio State signees. Massillon’s Gareon Conley caught 3 touchdown passes for the North in the big-school (Div. I-III) game and was named the North’s Offensive MVP, and Cleveland Glenville’s Chris Worley was an absolute terror on defense and was named the North Defensive MVP.

Worley said he plans to start out at safety at the “star” position when he gets to Ohio State this summer but could grow into a linebacker’s role and isn’t opposed to either. He plays fast and violently and if he doesn’t get on the field sooner than later it’s a sign that the Buckeyes are really, really stacked.

**This was the first year the OHSFCA divided the event into two games and played them at Welcome Stadium. The North won the big-school game, 33-27, after leading 14-0 early, trailing 21-14 at halftime and then hanging on late. Game MVP Kyle Kempt, an Oregon State commit, kept finding his high school teammate, Conley, and the South really couldn’t keep up with him.

Kempt threw for 161 yards and threw all 3 of Conley’s touchdowns.

“Pretty awesome way to close our high school careers,” Kempt said. “It was a lot of fun. Gareon made it easy for me sometime at Massillon and he did it again here.”

**In the small-school (Div. IV-VI) game, Akron Manchester QB Nick Peyakov started 7-of-7 and threw 2 early touchdowns to give the North a 14-0 lead. The North held on to win, 27-24, with the winning margin coming on a 55-yard field goal by Michael Geiger of Ottawa Hills, who’s headed to Michigan State.

Remember Geiger’s name. He cleared the crossbar easily on that field goal and has a very bright future.

Norwayne receiver Brady Berger was named MVP of the small-school game after catching two touchdown passes. The South’s biggest play came on an 83-yard touchdown catch by Akron signee Austin Wolf of Lebanon.

Berger plans to walk on at Akron. Peyakov is undecided on a college but is leaning towards Mount Union after he didn’t receive any Div. I scholarship offers. It’s no coincidence, by the way, that Mount Union does what it does on a yearly basis.

**The North-South game has been played since 1946 and is the longest continuously running all-star game in the country. There have only been two Super Bowls ever played without a North-South game alum on one of the rosters.

“I got to read up this week on some of the names of past players in this game,” Kempt said. “It’s an honor to be next. This was a first-class operation this week and something we’ll all remember.”

**Despite being a longtime and involved member of the OHSFCA, Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia did not attend the games.

A 14-person grand jury begins hearing from witnesses this week as part of an investigation into whether other laws were broken in connection with the incident last summer in which two Steubenville players were convicted of rape last month.

Saccoccia is expected to be called to testify before the grand jury but it’s unclear if he or any other Steubenville Schools employees will eventually face charges.

Three Stuebenville players played for the South team in the big-school game.

**After a bout with cancer that forced him to be away from coaching in each of the last two seasons, it was great to see Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. looking healthy and walking the sidelines on Saturday.

**Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis spoke to the players on Saturday morning about his journey to the NFL, his family’s experience with Hurricane Katrina, the importance of education and a variety of topics. The speech took place behind closed doors at the players’ hotel, but by all accounts was both powerful and memorable.

**The Cleveland Browns are a longtime financial contributor to the game and again this year made a sizable donation. The Ohio National Guard was the game’s primary sponsor.

Check out the photo gallery from the North-South game here

NCAA tournament glory is fleeting

Remember last year at this time, when there were four Ohio teams in the Sweet 16?

Yeah, that was fun. Truthfully, though, it’s hard to remember last week at this time, when all seemed right in the college basketball world for 68 teams and probably 65 of those teams had at least some reason for optimism.

The one thing visiting two different NCAA tournament sites on the tournament’s first weekend reminded me of is how quickly it all ends.

The first thing I saw in Auburn Hills last Thursday was a dejected Saint Mary’s team walking to its bus.

On Sunday, I saw Iowa State making the same walk in Dayton. It was snowy and windy and miserable. Fittingly miserable.

Man, it stings. Especially for the seniors. Especially when the games are so close. We live for the madness, the magic and the one shining moment that happens when Aaron Craft beats the buzzer and Florida Gulf Coast dances to the Sweet 16.

Enjoy the hell out of it, FGCU. It probably ends with a beatdown this Friday. It ends for 67 teams at least a little too soon.

Whatever happens, FGCU made it a lot longer than over half the field. Thinking about makes Ohio State’s run of four straight Sweet 16s that much more impressive, really.

Last Thursday night I saw the three VCU players being escorted to the media area after their rout of Akron laughing. How could you blame them?

About 40 minutes later, I saw VCU coach Shaka Smart leading a pack of VCU employees of some sort (I’m guessing) turn a corner on his way out of that media area, unaware that Akron coach Keith Dambrot and some of his assistants were just to his left as he turned right.

Smart gave a quick wave as he turned right. It was a little awkward, to say the least, after Smart and Dambrot talked last  week about being best friends and then VCU beat Akron past submission, 88-42. What Dambrot and the Akron contingent were thinking at that point, I really don’t know. I can guess that the jubilant Akron show selection party four nights earlier felt like it had been 40 nights earlier.

I know, at the point of that awkward wave, that Smart was already thinking about Michigan.

Exactly 36 hours later, Michigan ran VCU off the floor and ran VCU out of the tournament.

Ran ‘em right back to the bus. It was probably cold, windy and miserable. I don’t know for sure because I was in Dayton, wondering how in 2013 the NCAA could play a first weekend at a place that doesn’t have a single restaurant or bar within a 20-minute walk of the arena.

It’s the walks these players and coaches make out of the arena that provide some of the most powerful images I remember in every tournament. It’s gone in a flash; it’s great while it lasts.

Is it Thursday yet? I’m ready for some more win or go home basketball.

Cooper, Marshall named mid-major All-Americans

Ohio University’s D.J. Cooper and Akron’s Zeke Marshall are among the 25 players named to the Lou Henson All-America team Monday, recognizing the nation’s top mid-major players.

Both wrapped up outstanding college careers last week. Cooper became the only player in NCAA Div. I basketball history to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in his career. In 2012-13, he led Ohio at 14.1 points per game and ranked seventh nationally at 7.1 assists per game.

Cooper winning MAC Player of the Year this season based on his career achievements than what he did in 2012-13, but he was still outstanding. Marshall saved far and away his best season for last.

Marshall became just the fourth player in the last 30 seasons in Div. I college basketball to average at least 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game while shooting at least 65.0 percent in a season. Marshall averaged 3.7 blocks per game as a senior and leaves as the Mid-American Conference’s all-time leader with 368 career blocks.

Cooper’s 934 career assists are the 12th-most all-time; he also ranks 19th on the all-time NCAA Division I steals list.

Cooper and Marshall are finalists for the Lou Henson Award, given to the nation’s top mid-major player, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott will likely win it.

Postgame: VCU 88, Akron 42

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – So, Akron played VCU Thursday night in the NCAA tournament, and you probably are aware what happened.

Here’s what I wrote about it, the first version anyway. That doesn’t do it justice. The scoreboard, even when the deficit was 48, didn’t really do it justice.

VCU is really good, really relentless (obviously) and sensed blood in the water. Akron was in no condition – physically or mentally – to stop it.

Besides filing that story, I’ve got a bunch of other things to do — sleeping, driving and more writing, and those are in no particular order. So below is Akron’s postgame press conference.

Office pool insights: South Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

South Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 5 VCU. The Rams went to the Final Four from the First Four two years ago and won a game last year as a No. 12 seed, and it seems like that reputation helped their seeding this year. They’re still dangerous with Shaka Smart on the sideline, an experienced roster and a first-round matchup against an Akron team without its point guard, but VCU doesn’t have much inside presence and has struggled to score when its defense doesn’t create a bunch of easy baskets.

UNDERSEEDED: No. 8 North Carolina. Six weeks ago, the Tar Heels looked like an NIT team. Then, something clicked. They’re scoring a bunch of points, sharing the scoring wealth and haven’t lost to anybody but Duke or Miami (Fla.) since late January. They have a very winnable first-round game with Villanova, then should give Kansas everything it can handle this weekend.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 1 Kansas. This team was under the radar early in the year despite being the national runner-up last season. The conference season brought some head-scratchers, though, none more so than a loss to TCU. Yes, Kansas lost at TCU. But the Jayhawks have two very special players in Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey and showed their potential when they hit the gas and cruised to the Big 12 tournament crown last weekend.

<<Podcast: Breaking down the bracket, A to Z style>>

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Michigan. The Wolverines are just 6-6 in their last 12 games, including an inexplicable loss at Penn State and a quick exit from the Big Ten tournament in Chicago last weekend. Michigan is struggling defensively and has a young team that looks tired. The Wolverines earned the right to play in Auburn Hills, Mich., based on what they did in December — and they’ll have to play better than they have recently to earn their way to Dallas.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: VCU-Akron. The Rams want pressure, tempo and a full-court game. Akron wants to win it in the half court. The coaches know each other well. A 14-point VCU victory wouldn’t be a total surprise; neither would an Akron victory.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Michigan-VCU and Kansas-North Carolina this weekend; Georgetown-Florida in the Sweet 16, Florida-Kansas in the regional final.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Otto Porter, Georgetown. He’s done a little of everything this year and now gets the chance to do it on college basketball’s big stage. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the top of this year’s NBA Draft and with so many potential picks having a bunch of, um, potential, Porter can use this tournament to show his polish and make himself some money.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Akron over VCU; San Diego State over Georgetown and into the Sweet 16.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: A Kansas-Florida regional final.

What I think the committee is thinking

Posted 1:01 p.m. Updated 4:09 p.m.

I am a committee of one. I know stuff.

If you’ve ever been to this blog, you probably were familiar with that concept.

Today, though, most eyes are on the NCAA tournament selection committee and the final results of that group’s work. Sixty-eight teams are going to be seeded, bracketed and sent to eight sites for games starting on Thursday.

Here’s my best guess at what we’ll see a little after 6 o’clock tonight. Again, this is my guess at what the committee will do, not what I think it should do.

My guess at the No. 1 seeds

Midwest – Louisville (No. 1 overall)
East – Miami
South – Indiana
West – Gonzaga

My guess at the No. 2 seeds

Midwest – Duke
East – Florida
South – Georgetown
West – Kansas

I’m beginning to like the No. 2 seeds better than I like the No. 1 seeds.

I think Ohio State is a 3 seed, Cincinnati is an 11 seed and Akron could be a 12, but probably is a 13. The absence of Alex Abreu certainly affects that and keeps the Zips from being seeded higher.

I think Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Michigan are No. 4 seeds; I think Michigan State and New Mexico are No. 3 seeds. I have other thoughts, too, but there are games to watch.

I don’t think the committee cares much about the currently ongoing Big Ten championship game.

My thoughts on the bubble, on which Ole Miss no longer lives…

Iowa – Out

Boise State – In

Kentucky – Out

Middle Tennessee – In

Saint Mary’s – In

Southern Miss – Out

LaSalle – Out

Temple – In

Tennessee – In

Cal – In

Louisiana Tech – Out

UMass – Out

Villanova – Out

Virginia – Out

I think the toughest, closest calls there are with LaSalle, Tennessee and Villanova. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.