By: D.J. Johnson
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.